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News 2007: Rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, Rockingham

Motorbase Performance experienced what can only be described as mixed emotions over the course of rounds four, five and six of the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham in Northamptonshire. On one hand Norwich's Matt Allison scored the team's best result of the season so far with seventh place in race two, while on the other, Gareth Howell, from Beckenham, Kent, was frustrated by an unfortunate series of events that stopped him from finishing any of the day's three races.

Matt AllisonAfter a maiden outing at Brands Hatch that showed all the right signs, both Howell and Allison headed to Rockingham looking to build on their early form. Qualifying saw both drivers evenly matched, with Howell taking 10 th on the grid for the weekend's first race and Allison, 11 th.

In the first race Howell managed to make up a handful of positions before contact resulted in damage to his SEAT Toledo Cupra, forcing him into the pits and eventually into retirement from the race. Meanwhile, Allison found himself on the verge of the top ten, finishing 11 th.

A strong run early on in race two saw Allison running sixth after just a couple of laps. The reigning British GTC champion traded positions with the works SEAT of Darren Turner during the middle parts of the race, before taking the chequered flag in seventh. Gareth Howell took the start of the race from the pitlane, intent on avoiding any early race dramas. It was a plan that seemed to be working, as he climbed up through the pack to 10 th position, only for race one's battle damage to flare up. A fire in the exhaust on the Toledo caused the car to fill with fumes that made it impossible to drive, leaving Howell with no option but to park it up.

Gareth HowellThe weekend went from bad to worse for Howell at the start of the third race when engine troubles saw him pushed from the grid before things could even get underway.

Gareth Howell said, "I had pretty good pace in the first race, but then I couldn't avoid one of the moveable barriers that got pushed onto the track in front of me and it completely ripped the front splitter off. The team repaired the car for the second race, but it still filled with smoke part way through the race, so I had to pull off the track and I ended up spending half an hour in the medical centre afterwards. And then I didn't even get to start the third race.

"It's frustrating because I just haven't had the luck this weekend. We had a couple of good finishes at Brands Hatch and we wanted to build on that here. We're still not where we want to be in terms of pace, so we will sit down and try to sort that out for Thruxton."

The reverse grid system for race three, which can turn anything from the top six to the top ten finishers from race two on its head, put Allison fourth, but surrounded by fast-starting rear-wheel drive BMWs. It was another strong run for the BTCC newcomer, which saw him put in his fastest race lap of the weekend. It ended with a ninth place finish, but it could have been even better had a mid-race safety car period not bunched up the whole pack, allowing the cars behind to close the gap.

Matt AllisonMatt Allison commented, "It's been a pretty good weekend for me to be quite honest. I've had two good points positions today, especially race two, which was our best finish so far. We've had a good result in the independents' championship and it has sneaked us up a bit in the main championship.

"We've got to remember that this is only my second weekend and the team's second weekend with car and this isn't the best championship in the country by chance – it's tough! We'll go back and we'll keep working on the car and we'll scratch our heads again. I think we've got two tracks out of the way that don't particularly suit the car and I hope we'll be very strong at Thruxton."

Alongside its touring car campaign Motorbase Performance also has three cars entered in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, which supports the BTCC. A successful weekend at Rockingham saw the team take maximum championship points in both of the weekend's races, with driver Steven Kane also picking up both fastest laps. It was a performance which saw Motorbase Performance scoop the 'RAC team of the weekend' award.

Rounds seven, eight and nine of the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship take place at Thruxton in Hampshire on 5/6 May.

Race results (provisional)
Round 4
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)
2. Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Vectra)
3. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon)
4. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)
5. Matt Neal (Honda Civic)
11. Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
DNF Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

Round 5
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)
2. Tom Onslow-Cole (BMW 320si)
3. Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Vectra)
4. Mat Jackson (BMW 320si)
5. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon)
7. Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
DNF Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

Round 6
1. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon)
2. Mat Jackson (BMW 320si)
3. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon)
4. Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Vectra)
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)
9. Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
DNF Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

All images courtesy of Enver Meyer