GORDON SHEDDEN passed one of the toughest tests of his British Touring Car Championship season with flying colours last Sunday to retake pole position.

The reigning champion kept his title defence firmly on track at the challenging Oulton Park circuit with an impressive 43-point haul in Cheshire to take the lead in the Championship standings.

Ahead of rounds 10,11 and 12, ‘Flash’, who is looking for a third successive title and fourth overall, admitted that he would “need to dig deep to pull something special out of the bag” at a venue he described as “probably one of our toughest” on the BTCC calendar.

But he and Halfords Yuasa Racing team-mate Matt Neal were in fine form to catapult them to the lead in the team standings, despite travelling to Oulton with caution, mindful of the fact it tends to favour real-wheel drive machinery.

A high-speed accident for Shedden in the second free practice session added to the uncertainty but a herculean repair effort enabled Knockhill’s business development manager to secure a strong seventh position on the grid.

In race one, he was part of a multi-car scrap over third position as Andrew Jordan and pole-sitter Neal occupied the top two places and brought his battle-scarred, ballast-laden Honda Civic Type R home in seventh, but safe in the knowledge that his two key title rivals – Tom Ingram and Colin Turkington – failed to score.

Shedden and Neal then worked in tandem in race two to progress up the order, demoting Jordan in quick succession with a neat double move that began on the run to Old Hall and ended at Cascades, going on to take the chequered flag third (Neal) and fourth (Shedden).

In the reversed grid finale, the duo made light of their success ballast, working together again to fight their way past pole-sitter Josh Cook before setting their sights on Jordan in the lead.

After a mid-race safety car period bunched the field right up, Shedden prised the top spot away with a brilliant late-braking manoeuvre on lap 15, as the opportunistic Neal followed through to complete a commanding one-two finish.

The results moved Shedden 16 points clear of Rob Collard at the top of the championship, and he said: “After my accident in FP2, the team did a mega job to prepare the car in time for qualifying and we managed to pull it back.

“Matt and I get the plaudits for standing on the podium but Saturday was a true example of teamwork at its absolute best – and what a fantastic team we have. I drove my heart out in races one and two to grind some results out, and whilst they weren’t spectacular finishes, points do make prizes.

“Race three was pretty action-packed but we had a lot of pace throughout and the Civic Type R came alive on the soft tyres – it was one of those races that could have kept going and going as far as I was concerned! My move for the lead was actually completely unplanned – Andrew jumped on the brakes very early into Cascades so I just had to send it up the inside, which worked a treat – and to conclude the weekend with a one-two for the team was brilliant.

“It’s great to be back in the lead of the championship and whilst with that comes maximum ballast, as I’ve said before, I’ll take that any day of the week.”

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns in three weeks time when Rounds 13, 14 and 15 take place at Croft Circuit, North Yorkshire, on June 10-11.