Matt Neal ended a pretty poor day at Snetterton by winning the double points sixty-mile Diamond Jubilee race, moving him from seventh in the standings all the way to third. Jack Goff ended an up-down day second and Tom Ingram third meaning he leaves Norfolk with the championship lead – which after a retirement in the first race looked pretty unlikely.
Goff got off to a great start from pole. Neal slotted in behind him in second with Ingram jumping up to third and Jordan moving up to fourth as the rest of the pack jostled for position on the opening lap.
After having a solid day so far, reigning champion Ashley Sutton’s race didn’t get off to the best start with a thirty-second stop/go penalty. This due to the wheels not being on the car before the three-minute board came out before the start of the race. After pitting twice to take the penalty, twice due to the TOCA officials not being happy with the way he took it originally Sutton found himself a lap down which he managed to get back when a safety car came out a couple of laps later, but his race was already long gone.
Aiden Moffat and Rory Butcher came together out of the hairpin when Butcher got turned into the Laser Tools Racing Mercedes spinning him out. Luckily for Moffat, the pack avoided him, and he re-joined but later retired.
Tom Oliphant also got tagged coming out of the hairpin on lap three, but this time the pack couldn’t avoid him. Brett Smith just tagged the front end of the Mercedes ripping the rear right suspension of the Eurotech Racing Honda sending him off the track. Both drivers sadly retired after this bringing out the safety car, ending what had been a decent day for both drivers – especially Tom Oliphant.
At the time of the safety car, Goff had a lead gap of around three seconds but that would soon change as at the restart, second placed Neal was looking very quick and aggressive – pilling the pressure on the race long-time race leader Goff.
Further down the field, Rob Austin started twenty-fourth and by lap six, he had halved that and was running twelfth looking very quick in his Alfa Romeo – a car both him and the Handy Motorsport team are still getting used to.
As they went into half race distance, the rain that came earlier in the day had returned. Goff had a little bit of oversteer as he headed into turn one before outbraking himself at the hairpin giving Neal the lead. Third placed Tom Ingram had closed in on the leading pair a lot on this lap nine and was looking a real threat for the race win.
However, as they went into the same couple of turn’s next time around, the rain seemed to have stopped and the track looked drier than it did on the previous lap. But on the following lap (lap eleven) the track in sector one looked wet again as drizzle continued to fall making the track surface increasingly greasy and difficult to drive. It actually caught out both Dan Cammish and Adam Morgan who ran out wide at the hairpin. On lap twelve, the struggles continued for Cammish as he half spun at turn three, re-joining way down the field.
Chris Smiley was doing a fantastic job of holding off Josh Cook who had body work damage on the rear, championship leader Colin Turkington who had a bit of damage to the front of his West Surrey Racing BMW and Senna Proctor.
Sam Tordoff retired with a mechanical issue in his beautiful Pink Ford Focus RS which was a special livery for the weekend.
Adam Morgan went up the inside of Proctor at the hairpin on lap fifteen to take ninth position. As Smiley defended his sixth position more and more, the train behind him grew bigger and bigger as the laps ticked down.
Cook got a poor run coming out of Williams onto Bentley Straight allowing Morgan to draw alongside. However, the two hit each other sending Morgan’s Mercedes into the armco backwards but escaped with minimal damage.
The incredible battle for sixth – involving about twelve cars now, raged on as they headed into the closing stages of the race. On lap seventeen, Turkington had had enough and tried to go around the outside of Smiley into Brundle but caught a bit of damp tarmac making him cut across the grass at Nelson losing seventh place to Proctor.
However, Proctor tagged Smiley as they headed into turn four sending both cars out wide allowing Colin Turkington to finally move into sixth with a big gap ahead to Tom Chilton in fifth. This contact marked the end of the race for Smiley to and dropped Proctor down to be twelfth place but recovered to take tenth on the line from Ollie Jackson and Bobby Thompson who finished eleventh – his best ever finish in the British Touring Cars after graduating up from the Volkswagen Racing Cup over the Winter months.
Meanwhile, at the front Ingram tried the switchback on Goff through the hairpin to try and take second but couldn’t make the move stick.
Matt Neal held on for the win followed closely home by Jack Goff and Tom Ingram. Andrew Jordan finished fourth with Tom Chilton fifth and Colin Turkington sixth being chased hard by Josh Cook. That sixth-place finish would see the Northern Irishman lose the championship lead as the circus rolls onto Rockingham next time out.
After the race, Neal commented, “After the way the first two races went, I just thought well let’s give it a go. The car was just awesome, I have to thank Jack (Goff) and the Eurotech boys, they drove fairly. I had a sense of relief when I saw the chequered flag, because it was so marginal when you were locking up your brakes in the heavy braking zones you could make a small mistake at any moment. They were on the radio to me saying Be careful, but the trouble was, if I was too careful, they would be back on me again.”
Second place man Jack Goff said, “When you’re leading, you’re always the first into the conditions so my engineer said as I was heading down the start/finish straight be careful and there it goes! But P2 is still good – P1 in the first race, it’s a massive turnaround since Croft, huge credit to the Wix Racing with Eurotech guys and girls, we win as a team and we lose as a team, it was a what could have been in race two but hey, we live to fight another day.”
He continued, “The first few laps were good, maybe the safety car didn’t come out at the start, we were away and had about a three second advantage – that may have been the gap or the little advantage we needed. But P2, double points is still a decent points haul – even after race two so I can’t be too dis-heartened.”
The new championship leader Tom Ingram said, “It was a really good result for us, I was just trying to bag points, I knew that with double points that was going to be crucial and I saw that Ash (Ashley Sutton) had had a drive through, so it was in the back of my mind just to score as many points as possible.”
By Jordan Hollands