The story that unfurled across the weekend was the haves and the have-nots, but that was in reference to the tyres. As Shedden had alluded to, the harder rubber was going to be the problem for everyone at some point.
And most drivers had left the harder options until the end, which gave a chink of light for those on the reversed grid switch without that handicap – such as Smith on pole, Collard in fifth and Shedden lurking in 10th.
Four passing moves in four laps over the start of the race – in between two safety car interuptions – told its own story. Shedden flew through the pack, aided by Collard being slowed on the opening tour with a misfire and Neal stepping aside for him. That helped him in to second place after only seven laps.
But Smith was not for giving way. Firstly, although Shedden could close, Smith was faster at the crucial points of the track. Going into the Deane hairpin, he could just stretch out enough of a gap to keep himself safe.
While the top two duelled, Turkington, from 15th on the grid, was revelling in his normal Dunlops. He was already up to third when the third safety car was called for, and that gave Smith the break he needed for glory.
“When Colin was behind Shedden, I thought that would give me the space I needed,” said Smith. “I was pushing hard, but that took the pressure off. It was still tight at the end, but what a great result.”
Shedden was forced in to real defensive mode on the last lap when Turkington tried hard to look up the inside going into the Brook Chicane, but Shedden held sway at the finish.
“You never know what is going to happen in race three when you start in the middle of the pack,” said Shedden. “So to land the result is perfect. We didn’t think we would be strong this weekend, but we have managed to have a really strong run.”
Turkington, too, was delighted to finish with a podium: “When you consider I was going backwards at 130mph in race two at Turn One, then I will take that. The car was really in the sweet spot.”
Neal handled his harder rubber manfully to fend off Jackson throughout for fourth place while sixth-placed Collard’s hopes of a strong result pre-race were derailed by that lap one drama that set him back.
Collard explained: “I got a really good start and I had already overtaken a couple of drivers when the misfire came as I changed up into fifth. It was there in sixth too, and coming out of turn two, I was about 15mph slower than the rest. I got swamped.”
Collard managed to cure the misfire after the opening safty car and returned to fifth by passing Jackson, but he was forced to give the position back as he had overtaken under yellows. “It was a very frustrating race,” he sighed afterwards.
Behind Morgan in seventh was the highly impressive Jake Hill in the Team Hard Toyota from Moffat and Plato, who landed a top 10 result despite starting 27th on the grid.
The second safety car had been caused after and scrappy midfield shunt between Sutton’s MG and Newsham’s Chevrolet. Newsham was dumped into the gravel and Sutton’s hopes of points ruined. Also out of the points was Tordoff. With 75kg on and the harder rubber, he had the worst of both worlds. He hung on the fringes of the top 10 for as long as he could but that only lasted four laps. He gradually went backwards through the order until he arrested the slump at 16th, just outside the points.
He was happy nonetheless. “Given where we started this weekend, I will take that. We always knew it would be pain in race three, but we have still managed to come out of the race meeting with five points over Matt Neal in the title race. We couldn’t have asked for more.”