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BRANDS HATCH REVIEW: BTCC IS BACK

Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan enjoyed a stellar start to his title defence after scoring lights-to-flag victories in the opening two rounds of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch.

The reigning champion didn’t have it all his own way, however, as the eBay Motors BMW of Colin Turkington took the honours in the final thrilling encounter at the legendary Kent circuit.

Two podiums for MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save driver Jason Plato and promising results for Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal on the debut of the Honda Civic Tourer mean just nine points separate five drivers after the opening weekend.

Starting from pole position in races one and two, Jordan fended off separate challenges in each from two former champions. Plato’s MG6 kept the Honda Civic honest in the season opener, whilst Shedden’s Tourer latched on to Jordan’s title-winning Pirtek car in the second contest.

Despite growing pressure in each race, Jordan produced mature drives in each to take the wins and put himself in an early lead of the standings.

Neal claimed the first ever BTCC podium for an ‘estate’ style car when he hauled his all-new machine to third place in race one, whilst Ulsterman Turkington made the rostrum in the next race with a hard-fought third place.

2009 champion Turkington enjoyed an even better end to the weekend when he passed his BMW team-mates Rob Collard and Nick Foster to a claim popular victory in the final contest.

It was a BMW 1-2-3 off the line as the rear-wheel drive cars blasted their way down to Paddock Hill Bend for the first time in race three. Rob Collard led from Nick Foster initially but Turkington eventually put both to the sword with separate moves, the final being a clever manoeuvre through Clearways and down the Brabham Straight.

Old adversaries Neal and Plato eventually hustled their respective Honda and MG machines past Turkington’s two team-mates to complete the podium positions, ending an exciting opening day of the tin top season. Plato set the fastest lap of the race along the way, but couldn’t quite manage to pass Neal’s Honda.

Further down the order there were contrasting results for the two returning champions in Alain Menu and Fabrizio Giovanardi.

Swiss driver Menu closed out the event on a real high as he hauled his VW CC from 16th on the grid to take fifth at the finish, much to the delight of the tens of thousands of spectators present. Menu benefitted late on in the contest by being on the standard compound Dunlop tyre whilst most of his rivals were on the faster-degrading soft rubber. Giovanardi could only manage a weekend’s best of ninth place on his debut for the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus team.

Britain’s biggest and best championship now rolls on to Donington Park where the next three rounds take place over the Easter weekend (19/20 April).

Andrew Jordan said: “This is what we do it for – to win. I knew I had the pace to stay in front as long as I didn’t make any mistakes. It’s another cracking result and one of the harder wins I’ve had to work for. Race three was really hard work – I didn’t have anything to fight with really. Although we didn’t have the set-up in the final one, races one and two were spot on! To put it on pole, take race one and then race two with full weight on – I’m really pleased!”

Matt Neal said: “It’s the first time an estate car has scored a podium in the BTCC! We’ve really peppered the top step of the podium today but not quite made it there. To get three podiums from the Tourer in its first weekend is fantastic though – both Flash and I were up there in all three races, which is what we wanted to do this weekend. I’m over the moon with how today has gone. It was so exciting and close right the way to the last corner!”

Colin Turkington said: “I’m absolutely stoked after that win. I was a bit nervous at the start of race three with both of my team-mates up there, but I made a clean getaway and immediately knew the pace was in the car for the win. It switched on almost straight away and was brilliant to drive – I knew I had to strike early on but had to be really careful. The team has done so much work over the winter to make the car faster and it’s great to see all three eBay Motors BMWs at the front – let’s hope it continues!”

Gordon Shedden said: “It was really really close. Around here it’s really easy to follow but super difficult to actually make a pass! There aren’t that many overtaking opportunities without being quite aggressive. Knowing how my luck has been over the last six years when I’ve had an uncanny knack of scoring no points I said to myself ‘just get it to the end and score some points’. This is day one with our new Honda Civic Tourer and we can be on the podium! Everyone else had better watch out as the year goes on.”

Jason Plato said: “We were the quickest car on the soft tyres in the last race that’s for sure. I didn’t have weight on which helped me pick my way through the field, but it was great racing – really great! I actually wanted to have a go for the lead, but Matt knows how to drive a wide line and he does it very well. I like racing through the field like that – it’s good fun!”

Click here for the classification from Brands Hatch.

Penalties
Aron Smith received a five place grid penalty and two points on his licence for driving in a manner incompatible with general safety in race one

Martin Depper was excluded from the result and received four points on his licence for driving in a manner incompatible with general safety in race one

Marc Hynes was excluded from the result and received four points on his licence for driving in a manner incompatible with general safety in race two

Aron Smith, Warren Scott and Jack Goff all received time penalties for gaining an unfair advantage behind the safety car in race two

Jack Clarke will receive a five place grid penalty in race one at Donington Park after driving in a manner incompatible with general safety in race three. He also received three penalty points.