Jason Plato has won the first race of the British Touring Car Championship season at Brands Hatch after a dramatic last-lap clash with Andrew Jordan.
Plato had led the race from lap 14 in his Triple Eight MG after passing the fast starting Rob Austin’s Audi A4 at Druids, with pole position man Jordan also passing the Rob Austin Racing machine on lap 19.
Eurotech Racing driver Jordan reeled in Plato over the remaining laps in his Honda Civic and attempted an optimistic pass at Clearways on the last lap, which saw both cars end up in the gravel trap.
But both were able to rejoin and cross the line first and second, ahead of the soft tyre-shod Austin, who had dropped back from his earlier lead.
Impressive rookie Sam Tordoff came home fourth in his MG, ahead of Jordan’s team mate Jeff Smith, while the equally impressive Frank Wrathall charged through to sixth from dead last in his Dynojet Toyota Avensis.
Adam Morgan, Colin Turkington, Aron Smith and Ollie Jackson completed the top 10.
It was a disastrous race for the Honda Racing Team, with Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal pulling into the pits in unison on lap 16, both rejoining a lap down and finishing 19th and 21st.
Neal had damage after being hit by Dave Newsham while avoiding Shedden’s huge slide at Paddock on lap one, while the Scot had a radiator full of grass after an off-track excursion trying to pass Neal at Clearways.
James Kaye took the honours in the Jack Sears Trophy, finishing 15th overall in his AmD Tuning Volkswagen Golf, after passing Lea Wood’s JWT Performance Vauxhall Vectra late on.
Colin Turkington, Rob Collard, Rob Austin and Adam Morgan all started the race on the new soft tyre.
At the start, Jordan held his lead from pole, with a lightning fast start from Austin moving him into second.
Austin took the lead from Jordan at Clearways, followed through by Plato, before the safety car was deployed on lap two when James Cole spun off in the Tony Gilham Racing Vauxhall Insignia at Paddock Hill.
Rob Collard in the West Surrey Racing BMW 125i, and Dave Newsham in the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis both stopped with technical problems under the safety car.
After the restart, Matt Neal started to drop back with damage to the wheel of his Honda Civic, and was passed in a forceful move by MG rookie Sam Tordoff at Clearways on lap 11.
Shedden then ended up on the grass exiting Clearways as he tried to pass Neal, finally getting past on lap 12.
Plato passed Austin for the lead at Druids on lap 14, before both Honda Racing Civics came into the pits in unison on lap 16.
Jordan passed Austin at Clearways on lap 19, while Mat Jackson slowed to a crawl at Druids from a strong position in the Motorbase Performance Ford Focus on lap 21.
Two cars didn’t make the start of the race.
Nick Foster’s West Surrey Racing BMW 125i stopped on the out lap, and Joe Girling’s Finesse Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze was pushed back into the garage with a driveshaft failure.
The second race takes place at 14:20 BST.