31.08.2009: The eighth round of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, held at Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire, is the closest event to the home of Vauxhall in Luton and to the headquarters of Vauxhall’s BTCC team,
The eighth round of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, held at Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire, is the closest event to the home of Vauxhall in Luton and to the headquarters of Vauxhall’s BTCC team, Triple Eight Engineering, based in Greatworth near Banbury.
A podium finish kept Fabrizio Giovanardi on track to his goal of a third consecutive Drivers’ Championship title, with this and two fifth place finishes putting the Italian driver 11 points behind championship leader, Colin Turkington. Matt Neal struggled through the weekend, battling lack of pace and a rough ride in the races, taking little comfort from a 10th place, a DNF and a 13th place finish. Jordan improved from his first race 12th place finish with a sixth in the second race, but finished in 15th in the third race.
Yesterday’s qualifying session proved the first challenge of the weekend for VX Racing, with Giovanardi emerging quickest of the Vauxhall trio to take eighth place on the grid. Team mate Neal took 11th place with Jordan back in 16th position. The first race of the day started in cool, cloudy conditions with the National circuit at Silverstone showing the outright speed advantage of the Chevrolets and BMWs with these cars streaking ahead as the field left the grid for the 25 lap opener.
Giovanardi was determined not to let this advantage impede him and the wily Italian used his considerable driving skills to quickly pass the first rival in his sights, Stephen Jelley. A safety car period closed up the pack but at the restart Giovanardi was back fighting. After a second safety car period which bunched the field again, the Italian took Jonny Adam for sixth place and Rob Collard for fifth position. Turkington was then directly ahead of Giovanardi, but with just a few laps left the VX Racing veteran ran out of time to make a pass on his title rival, crossing the line in fifth place.
Jordan had an excellent start, moving up to 13th place and then 12th, but struggled with pace to improve. With BTCC newcomer and former F1 driver Johnny Herbert behind him challenging for position, Jordan, the youngest driver in the championship, showed his maturity, keeping the experienced racer behind him to the chequered flag. Meanwhile Neal improved one place from his start position over the course of the race, but was similarly struggling with race pace and unable to challenge further he finally crossed the line in tenth place.
A damp track greeted the VX Racing drivers for the second race. On the opening lap Jordan made the most of the start, improving to ninth place ahead of Neal in 10th, with Giovanardi ahead in fifth place. Neal was soon tipped off the track by Collard, landing him in the gravel. He recovered but was lying at the back of the field, while Giovanardi started to make up ground, taking James Nash for fourth place.
A light drizzle of rain began to sort the field, with the experienced Italian showing his prowess passing Turkington for third place then Mat Jackson for second place. With only Jason Plato ahead Giovanardi had the lead in his sights, but he ran out of laps and had to settle for second place, cutting Turkington’s championship lead to seven points. Jordan held off his rivals, while attacking hard for position, taking a strong sixth place finish. Neal, having dropped to the back of the field had a second spin on the increasingly wet track, touring for a few laps before retiring late in the race.
The top nine positions were reversed for the third race, bringing Jordan a fourth place start and Giovanardi eighth place. Neal started in 19th with a mountain to climb to a points paying position. The opening lap tussles resulted in Giovanardi improving to sixth place and Neal to 14th, while Jordan ran wide, losing position and sustaining damage which put him back to 17th place. Giovanardi took Jelley for fifth place and then hounded Adam, finally taking him and laying fourth at half distance.
Neal continued to make his way through the field despite carrying damage from contact early in the race and was up to 12th place at the mid point of the race, with Jordan rebounding to 15th, also hampered by accident damage. The drier conditions in the third race hampered Giovanardi’s pace, with the Italian dropping back to fifth unable to challenge the BMWs on outright speed. He retained his position until the chequered flag to keep his championship titles firmly alive, with the gap to Turkington lying at 11 points and 104 points still on offer from the final two rounds. The Vauxhalls of Neal and Jordan came across the line in 13th and 15th place respectively.
Giovanardi said of his Silverstone fortunes, “We leave here with a podium and we’re still very close to Turkington. I would prefer to have closed the gap on him, but only dropping two points after three very tough races isn’t so bad. We weren’t able to match the pace of our main rivals and that made it difficult for us, but I hope that the final two rounds will suit the car better.”
Neal summed up his day saying, “We just didn’t have the pace of the others today, so it was very difficult to be competitive and I haven’t enjoyed it. I know that everyone will sit down and review the data as we’re not able to pinpoint the problem at the moment, but I’m sure that everyone at VX Racing will be focused on doing this.”
Jordan commented on his weekend, “It’s been another tough weekend, but we just have to look at the positives. We had really good pace in the car in the second race in the damp and I had a really good battle with Herbert in the first race it was just a shame it was for 12th place. Then in the final race I had a bad start. When Turkington went round the outside I was trying to give some room to the left and I just got caught out, and lost the rear. We just have to go away now and have a look at a few things ahead of the next race at Rockingham.”
Race 1 5. Fabrizio Giovanardi 10. Matt Neal 12. Andrew Jordan Race 2 2. Fabrizio Giovanardi 6. Andrew Jordan DNF Matt Neal Race 3 5. Fabrizio Giovanardi 13. Matt Neal 15. Andrew Jordan
Championship Standings Drivers’ Championship 2009 1. Colin Turkington 232 points 2. Fabrizio Giovanardi 221 points 4. Matt Neal 153 points 9. Andrew Jordan 86 points
Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Championship 1. Vauxhall/VX Racing 575 points 2. Honda/Team Dynamics 317 points 3. Ford/Team Aon 220 points
Teams’ Championship 1. VX Racing 395 points 2. Team RAC 319 points 3. Racing Silverline 267 points
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