Reigning champion Matt Neal won the first British Touring Car race at Oulton Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Honda Civic driver's job was made easier before the start when poleman Jason Plato's works MG6 was pushed off the grid with a problem on its front-right corner.
Despite inheriting the top spot, Neal was beaten off the line by Rob Collard's rear-wheel-drive WSR BMW. But once the Civic was up to speed, Neal applied great pressure to Collard.
The Honda took the lead with a fine move at Lodge on lap four and pulled away as Collard defended from Andrew Jordan (Eurotech Civic) and the second BMW of Tom Onslow-Cole.
Jordan also made his way by Collard at Lodge, but as Onslow-Cole tried to move forward to attack his team-mate, he spun at Cascades and brought out the safety car.
Neal lost his two-second lead and Jordan stayed close after the restart, but the works car remained ahead to take victory by 0.2s.
Collard held on to third, with Gordon Shedden a little further back in fourth with his works Honda. That was nevertheless enough for Shedden to take the lead in the points race, just ahead of Neal.
Having started from row five, Mat Jackson made early progress in Motorbase's Ford Focus and was rewarded with fifth, with Dan Welch's Proton a competitive sixth.
Seventh eventually fell to Andy Neate, although he appeared to gain places when the MG, Aron Smith's Focus and the BMW of Nick Foster all missed out the Knickerbrook chicane during their battle.
Adam Morgan (Speedworks Toyota Avensis) had charged from row eight to eighth, but made a mistake at the Island hairpin on the final lap. As he tried to rejoin the racing line, there was contact with Foster that spun the Toyota off the track.
All the drama, which also included several cars pitting with overheating after off-track moments, allowed Will Bratt (Rob Austin Audi) to take eighth on his BTCC debut.
Results - 17 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Matt Neal Honda 26m25.203s 2. Andrew Jordan Eurotech Honda + 0.242s 3. Rob Collard WSR BMW + 2.609s 4. Gordon Shedden Honda + 7.104s 5. Mat Jackson Motorbase Ford + 9.341s 6. Daniel Welch Welch Proton + 9.832s 7. Andy Neate MG + 12.556s 8. Will Bratt Austin Audi + 17.044s 9. Nick Foster WSR BMW + 18.054s 10. Lea Wood Central Vauxhall + 19.615s 11. Ollie Jackson AmD Volkswagen + 28.242s 12. Frank Wrathall Dynojet Toyota + 50.773s 13. Tony Hughes Speedworks Toyota + 59.738s Retirements: Adam Morgan Speedworks Toyota 16 laps Chris James ES Vauxhall 16 laps Aron Smith Motorbase Ford 14 laps Tom Onslow-Cole WSR BMW 14 laps Liam Griffin Motorbase Ford 9 laps Dave Newsham ES Vauxhall 7 laps Jeff Smith Eurotech Honda 7 laps Tony Gilham Gilham Honda 5 laps Jason Plato MG 5 laps