Collard wins action-packed opener at Brands Hatch

West Surrey Racing’s hard work over the winter paid off as Rob Collard took victory in the first race of the 2012 British Touring  Car Championship in a race that was full of action from start to finish.

The experienced Collard made his way up to second past reigning champion Matt Neal at the start and had a look inside pole-sitter Dave Newsham at Druids when the Vauxhall driver had a moment, which ended in contact that half-spun Newsham to third.

The safety car bunched the field up to remove Adam Morgan’s crashed Toyota after being turned into the barriers in a collision with Aron Smith and Jeff Smith, after which Collard led a tightly bunched five-car train ahead of Neal, Newsham, Jason Plato and Tom Onslow-Cole.

Neal then made his textbook lunge at Surtees inside Collard to take the lead on lap eight, Newsham folowing the Honda past Collard into Paddock Hill bend for second place. The action behind continued as Onslow-Cole and Plato were dicing, the BMW driver passing Plato on the outside of Druids before the MG man attacked back on the straight.

The flying Plato then repeated his move on Collard out of the final corner for third, before it all kicked off on lap 15.

Newsham attacked race leader Neal at the final corner and drew alongside the NGTC Honda, while Plato saw a gap and stuck his nose inside the pair of them, spinning Newsham into the gravel where Collard passed all three to reclaim the lead.

Collard from the restart held onto the lead this time to claim an emotional win – only just – from Neal who nearly snuck inside the BMW at the final corner, while third just went to Onslow-Cole by 0.036s after a drag race with Plato exiting the final corner.

“It’s been a bit of a drought for me so it’s a great feeling for me,” Collard told ITV4. “The team have worked so hard over the winter.

“It was hard. Matt came past me with a great move, and he was caching me in the end but I was quite happy and in control.”

“It’s just a dream come true”, said an emotional WSR boss Dick Bennetts.

Collard let the excitement get the better of him after the race, when he nearly put the car int he gravel doing some donuts in celebration!

Fifth went to Gordon Shedden ahead of the slightly more damaged Civic of Andrew Jordan who had been involved in the turn two accident, Jordan spending the whole race holding off Mat Jackson’s Ford after a titanic scrap between the pair.

Rob Austin finished eighth despite contact that nerfed Aron Smith into the barriers at Druids (which resulted in more damage to the Ford after marshalls tore the front end off dragging it through the gravel), while Nick Foster and Jeff Smith rounded out the top 10.

Race one results:

1.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW            26m15.638s
2.  Matt Neal        Dynamics Honda       + 0.329s
3.  Tom Onslow-Cole  WSR BMW              + 1.114s
4.  Jason Plato      Triple 8 MG          + 1.150s
5.  Gordon Shedden   Dynamics Honda       + 3.872s
6.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Honda       + 5.156s
7.  Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford       + 7.339s
8.  Rob Austin       Austin Audi          + 7.489s
9.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW              + 7.581s
10.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Honda       + 7.886s
11.  Lea Wood         Wood Vauxhall        + 8.186s
12.  Andy Neate       Triple 8 MG         + 12.090s
13.  Ollie Jackson    AmD Volkswagen      + 12.112s
14.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford      + 12.307s
15.  Chris James      ES Vauxhall         + 15.499s
16.  Tony Hughes      Speedworks Toyota   + 24.791s
17.  Daniel Welch     Welch Proton        + 27.661s
18.  Tony Gilham      Gilham Honda          + 1 lap
DNF     John Thorne      Thorney Vauxhall      24 laps
DNF     Dave Newsham     ES Vauxhall           14 laps
DNF     Aron Smith       Motorbase Ford        14 laps
DNF     Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota          1 lap
DNF     Adam Morgan      Speedworks Toyota      0 laps

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