Turkington’s chances of a third title were slim coming to the meeting. The Subaru driver was 37 points adrift rolling into Brands, but made his intentions clear with a stunning pole position in the mixed conditions.
“It was very tough out the back of the circuit,” said Turkington. “Westfield was dry on the entry, wet mid-corner and then dry on the exit. It was hard to work it out.”
But he did, and started on the front row alongside Rob Austin’s Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis.
The main championship contenders were mired further down the order with Shedden in seventh (with 66kg), leader Tordoff 10th (75kg), Neal 11th (57kg) and Collard 12th (48kg).
From the green light, Turkington and Austin went toe-to-toe around Paddock Hill Bend, with the Toyota inching up as they exited the corner and going into Druids. Eventually, the Subaru claimed the line, and that left Austin to fend off Jason Plato’s Levorg GT and Josh Cook’s MG for the remaining 16 laps.
That scrap, plus Turkington’s prowess, meant that the fight at the front was over.
“The car was amazing,” said Turkington. “The start wasn’t great because I don’t think the sun had got down in the dip [in the elevation of the startline at Brands] where the pole car sits to heat up the track, but I managed to hold Rob off. After that, the car was so strong. I could have just kept going.”
The two-time champion was 4.5s clear at the flag, while Austin had a job on his hands. “In the rush over the first corners, my wing mirror got folded in,” said Austin. “That meant I was having a struggle to defend over the rest of the race. I wasn’t sure where people were, and that affected my pace.”
Indeed, the three fighting for second were in a queue throughout, and the major drama came at the end when Cook lunged for the inside of Plato at Clearways, giving the MG the verdict at the finish line.
Plato explained: “Josh got into the back of me going into the corner, and gave me a wobble under the brakes. That meant I missed the apex and Josh got underneath me. Thanks very much…”
Behind them, Shedden managed to get inside the sluggish fourth-placed starter Hunter Abbott (Power Maxed Chevrolet Cruze) away from the line and also sorted out Jack Goff ’s WSR BMW 125i M Sport before the end of the opening tour too.
His fifth place was untroubled, despite the constant shadow of Adam Morgan (Ciceley Racing Mercedes-benz) over the latter stages, and it gave him the advantage over the fully-ballasted Tordoff, who could only lumber home in 10th. Shedden cut the gap to six points.
“The weight in that first race was a real issue, and that was as much as I could do,” said Shedden, with a glint in his eye. “Now we have a lot of the weight out for race two, and we have soft tyres…”
Shedden’s Halfords Yuasa Racing teammate Neal was also in the thick of things. He was battling for 11th with Collard at the start of lap two, and the pair went sideby-side into Druids. Both braked as late as they dare, but Neal tipped the back of Abbott and the Chevrolet driver spun.
“It was just busy out there,” said Neal. “Collard had run wide at Paddock and I got up his inside, and then we brushed on the way into the corner. That caused me to lock up and I tagged the car in front.”
Neal and Collard escaped, with the Honda ahead of the BMW, but Abbott’s stranded car was head-butted by Andrew Jordan’s Motorbase Performance Ford Focus, breaking both cars terminally.
Neal finished in seventh, ahead of Aiden Moffat (Ciceley Racing MercedesBenz A-class) and the feisty Ash Sutton (MG), with the latter battling up from 15th position on the grid after losing his fastest lap in qualifying for a track limits infringement.
Behind Tordoff in 10th, championship outsider Mat Jackson kept the dream alive with a charge to 11th, ahead of Collard. When the dust had settled, there were seven drivers in with a chance of lifting the overall crown, including Jackson and Jordan, but Plato was out of the picture. There was still plenty of racing left in the championship.
CAR Weather: Sunny
Team BMR Subaru Levorg Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis Triple Eight Racing MG6 Team BMR Subaru Levorg Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R Ciceley Racing Mercedes-benz A-class Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R Ciceley Racing Mercedes-benz A-class Triple Eight Racing MG6 WSR BMW 125i M Sport