BTCC 2013 Round 2 – Donington Review

ESM’s BTCC correspondent dishes out his review of the action-packed second round of this year’s season:

Honda’s Donington Dominance Stopped by Turkington!

Turkington! (c)
Turkington! (c)

Last weekend saw the second round of 2013’s British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park. The hills surrounding the circuit still look like huge quarry mud banks due to the works to upgrade the track and facilities, so I can’t say it was all that aesthetically appealing, nor are eBay Motors’ vile grey and yellow race suits! Who chose those colours?

Anyway, enough about aesthetics and more about the racing! Race One saw Gordon Shedden on pole, for amazingly the first time in nearly two years since he lined up as leader at Oulton Park in 2011. Jason Plato was quick to point out, as normal, that he was the fastest man if all ballast had been taken account of. However, it wasn’t and Shedden was the first man to see the lights go out. Shedden led from pole with Andrew Jordan in second into the first corner. The cars appeared to be fairly processional in the early part of the race after sorting themselves out after the first few corners. The cars on the soft tyres suffered towards the end of the race, with Aron Smith being the best placed come the end in only 11th.

A car which perked up my interest in Race One was that of Tom Onslow-Cole. I think the VW Passat looks great and I fully expect it to be a competitive car by the end of the season, especially on the evidence witnessed this weekend. I would suggest that the Passat needs a bit more speed as it looked a bit sluggish at times.  I was surprised at how much traction it had off the corners, especially compared to Rob Collard’s BMW, who he was having a good battle with.

The race ended with an all Honda podium with Shedden taking victory from Jordan and Matt Neal. The Race Two result was again fairly dominant for Honda, albeit it a slightly different order with the delighted Jordan taking victory from Plato, Shedden and Neal. Plato had achieved a 4th place finish in the opening race of the day so it’s fair to say this quartet had a good day at the office for the first two races.

Race Two opened with one of the more dramatic incidents of the weekend. The leaders got away from the lights cleanly, but further back David Nye’s S2000 Focus mounted the rear of yes, that Golf, and sent the unfortunate James Kaye sideways across the track and into the pit wall causing a safety car as both cars were recovered.

Overtaking was at a premium in the second race of the day, but credit must go to Jordan for his move up the inside of Shedden to take the race lead. Similarly, Plato’s bravery allowed him to take Neal, in their 400th and 500th races respectively, and later Shedden at the start of the Craner Curves. Race Two was much more of a tactical battle and something that isn’t often seen in the BTCC. However, due to this somewhat rare type of race, it was still exciting to watch.

Race Three was exciting to watch due to the usual action and controversies. Tom Onslow-Cole had the honour of the reverse grid pole, but he was a little slow to react to the change of the lights, which seem to be held for ages, and Colin Turkington sped off into the lead- a lead that wouldn’t be caught. Onslow-Cole’s Passat was able to keep up with the pace of the Hondas initially, before eventually falling back. Sam Tordoff, in his second BTCC race weekend, was again showing great pace and race-craft in the MG and pulled a super move on Onslow-Cole on the Craner Curves. Seeing cars overtake going full pelt on downhill curves really is some spectacle and one of the reasons why I love the BTCC so much. Tordoff made his way up to second, but lost out to the two Yuasa Racing Hondas on the last lap as he went wide after his tyres had given up.

There was a huge deja vu moment in the third race as the Speedworks Toyota of Dave Newsham was sideways in the middle of the track at the Craner Curves. Rob Austin, who had a nightmare weekend, was luckily no-where to be seen this time although Newsham came incredibly close to collecting several drivers, especially Jeff Smith and Shedden.

While all the action was playing out behind him, Turkington sped off into the distance and built up a commanding lead of nearly 6 seconds at points. He managed the race well and took the first victory for the BMW 1-series and his first victory in the BTCC since 2009. A great feat. Turkington was joined on the podium by Shedden and Neal, meaning that 7 of the weekend’s 9 podium positions were filled by a Honda car. When I predicted the Honda’s were going to have a good weekend in my previous article, I didn’t quite think it would be as good as this for them!

The Jack Sears Trophy saw race wins for James Kaye who crossed the line 0.9s ahead of Liam Griffin in Race One, Lea Wood in Race Two and Joe Girling in the final race of the day.

I was pleased to see the BTCC was heading towards its best this weekend, especially in the third race, after a somewhat dull episode at Brands Hatch. It is great to see some of the new drivers taking the battle to the old foxes, notably Adam Morgan who finished the weekend with a trio of 5th place finishes. Top marks to you sir.

Thruxton is next up for the BTCC parade on the weekend of 4th/5th May. Thruxton is the fastest track on the calendar so it will be interesting to see who has their gear ratios correctly set-up to maximise their speed. Plato will be heading into this race with no success ballast, unlike the Hondas so I wouldn’t be surprised to see JP leading the charge next time out.

Top 6 Drivers:

  1. Jason Plato 92 points
  2. Andrew Jordan 87 points
  3. Matt Neal 78 points
  4. Sam Tordoff 73 points
  5. Gordon Shedden 72 points
  6. Adam Morgan 66 points

A quick summary of all the teams:

Honda Yuasa Racing- Honda Civic

A really strong weekend and back to their best. Neither driver finished lower than 4th all weekend.

MG KX Momentum Racing- MG6

MG once again looked strong. They will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

eBay Motors/WSR- BMW 125i M Sport

Once again, it was a learning weekend for eBay Motors, but I tell you something they are learning quickly. I didn’t expect Turkington to have the pace to win the third race of the day, but he did and he had more than enough pace. A top job! We still haven’t really seen much of Rob Collard or Nick Foster this season.

Airwaves Racing/ Motorbase- Ford Focus

Aron Smith was probably the racier of the two Airwaves drivers this weekend, but once again I thought it was a fairly poor showing from Motorbase.

Pirtek Racing- Honda Civic

Andrew Jordan got his first win of the season and again looked strong throughout with Jeff Smith doing well too.

Speedworks Motorsport- Toyota Avensis

Dave Newsham’s Craner Curves spin is about all I can really remember of the Speedworks cars to be honest.

Dynojet- Toyota Avensis

Frank Wrathall had a bit of a nightmare weekend, especially in the third race.

Ciceley Racing- Toyota Avensis

A super weekend for the Avensis with Morgan retaining 6th place in the driver standings after a trio of 5th place finishes. Superb.

Wix Racing- Audi A4

Nothing really went right for Rob Austin and his team this weekend. It started badly with the team using the wrong gear ratios in qualifying and in the end they were just too far back to make much of an impact, in addition to suffering various reliability issues.

Kraftwerk Racing/ Team HARD.- VW Passat CC

A great improvement by TOC this weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the Passat at Thruxton.

RCIB Insurance Racing/ Team HARD.- Vauxhall Insignia VXR-R

Fairly anonymous this weekend.

Team 44 Club- Chevrolet Cruze

Nothing to report because they weren’t there again, nor will they be at Thruxton!

BTC Racing- Chevrolet Cruze

Nothing to report because they weren’t there!

Welch Motorsport with Sopp + Sopp- Proton Gen-2 (NGTC) and Ford Focus (S2000)

A quiet weekend for Dan Welch and David Nye’s weekend highlight was smashing into James Kaye on the start line of Race Two.

Addison Lee/ Motorbase- Ford Focus MK III (NGTC) and Ford Focus MK II (S2000)

There was no sign of Michael Caine in a NGTC Focus but Liam Griffin took 2nd place in Race One before retiring in both of the next races.

Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing- Vauxhall Vectra

Winner in Race Two but retired in Race Three.

M247 Racing- Chevrolet Cruze

Joe Girling celebrated his first Jack Sears Trophy win in Race Three. He’ll be hoping for another next time out.

Team BMR Restart- SEAT Leon

Once again, there were a few visits off the road for Warren Scott in the Leon.

AmD VW Golf MK5

Kaye set a blistering pace in qualifying compared to his rivals and took the victory in the first race of the day. A crash and an electrical fault meant that was the only highlight.

…and finally, I’d like to mention some of the other racing that took place over the weekend. The Ginetta Juniors were as mental as ever, which made it brilliant to watch as you didn’t know who was going to wipe who out next and I also enjoyed the Renault Clio Cup. However, one thing that needs improving is Paul O’Neill’s presenting skills. I think the sooner he gets back in a car the better; I find his question and answer sessions cringe worthy and he also seems to avoid actually answering the questions!

Over and out until Thruxton.

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