|Honda Yuasa's Gordon Shedden
attacks the Thruxton bends ©BTCC.net
The rain returned to Thruxton for the final race of the day. The reverse grid race was a tough one to call, some drivers opting for slicks on the front and wets on the rear before a late dose of rain threw the equations into the melting pot. Despite the uncertain grip, cars where three and four wide through fast corners like Brooklands.
The conditions challenged but even with a handful of lurid slides, we avoided car to car contact for the first three laps.
The two Yuasa Honda cars attacked as a team, pressuring the ex-works Civic of Tony Gilham. Shedden was at the head of his team mate, pressuring his old car until lap four when first Shedden, then Neal made it through. The NGTC Toyota of Frank Wrathall was a distant, (2.069 sec) fourth.
The Avensis caught up the gap to the Honda Civic from Team HARD, driving into a wall of spray. The S2000 car did a fantastic job of keeping the full NGTC machine behind it but the battle was destined to be lost. It was a mistake on lap six which cost not only the position but the chance of any good result in the race when he locked up in the approach to Campbell.
He impacted the barriers head on, allowing a number of cars through but still managed to select reverse and extract the car from the tyres. The strength of the british built car shone through as he put it in first and carried on his way, missing a bumper, front wing and a couple of working headlamps. Unfortunately for Tony Gilham, the damage was too severe, though he spared himself the walk of shame back to the pit lane.
At the front, Shedden continued to lead from his team mate, though his electrical gremlins continued to feature. He charted the course without the aid of windscreen wipers, but still had answers for everything Matt Neal could throw at him.
Jason Plato then came into the picture, closing on the Dynojet Toyota of Frank Wrathall. The MG6 had stayed out of problems and quietly marched up the order, reaching a second from the Toyota with six laps left on the clock. Wrathall reached deep and found more pace, increasing the gap and giving the fans more entertainment.
It was a pace which switched, almost lap by lap between the Toyota and MG. Plato would make gains, Wrathall would fight back but ultimately the pace was on Jason Plato's side. The question was, would there be enough laps for the championship leader to take the place ?
Team orders gave Matt Neal the lead on lap 12. The two Honda Yuasa Racing cars switched places, scoring the #1 car in the lead and giving the defending champ an additional point. Just after Allard, the pair switched back.
Still the battle was raiging behind them, Wrathall holding off the MG6 for the final podium spot. Both drivers were on their own, falling behind the Honda's, building a gap to the 2012 Civic of Andrew Jordan and, thanks to the retirement of Andy Neate on lap 6, both without a wingman.
With two laps to run, Plato properly attacked. He used all the curbs, the stronger straight line pace of the MG and every trick in the book to get past the Toyota. Every corner, the young Ginetta graduate took the defensive line, put his car in Plato's way and dared him to take the outside line.
The final lap dawned and there was no attention to spare for the processional win at the front. Wrathall pulled a gap out in the early part of the lap leaving Plato little option but a dive at Club. The dive didn't happen, the move was not made and Frank Wrathall took the final podium spot in the rain at Thruxton.
The drama was not over. At the final corner on the final lap, Lea Wood and Rob Collard had a coming together. A high speed bump put the Binz Vauxhall into the wall but he still took eighth while Collard was pitched into a 360 spin. The BMW clipped a bail of hay at the back end, destroying the rear bumper but Collard caught a gear, held the spin and took off to claim the place.
Both drivers pulled in at pit out rather than completing the warm down lap. Collard's BMW sported a blown tyre along with his bashed bottom, there was no immediately apparent damage to the Vectra.
The final result then, Gordon Shedden led Matt Neal across the line with Frank Wrathal wrapping up the podium. Jason Plato was the first not to taste the bubbles with Andrew Jordan, Mat Jackson and Rob Collard behind. Lea Wood, Jeff Smith an Tom Onslow-Cole rounded out the top ten.
Liam Griffin claimed eleventh in his Focus ST with Nick Foster's WSR BMW behind. Rob Austin claimed some points to make his weekend worthwhile ahead of Adam Morgan and Ollie Jackson who rounded out the points. Dave Newsham finished last, a lap down and the only person not on the lead lap.