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BTCC 2006 rounds 7-9, Oulton Park, Race Report, 14 May

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  • BTCC 2006 rounds 7-9, Oulton Park, Race Report, 14 May

    Vauxhall's Astra Sport Hatch was back on track this weekend in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – both literally and on the timesheets.
    The championship was at Cheshire's Oulton Park for the third meeting of the year and, after scoring two podium finishes, the team is delighted with its progress in testing.
    Fabrizio Giovanardi drove a stunning first race to leap from 14th on the grid to fifth at the end of lap three. For the remaining 12 laps the Italian had to defend from intense pressure as the MGs of Colin Turkington and Rob Collard pressed for position. The battle – won by the VX Racing driver - kept the huge Oulton Park crowds gasping as exceptional driving from all three proved to be the highlight of the race.
    A first lap incident saw Gavin Smith drop from 10th on the grid to 15th, but the Dubliner stormed up the field to finish eighth.
    Tom Chilton started 17th on the grid after an accident in qualifying prevented him registering a flying lap. The 21-year-old, from Reigate, made up no fewer than nine places on the first lap, but could not hold off the MGs of Turkington and Collard. He finished ninth.
    Vauxhall’s championship rivals, SEAT, only scored one point from the race. James Thompson had to start from the pit lane with mechanical problems and Jason Plato was relegated to last place by a stop-go penalty when his mechanics spent too long on the grid.
    In Sunday’s second race, Giovanardi again made up ground off the start, getting in front of Mike Jordan and James Kaye to run in third. Giovanardi passed Gordon Shedden for second place a lap later, then pulled away until he was more than four seconds in front of Shedden and less than one second behind leader Matt Neal.
    Smith was given a drive-through penalty after officials judged he had jumped the start, but still managed to make his way up to 10th place.
    Chilton made contact with Jordan on lap three, dropping down to 10th, but made steady progress over the 15 laps to finish seventh. That result meant the VX Racing car was on pole for race three, under the reverse grid rules.
    In the final race of the day Chilton got a blinding start but after a tap from Plato he ran off the circuit, letting both SEATs through. The VXR driver kept the lighter cars well within his sights for the rest of the race to clinch third place, his third podium of the year.
    Smith started 10th but managed to take advantage of a tussle between reigning champion Neal and Colin Turkington to make his way up to seventh.
    Giovanardi was in the wars, with bumps and taps coming thick and fast. On lap 13 Turkington got past Giovanardi, pushing the 39-year-old wide so that Mike Jordan and Smith also came through. Giovanardi finished ninth and Smith sixth.
    Fabrizio Giovanardi: "In the second race I was a little bit faster than Matt Neal, who was leading, but not enough to get past. The team has done some really good work and the car is quite fast. I think we have a good chance for the championship."
    Tom Chilton: "The team has done a fantastic job with the testing. It's a big change and it really showed this weekend so I'm over the moon. The car just got better and better this weekend.
    "In the third race I got a fantastic start and pulled out on the SEATs. VX was just on it! But the SEATs have a lighter base weight than us and that's going to help them on the tyre life.
    "I still don't think they would've got passed me if it wasn't for the contact. There's definitely yellow paint on my rear bumper."
    Gavin Smith: "I just don't seem to have any luck. I was the quickest of the three VX drivers at Oulton but just couldn't translate that into results.
    "The racing was quite fierce. If someone's behind you, you don't know if they're going to hit you off. It puts a shadow in the back of your mind but the car is brilliant. It's a huge jump forward in performance."
    Race classification – Round 7
    1, Gordon Shedden (Honda Integra);
    2, Mike Jordan (Honda Integra);
    3, James Kaye (Honda Civic Type R);
    4, Matt Neal (Honda Integra);
    5, Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
    6, Robert Collard (MG ZS);
    7, Colin Turkington (MG ZS);
    8, Gavin Smith (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
    9, Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch) ;
    10, David Pinkney (Honda Integra); etc.
    Race classification – Round 8
    1, Matt Neal (Honda Integra);
    2, Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
    3, Gordon Shedden (Honda Integra);
    4, James Thompson (SEAT Leon);
    5, Robert Collard (MG ZS);
    6, Jason Plato (SEAT Leon);
    7, Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
    8, David Pinkney (Honda Integra);
    9, James Kaye (Honda Civic Type R);
    10; Gavin Smith (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch); etc.
    Race classification – Round 9
    1, Jason Plato (SEAT Leon);
    2, James Thompson (SEAT Leon);
    3, Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
    4, Robert Collard (MG ZS);
    5, Colin Turkington (MG ZS);
    6, Gavin Smith (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
    7, Mike Jordan (Honda Integra);
    8, Matt Neal (Honda Integra);
    9, Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
    10, Jason Hughes (MG ZS); etc.
    BTCC Drivers Championship
    1, Matt Neal (91);
    2, James Thompson (77);
    3, Jason Plato;
    4, Colin Turkington (73);
    5, Tom Chilton (54);
    6, Gordon Shedden (46);
    7, Mike Jordan (44);
    8, Gavin Smith (39);
    9, Fabrizio Giovanardi (3;
    10, Robert Collard (30).
    BTCC Manufacturers Championship
    1, SEAT (201);
    2, Vauxhall (156).
    BTCC Teams Championship
    1, SEAT Sport UK (143);
    2, Team Halfords (130);
    3, VX Racing (109);
    4, Team RAC (101);
    5, Team Eurotech (44);
    6, Synchro Motorsport (25).