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Matt Neal holds off Jackson by 0.055 seconds

Matt Neal held off a late charge by Mat Jackson to take victory in the first race of the day at Croft – by just 0.055 seconds.

Once again the weather played a major role in the outcome of the race as it began on a wet, but drying, track. Jackson, who had opted to go for slick tyres on the front of his car and wets on the rear, had the strongest combination late in the race and he narrowly missed out on the win. Completing the podium, having been passed on the last lap, was Rob Collard.

Click here for the full Round 13 Results.

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Polesitter Jason Plato only led in the run up to the first corner as a slight tap from Collard pitched him sideways and across the grass on the inside of the track. An opportunistic Neal managed to slip inside the pair of them as Plato rejoined the track to hold on to a lead that he would keep, just, for the rest of the race.

Jackson, who had started in ninth, dropped as low as 12th in the first few laps before his tyres were able to find grip later in the race. Thereafter followed a sensational drive through the field as the Airwaves Racing driver pulled off tricky overtaking manoeuvres in the damp and slippery conditions. By lap 14 Jackson was in sixth, and in fourth on the following lap. He immediately closed the gap on the leading trio and ultimately the lap was just a few metres too short for him to take the win in the fourth closest finish in modern BTCC history.

Despite late pressure from Plato, Collard held on to third for his second podium finish of the season, whilst Plato had to settle for fourth.

Gordon Shedden finished in fifth, having run fourth for most of the race. The Scotsman was unable to close the gap to the leaders and despite a safety car period in the middle of the race was generally unable to challenge at the front.

Finishing in sixth was Andrew Jordan, just ahead of Team Aon’s Tom Chilton. James Nash, who also opted to run with slick tyres on the front, had a strong run towards the end of the race to make his way up to eighth. The Triple Eight driver had been in 14th position with just 6 laps to go but his tyres, like Jackson’s, came on strong in the second half of the race.

Paul O’Neill finished in ninth after he also opted for slick tyres at the front. Tom Boardman took the final championship point for tenth position – although the SEAT driver had been running in seventh until the last lap when he lost out to the slick-shod drivers in front.

On his return to Team Aon Tom Onslow-Cole could only manage 11th overall – having also been one of the drivers to gamble on putting slick tyres on the front.

Finishing in a career-best 12th was Frank Wrathall in the NGTC spec Toyota Avensis, who admitted that he enjoyed the tricky conditions and performance of his car. “That was a really good race,” said Wrathall, “easily the best one we’ve had so far. The car ran faultlessly and performed well in the conditions.

“I was most comfortable when the circuit was at its wettest early on and towards the end, it was better suited to the cars with slick tyres on the front as it started to dry out. From there, I just focused on bringing the car home.”

The only safety car period of the race came on lap 9 for two laps to clear away the Vauxhall Vectra of Tony Gilham, who had slid off into the gravel. There was an off-track excursion for John George once again, meaning that the driver has failed to finish the last four races now.

Andy Neate failed to finish the race after suffering a late race puncture.

Rob Austin looked set to star once again in the NGTC Audi A4 – running in seventh at the end of the first lap – until he suffered a suspension failure on lap three.

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