BTCC

Shedden leads after thrilling season opener

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The British Touring Car Championship is back with three winners from three races, multiple collisions, and impressive recoveries. Reigning champion Gordon Shedden leaves Brands Hatch top of the championship by 6 points after a race win and two podiums.

After a long winter break, the start of the action was slightly delayed when Colin Turkington and Matt Neal came together off of the line, bringing out the safety car for the start of race one. It wouldn’t be the last time the start finish straight saw an incident this weekend.

By this point, Tom Ingram had already overtaken pole sitter Jeff Smith, and the Speedworks driver shot away on the restart, leaving Smith to battle with Shedden.

Slowly, Smith fell back through the field, eventually coming into the pits, a problem with his front left wheel taking him out of the race.

Shedden was promoted to second, but the Honda driver wasn’t able to close the gap to Ingram with the Mercedes of Adam Morgan right on his tail. Morgan had already done a good job of avoiding the incident with Turkington and Neal at the start of the race, and now he was pushing to take second.

All the way through the race, Morgan was pushing Shedden, trying to find anyway past the Halfords Yuasa Racing driver. The pair were together as they reached the chequered flag, Morgan less than two tenths of a second behind Shedden.

Race two started with chaos, multiple collisions bringing out the red flag before the leaders had even finished a lap. The most notable was Jason Plato, who had been sent into the pit wall by Matt Simpson. Damage done in the accident also ruled Plato out of race three. The debris from his Subaru managed to find its way into Martin Depper’s radiator, taking the Team Shredded Wheat driver out of the race.

Ingram’s race one win earned him pole, but the Toyota driver already appeared to have problems as they reached the grid. When the race restarted, it didn’t take Shedden long to snatch the lead, where he would be unchallenged for the remainder of the race.

Rob Collard spent the first race of the weekend picking his way up through the field, and it was more of the same in race two. The BMW driver passed new team-mate Andrew Jordan for third, and it wasn’t long before he was right on Ingram’s tail. Collard managed to find a way past the pole sitter in the closing laps, but it was too late to launch a challenge against Shedden.

Jordan ran wide late in the race, losing places to Rob Austin – who was later disqualified – and Morgan. Morgan had started the race third, but fell backwards early in the race, and managed a good recovery to finish fourth.

Returning Tom Chilton would start on pole for the final race of the weekend, only for the quick starting Jordan to snatch the lead off of the line. Once ahead, Jordan pulled quickly away, but Chilton managed to keep P2 for the majority of the race. A flying Colin Turkington bumped that down to third before the chequered flag.

After the difficult start of the weekend, Turkington had been on a strong recovery mission. He started the race ninth, but quickly continued the climb up through the field he’d enjoyed in race two and soon found himself right behind team-mate Collard.

When Turkington attacked, Collard didn’t put up much of a fight, not wanting to ruin the race for the team. The move put Turkington up into third, and he quickly closed in and overtook Chilton.

The race ended with the Turkington shadowing every move Jordan made, trying to find a way past the Pirtek backed driver, but Jordan defended well and took his first BTCC win in a BMW.

Shedden spent the majority of the race defending hard against Jack Goff, and finished seventh. That, added to the win and second he’d taken earlier in the day, was enough to put him in the lead of the championship, six points ahead of Ingram in second.

Feature image credit: Caroline Rhea

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