Just 24 hours after qualifying and the conditions for the first BTCC race of the day conspired to put doubts into the mind of even the most experienced drivers.
Sitting on the front of the grid, Colin Turkington acknowledged that the fast drying track was far from ideal for him – his rear wheel drive BMW may be great in the wet and very, very good in the dry, but really struggles when the circuit is somewhere in between the two.
Defending his points lead and not needing to “do anything silly” Colin dropped into second place off the line and then started to challenge again for the lead as his tyres warmed and his car became more competitive.
Especially considering the conditions, a surprisingly uneventful first couple of laps saw the first five cars start to edge clear of the field, with Josh Cook in 7th proving to be the “cork in the bottle” holding up a tightly packed midfield including a frustrated Dan Cammish.
A brilliant move at the hairpin on lap 4 saw Colin Turkington take the lead as the top 5 of Turkington, Sutton, Butcher, Hill and Jordan continued to pull clear. On the same lap Dan Cammish’s day came within a few inches of unravelling as Josh Cook lost his rear end to exit left, “caught it” just in time to slew back across the track in front of Dan before “catching it again” to repeat his track crossing exploits in the opposite direction then crossing the gravel and re-joining the race in 23rd.
Matt Simpson wasn’t so lucky. A huge off at Paddock Hill bend saw him plough headfirst into the tyre wall – thanking the protection afforded by his Cobra seat as he climbed unscathed from his Honda.
By the time of the inevitable safety car appearance caused by Simpson’s off, Dan Cammish had already risen to seventh.
Understandably it took four laps to repair the tyre wall, during which the rain returned – not heavy enough to persuade the leaders to pit, but sufficiently persistent to make it worthwhile for those in midfield and further back to gamble on changing to wets.
Inevitably the rear wheel cars at the front started to struggle. On lap 11 Turkington dropped to second while on lap 12 a brave move on the outside of Paddock Hill bend moved Dan Cammish into 4th.
By lap 13 Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan had both slipped further down the field but seemed to have warmed their tyres up sufficiently to hold on to 4th and 5th.
At the front, three more drivers using Cobra seats Rory Butcher, Jake Hill and Dan Cammish were pulling away.
On lap 15 Hill slid wide – Cammish moved up to 2nd and shortly afterwards Turkington went past Hill to move up to 3rd.
Then Dan Cammish made “the move of his season” by bravely taking the lead at Paddock Hill bend. Behind him, Matt Neal who had taken the decision to swap to wets was cutting through the field in dramatic fashion to finish second.
At the flag Dan Cammish – who has only led on 8 laps all season won by a remarkable 8 seconds, with Matt Neal taking second place not just giving the Yuasa Honda Racing team the most unlikely 1-2 of the season, but inflicting serious damage on Turkington’s title hopes as he was relegated to 5th.
Into race 2 and Colin’s lead over Dan has been cut to just 7 points, with Andrew Jordan’s 8th place race finish relegating him to 21 points off the Championship lead.