Shedden gambles to win wet opening thriller

Honda’s Gordon Shedden converted pole into success in the opening race at Oulton Park after changeable conditions turned the race into a lottery with drivers on different tyre strategies.

Shedden decided to opt for slicks on the front of his Honda Civic at the last minute before the warm-up lap, with his team-mate Matt Neal taking the lead from him at the start of the race, Neal opting for full wets along with many other rivals such as the Silverline Chevrolet drivers and Andy Neate’s Arena Ford.

The rain began to ease off at the end of the first lap which allowed the race to come to Shedden, and on lap four he slid past his team-mate Neal into the hairpin to retake the lead, where he then began to edge away.

Shedden was then unchallenged as he cruised to his second win of the season. “I didn’t think we could make a set of wets last, so it was just a gamble but it paid off” Shedden told ITV4. “I was happy enough because I could have made a real mess of it, everything went perfectly”.

Neal, carrying full ballast, struggled for grip throughout the race and began to plummet like a stone through the pack, dropping to third as Jason Plato dived up the inside of the Honda man into Knickerbrook, his team-mate Alex MacDowall repeating the move on Neate just behind them for fourth.

MacDowall then turned his attentions to Neal, and on lap seven he repeated Plato’s move on Neal at Knickerbrook to take third place, the flying BMW of Rob Collard following him through in the process.

The weather had now began to suit the drivers with slicks on their cars and as Neate and Neal began battling, James Nash – with slicks on the front of his Vauxhall Vectra – sythed past Neate into the hairpin on lap 10, and then quickly carved up Neal going into Lodge later in the lap. Nash then chased down the top four and made a move on Collard to finish fourth by the end of the race.

The conditions allowed the underdogs to show their potential. Nick Foster set the fastest lap of the race early in the going and then made his way past Neate with a great move up the inside of the Ford at Cascades that allowed the heroic returnee Lea Wood to follow him past the Ford into seventh and eighth respectively

The pair continued their charge by doing an identical mugging of Neal on the next lap on their way to sixth and seventh places, ensuring their best results in the championship ahead of Neal and Neate.

The final lap of the race then became a last-gasp dash to the line for the final top 10 positions, with Neal and Neate swapping places then coming under pressure from slick-shot runners Tom Boardman and Jeff Smith, the latter having stalled at the start of the race.

It all ended in tears however when Neate lost the place to the charging SEAT of Boardman and then turned Smith’s Vauxhall around on the straight approaching the hairpin. The out of control Vectra then slid down the track where it t-boned the unlucky Boardman who was powerless to avoid the collision.

Their team-mates had races to forget however. Tom Chilton suffered the worst possible start to the day as he didn’t even make the warm-up lap of the race due to sticking brakes, while Eurotech’s Andrew Jordan struggled early in the race with a poor start and then two offs at the hairpin in which he touched the barrier initially, before fighting his way back up to 10th place for a point.

Mat Jackson suffered his worst result of the season after mechanical problems ruined his race, later resulting in oil being dropped at the hairpin but luckily without consequences, while Paul O’Neill – who took his memorable first win in car racing here back in 2002 – made a great start to run sixth, chasing the leaders but for only a lap as he was given a drive-through penalty.

Race one results:

 1.  Gordon Shedden   Honda                  24m45.103s
2.  Jason Plato      Chevrolet                + 3.660s
3.  Alex MacDowall   Chevrolet                + 8.067s
4.  James Nash       Triple 8 Vauxhall       + 11.506s
5.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW                 + 15.707s
6.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW                 + 28.186s
7.  Lea Wood         Central Honda           + 28.630s
8.  Matt Neal        Honda                   + 31.379s
9.  Andy Neate       Arena Ford              + 34.003s
10.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Vauxhall       + 35.006s
11.  Tom Onslow-Cole  AmD Volkswagen          + 43.358s
12.  Dave Newsham     Special Tuning SEAT     + 47.211s
13.  Paul O’Neill     Tech-Speed Chevrolet    + 48.794s
14.  Tony Gilham      Triple 8 Vauxhall     + 1m12.950s
15.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford        + 1m13.123s
16.  Tony Hughes      Speedworks Toyota     + 1m38.635s
17.  Tom Chilton      Arena Ford                + 1 lap
DNF     Jeff Smith       Eurotech Vauxhall         14 laps
DNF     Tom Boardman     Special Tuning SEAT       14 laps
DNF     Chris James      ES Chevrolet               9 laps
DNF     John George      Tech-Speed Chevrolet       6 laps
DNF     Rob Austin       Austin Audi                5 laps
DNF     Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford             4 laps
DNF     Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota             4 laps


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