Matt Neal kicked off his British Touring Car Championship campaign in the best way possible by winning the opening round of the season at Brands Hatch.
Pole man Neal lost the lead at the start of the race as Motorbase Performance driver Rob Collard catapulted ahead, followed by the similar BMW of WSR driver Colin Turkington.
Collard though, was back in third by lap seven, Turkington and Neal having passed him when he ran wide at Druids.
Neal piled the pressure on Turkington and, after swapping places twice over the next lap and a half, finally made his move stick at Clearways on lap eight, but only after making contact with the BMW on entry to the corner in a move that also dropped Turkington behind the second Vauxhall of Andrew Jordan.
While Neal was able to head off to victory, which was the 100th in the BTCC for the Triple Eight Engineering squad that runs the works Vauxhalls, Jordan would not finish on the podium, his Vectra coming to a halt on lap 18, after he had passed Turkington for second.
Defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi did reach the top three though, making up for a poor getaway that dropped him to fifth by taking Collard and Turkington in the latter stages and closing up to finish just half a second behind Neal at the chequered flag.
Turkington finished third, ahead of Collard and Adam Jones, who had a magnificent race on the BTCC debut of the Clyde Valley Racing team. Jones, driving a biofuel SEAT Leon, passed Jason Plato's RML Chevrolet during the final third of the race and was the fastest man on the track thereafter.
Plato just held off Stephen Jelley's WSR BMW on the line to take sixth by two thousandths of a second, Jelley having earlier been involved in a start-line incident that eliminated Gordon Shedden's Team Dynamics Honda and Jonathan Adam's Motorbase BMW.
Harry Vaulkhard and Dan Eaves were eighth and ninth for Tempus Chevrolet and Clyde Valley SEAT, while Martyn Bell was a brilliant 10th in the Tech-Speed Honda, taking his first point for over a year.
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Matt Neal Vauxhall 24:37.729 2. Fabrizio Giovanardi Vauxhall + 0.400 3. Colin Turkington BMW + 0.895 4. Rob Collard BMW + 3.300 5. Adam Jones SEAT + 6.217 6. Jason Plato Chevrolet + 11.304 7. Stephen Jelley BMW + 11.306 8. Harry Vaulkhard Chevrolet + 13.977 9. Dan Eaves SEAT + 15.103 10. Martyn Bell Honda + 15.381 11. Tom Chilton Ford + 19.627 12. Martin Johnson Vauxhall + 24.779 13. Alan Morrison Ford + 25.758 14. Liam McMillan SEAT + 26.027 15. David Pinkney Honda + 28.636 Retirements: Driver Car Laps Andrew Jordan Vauxhall 17 Gordon Shedden Honda 13 Nick Leason BMW 10 Jonathan Adam BMW 0 John George Honda 0