The Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire provides the action for the fourth round of the British Touring Car Championship. That action was set to be some of the best of the year so far as the rain fell and the wet tyres featured for the first time in 2011. Plato opted for a full suite of wet tyres while the Triple Eight Vectra’s opted for wets on the rear and slicks on the front.
Action happened before even the formation lap as Tom Chilton was pushed off the grid due to a problem. Gordon Shedden led the field away, with the Global Ford Focus stranded on the side of the circuit. Team members recovered the NGTC machine to the pits where it became apparent that the braking system was causing Chilton stress.
There was no time for that though as the cars lined up for the first race. A clean if slow start saw the front runners into the first corner clean. Dave Newsham went wide at the first corner but all who started made it through the first lap. Moves came quick and fast, Paul O’Neil battling with Alex MacDowal through the first tour. He then served a drive through penalty.
Lap two saw Andrew Jordan lock his front wheels and go straight into the barrier at the Island hairpin. He went in to the tyres side on and continued on his way. Lap two also showed Tom Chilton joining in after his braking issue had been resolved.
The front of the race was Matt Neal with Gordon Shedden pushing him hard through the third lap. A second back, Neate was working as hard as he could to keep the Chevrolet of Jason Plato at bay. Shedden claimed the lead before the end of the third lap, Plato claimed the final podium spot a lap later.
Soon it was Plato that was giving Matt Neal problems. The NGTC powered car fell to the S2000 Cruze on lap five. At the same time it appeared that Andrew Jordan and Chris James had a coming together right down the order. Mat Jackson went into retirement with an oil problem, becoming the first DNF of the day.
MacDowal pushed his way past Neal at the Island hairpin, pulling Rob Collard’s BMW 320si through with him. That happened on lap seven and the Cruze and BMW streaked ahead of the ballasted Civic. John George took the chance to retire, pulling off the track in his GoMobileUK.com with Tech-Speed Chevrolet. The halfway mark was starting to show some fantastic action in the field.
The battle for fifth place was heating up as Neate pushed on to pass Neal. Meanwhile, the fully slick shod Vectra of James Nash had cruised up to the back of the Global Focus and dispatched him with ease. Next target for the Vectra was the Civic of Neal, with full ballast and the wrong tyres, Nash made it look easy.
Liam Griffin had an off in the final corner, outbreaking himself and broadsiding the tyres. The marshals got him pointing in the right direction and the Motorbase Focus ST continued on its way. Next retirement came from Chris James who retired his Chevrolet Licetti on the run down to Lodge corner with three laps of the race left.
Providing the most entertainment however was Lee Wood in the returning Honda Integra. Despite appearing for the first time this year and battling with the factory Honda’s, Global Focus’s and the WSR BMW’s, Wood was putting on a great show. The oldest car on the track was taking no prisoners as it fought hard in eighth place.
As the final lap dawned, Gordon Shedden led the race with five and a half seconds advantage over Plato. Futher back the battle was heating up again as Neal faced dropping from the lead of the race to out of the points. He was saved that fate as contact pushed Jeff Smith off the track. He span down the run off and went backwards into the Seat Leon of Tom Boardman.
The final result then was Shedden winning from Jason Plato with Alex MacDowal rounding out the podium. Third fell to James Nash in the Vectra with Collard and Foster making BMW happy in fifth and sixth places respectively. Lee Wood claimed his first BTCC points ever by taking seventh place in the Integra on its first outing.
Matt Neal held on for points in eighth while Andy Neate took ninth after being involved in causing the crash which put both Smith and Boardman out of the race. Andrew Jordan recovered from his poor start to claim tenth place.
Tom Onlsow-Cole was unable to hold onto a points position, finishing in eleventh place ahead of Dave Newsham on his first appearance in the Special Tuning SEAT. O’Neil and Gilham rounded out the finishers. Retirements were, Smith, Boardman and Hughes. Tom Chilton, Chris James and John George with Rob Austin’s Audi, Matt Jackson’s Ford and Frank Wrathall’s Toyota finishing off the list.