Nash fends off Austin for breakthrough win in final race at Rockingham

Triple Eight Racing’s James Nash finally took his first victory in the British Touring Car Championship by holding off Rob Austin in the reverse grid race at Rockingham, taking the Inependents points lead in the process.

Under unpredictable skies it was the rear-wheel drive cars of Rob Collard and Rob Austin that got a lightning start from the front row, and heading into the hairpin it was the Audi of Austin that slithered inside the BMW to take the lead, while Paul O’Neill slid wide down to fifth place having jumped to third at the start.

Nash then started to make progress, passing Collard for second place as they went arond the banking for the second time, while O’Neill made his way around the outside of Jeff Smith under braking for the final chicane.

Nash hunted down the race leader and tried to make the same move on the banking but Austin defended well. On lap four however the Vauxhall driver was in the lead as he dived inside Austin at Deene hairpin.

As the race drew towards its conclusion, Nash’s tyres began to suffer and he dropped back into the clutches of Austin who started to really test the Vauxhall driver’s defensive skills, while behind them O’Neill made a great move on Collard by squeezing up the inside into turn four.

Nash drove the last laps to perfection and went on to take a narrow but long overdue first victory, ahead of Austin and the rapidly closing BMW of Collard, who had won his great scrap with O’Neill by re-passing the Chevrolet on the main straight.

The win is Nash’s first official victory after he was stripped of a win in the third race at Snetterton back in 2009 – ironically for an incident with Collard – and also Triple Eight’s first win since Fabrizio Giovanardi at Thruxton last year.

It also vaults Nash to the Independents championship lead, after yet another awful weekend for Mat Jackson. “It’s absolutely amazing and it’s a long time coming”, Nash told ITV4 afterwards.

“I radioed in about four laps from the end saying the front tyres were all shaken about, I knew the BMWs would be strong at the end so I was just concentrating on getting away and then be able to try to conserve tyres. It’s a great result, that’s what we came for.”

Austin came so close to securing a superb first victory for himself and the NGTC Audi A4: “It’s such a relief to finally be here” said Austin to ITV4. “I’m sure everyone’s seen on TV it was a bit of a handful in the early days and now it’s just beautiful to drive, it’s a brilliant car and i couldn’t be happier. My boys have done me proud, it’s awesome. I’ve got my money’s worth out of them this year.”

Behind them Jason Plato wrapped up a solid weekend in fifth position, while new championship leader Matt Neal pipped Smith on the run to the flag to take sixth by just 0.028s.

The pair were in the thick of a fiesty tussle early in the race when Honda’s Gordon Shedden passed Nick Foster at Deene before being half-spun by the BMW driver a corner later.

Plato was outbraking Neal at the time and gained two extra places as a result, and later copied O’Neill’s move on Smith to go on to finish fifth while Shedden dropped out of the points with suspension damage from the incident with Foster.

Behind Neal and Smith, Andrew Jordan finished eighth for Eurotech, while Frank Wrathall recovered from another poor start to finish ninth ahead of Special Tuning Racing’s Tom Boardman.

A third swap at the top of the championship today now sees Neal tied on points with Honda team-mate Shedden on 204 points each, while Plato has closed the gap slightly after a strong weekend and is now 24 points behind.

The series now heads to the Brands Hatch GP circuit for rounds 25, 26 and 27 of the championship on October 1/2.

Race three results:

1.  James Nash       Triple 8 Vauxhall     23m05.027s
2.  Rob Austin       Rob Austin Audi         + 0.366s
3.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW                 + 0.860s
4.  Paul O’Neill     Tech-Speed Chevrolet    + 2.207s
5.  Jason Plato      Chevrolet               + 3.724s
6.  Matt Neal        Honda                  + 14.182s
7.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Vauxhall      + 14.210s
8.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Vauxhall      + 14.726s
9.  Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota         + 15.174s
10.  Tom Boardman     Special Tuning SEAT    + 21.065s
11.  Alex MacDowall   Chevrolet              + 22.086s
12.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW                + 22.357s
13.  Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford         + 23.663s
14.  Daniel Welch     Welch Proton           + 26.706s
15.  Dave Newsham     Special Tuning SEAT    + 33.296s
16.  Martin Byford    AmD Volkswagen         + 37.909s
17.  Tony Gilham      Geoff Steel BMW        + 38.419s
18.  Tom Chilton      Arena Ford             + 38.420s
19.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford         + 41.584s
20.  Michael Caine    Motorbase Ford         + 43.166s
21.  Gordon Shedden   Honda                  + 44.117s
22.  John George      Tech-Speed Chevrolet   + 57.445s
23.  Chris James      ES Chevrolet             + 1 lap
DNF     Tom Onslow-Cole  Arena Ford                4 laps

Championship standings after round 8:

01 Matt Neal 204
02 Gordon Shedden 204
03 Jason Plato 180
04 Mat Jackson 159
05 James Nash 158
06 Andrew Jordan 124
07 Robert Collard 102
08 Tom Chilton 98
09 Paul O’Neill 78
10 Alex MacDowall 74

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