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James Nash takes first victory at Rockingham

James Nash took his first ever victory in the British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham on Sunday in the final race of the day. Nash, who has finished second four times before, finally made the top step of the podium having started the race in fifth.

Click here for the full Round 24 Results.

The two front row, rear-wheel drive cars of Rob Collard and Rob Austin made strong starts when the lights went out, leading into the first banked turn. Going into the hairpin on the opening lap Austin made a move on Collard to take the lead, whilst Paul O’Neill, who moved up into third off the line, slid around the hairpin and allowed Nash to take third position.

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From there on Nash immediately began to pressure the leading duo, and going onto the oval section of the circuit on lap two he was able to pass Collard with superior straightline speed. A similar move followed on the fourth lap of the race, with Nash pulling alongside leader Austin and completing the pass in the breaking zone of the hairpin.

Despite keeping up with Nash throughout the race, Austin was unable to find a way past and had to settle for second – still his strongest-ever BTCC result and first podium finish. Collard ran in third for much of the race, forced to defend from an aggressive O’Neill. Lap 13 saw the Tech-Speed driver pass for third, before Collard retook the position on the penultimate lap. Given a lap or two more Collard may even have been able to win the race but the WSR driver simply ran out of time to challenge the leading duo.

Paul O’Neill battled hard with Jeff Smith in the opening laps, repassing the Pirtek driver on the second lap after his mistake at the hairpin on the opening tour. After battling with Collard for most of the second half of the race, O’Neill had to settle for fourth after Collard’s rear-wheel drive BMW managed it’s tyres better during the race.

Jason Plato, who finished fifth, had been battling hard with the two works Honda’s and Nick Foster until he found a way past on lap four. Foster’s WSR BMW made contact with the rear of Shedden’s Honda, allowing several cars to pass. Plato ended up the beneficiary, gaining three positions in the process, whilst his championship rival Matt Neal lost out to both the Chevrolet driver and Andrew Jordan. A few laps later Plato passed Smith around the outside heading into the chicane to take fifth, where he would remain until the chequered flag.

Sixth was Neal, who was more than ten seconds behind Plato in front by the end of the race. Both Honda drivers had been struggling throughout the race, with Gordon Shedden falling back in the closing laps to a lowly 21st despite having been running ahead of Plato in seventh at one stage.

Smith, who started third, gradually slipped back as the race progressed to take seventh, just ehad of his team-mate Jordan. Frank Wrathall made it three points finishes out of three with a ninth placed finish, whilst Tom Boardman took the final point for tenth after Foster dropped out of the top ten towards the end of the race.

Mat Jackson’s disastrous run of form continued as he recorded his sixth finish outside the top ten in as many meetings with a 13th placed finish. It means that not only is he now 45 points adrift of the leading Honda’s but he has also lost the lead of the Independents’ Championship, with Nahs now 24 points ahead in the standings.

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