All the latest from ESM’s BTCC Correspondent, with his comprehensive roundup of the action from Thruxton.
Honda’s Dominance Continues.
Honda’s dominance of the 2013 British Touring Car Championship continued at Thruxton last weekend. Honda continued their impressive form from Donington, where they occupied 7 of the 9 podium positions, with 6 of the 9 available at Thruxton. Although it sounds rather dull with Honda performing so well, it was quite the opposite; the weekend produced the best races of the season so far.
Thruxton is notoriously a circuit all about speed and tyre management and this weekend proved to be no different. Due to the high tyre wear, none of the drivers were required to nominate a race to use the white-striped soft tyres this weekend. I think it might have been even more interesting if they had though, I’ve no idea how some of them would have coped!
Race One saw Andrew Jordan on pole, although he got away slowly from the line. The first major incident of the weekend occurred into the first set of corners as the lead train of cars came around and Jason Plato and Gordon Shedden collided. Plato had achieved a better start of the pair and was looking to cement his place when contact occurred. Post-race Shedden was furious and believed that Plato smashed him off the track. I however, completely disagree. TV footage clearly showed Shedden angling his car towards Plato’s and while Jason stood his ground as he was entitled to do, Shedden ended up in the barrier albeit he was able to continue at the back of the grid.
Another impressive performance from the Kraftwerk Passat team and Tom Onslow-Cole saw him rise to 5th by the end of lap 3. The top 3 of Jordan, Matt Neal and Plato had started to pull away, but Onslow-Cole soon caught Plato. Don’t forget that this car had not even turned a wheel before Brands Hatch! Onslow-Cole engaged in a great battle with Plato, but Jason won through to take 2nd with Onslow-Cole more than happy to take a first podium for the Passat. Naturally, you will realise there is a car missing from the previous top 3.
That car belonged to Jordan, who was leading with half a lap left before disaster struck. Jordan suffered a puncture allowing a stream of cars through, although he did manage to limp over the line in 11th. Jordan naturally had his usual sulk, albeit understandable. The final top 3 saw Neal win his 50th BTCC race, followed by Plato and Onslow-Cole, with the top 6 completed by another good drive from Sam Tordoff, Jeff Smith and Colin Turkington.
Other points of note from the first race of the day saw a good battle between the Toyota Avensises or Avensi of Adam Morgan, who already has more points than the entirety of last season, and Frank Wrathall. Wrathall however, was duly mugged on lap 8 as a flurry of cars found passing him rather easy, suggesting that there must have been some sort of problem or poor set-up.
In the opening S2000 race of the day, James Kaye was naturally off in the Golf, Warren Scott’s suspension appeared to give way on lap 15 and I’m sure that Joe Girling’s car has changed colour from white to black, I’m guessing due to sponsorship. Liam Griffin took the win, followed by Lea Wood and David Nye.
Race Two saw me make the most notes I have made about a race so far this season, so as you can imagine it was, once again, action packed. After what seemed a really long hold of the lights, Turkington made a great start from 6th on the grid, although the top 3 stayed the same. As is often the case with so many cars trying to battle for track position on the opening lap, one is often spat out of the train and on this occasion it was the unfortunate Adam Morgan. He did manage to recover, but much further back from where he wanted to be after a good start to the season.
Someone else who was soon having a moment of their own and had to recover was Aron Smith, who had a good old fashioned tank-slapper coming out onto one of the straights. He was lucky not to collect anyone, although Wrathall probably had a squeaky bum moment. Unbelievably, Mat Jackson, Smith’s teammate had a basically identical incident later on in the race on lap 10. I think we need to look at the set-up chaps.
Following a close start to the race, Onslow-Cole was keeping pace with Neal and Plato and on lap 4 Jackson and Turkington had a good battle, but it resulted in Jeff Smith taking them both with Tordoff and Jordan following through too. After an exciting start to the race, there was time to cool the tyres down due to a safety car that was trigged by Dan Welch smashing his car into the barriers at the chicane. It appeared that he lost it under braking and the side of his car certainly took a beating. This naturally bunched the field up, much to the benefit of Shedden who was making his way through from the back of the grid after his Race One result.
Jordan was able to pass Jeff Smith on lap 10 and set off for his next target. After some intense racing, Shedden went up the inside of Tordoff as Honda continued to be strong, Onslow-Cole pulled a great move up the inside of Plato, who appeared to be struggling, and eventually Shedden made it up the inside Jeff Smith following an error and later by Plato also. As the race was heading for a conclusion, TOC was just holding off Jordan with some pretty amazing driving and some excellent speed on the Passat. However, a slide from TOC almost let Jordan by, but in the end a slide from Jordan cost him 3rd place as Shedden nipped in for 3rd on the last lap.
Race Two really was a nip and tuck battle throughout the entire race and it was a thoroughly enjoyable race to watch. After a somewhat subdued start to the season, Thruxton was certainly living up to what we have become accustomed to over the years in BTCC racing. Neal claimed Honda’s and his second win of the day, followed by Onslow-Cole, Shedden, Jordan, Plato and Jeff Smith.
The Jack Sears Trophy saw Liam Griffin off and of course, James Kaye in the Golf. The S2000 class was won by Lea Wood, with David Nye finishing 2nd ahead of Joe Girling.
Race Three tried to live up to Race Two and it didn’t fall too far away. Before the race had even started, Wrathall’s Avensis cruised to a halt, presumably with some fuel pick-up issue. Neal had selected Jack Goff to be on pole from the pot of balls with Steve Rider, but after some super quick start lights, Goff eventually went off after a Honda sandwich with Shedden and Jordan. Morgan was in the lead of the race and was looking to put in some quick laps, although this idea was ended prematurely thanks to some cold tyres resulting in a grass cutting expedition and a pit stop.
The pair of MGs, Plato and Tordoff, chased down Jeff Smith who was looking fairly quick in the Honda at the front of the pack. TOC was in 4th as the race settled down. Smith and Plato had a good battle into the chicane, but Plato eventually got through on lap 7 and started to build a lead which eventually reached around 4 seconds. Shedden was continuing to battle through the crowds with Tordoff and Smith his latest victims as he set off to hunt down Plato in the lead.
However, he didn’t have to wait long to take the lead as Plato’s left front gave way with a puncture and Plato struggled to limp back to the pits as Shedden sped off for his first victory of the day. The action was not finished there! Jeff Smith and Neal collided on the penultimate lap and while Neal was able to continue, Smith’s car ended up pointing the wrong way. Shedden duly completed a Honda 1-2-3 from Neal and Jordan, with TOC finishing a superb weekend in 4th ahead of Aron Smith and the recovered Jeff Smith. The S2000 class saw victory for Wood again from Nye and Kaye.
At the start of the season I announced ‘BTCC is back!’ Perhaps, it was in terms of the cars lining up on the grid, but not in terms of great action that keeps you glued to the racing. After Thruxton, I can definitely announce, ‘BTCC is back,’ and what a great feeling it is too. I can only hope that this action continues at each round until the end of the season, because if it does we are in for some season. My only gripe is that the Honda dominance is somewhat predictable and annoying so come on you other teams, sort it out!
Driver standings following Thruxton:
Matt Neal 137 points
Andrew Jordan 124
Jason Plato 121
Gordon Shedden 109
Sam Tordoff 103
Adam Morgan and Jeff Smith 85
Here is my latest round-up of all the teams:
Honda Yuasa Racing- Honda Civic
Another great weekend for the team- they won every race. Definitely the team to beat.
MG KX Momentum Racing- MG6
Plato’s puncture spoilt the last race, but on the whole a fairly decent weekend. They just need to find that extra bit of speed from somewhere.
eBay Motors/WSR- BMW 125i M Sport
Are Nick Foster and Rob Collard racing this season? Yes, but you wouldn’t know it. Where are you guys? Turkington had a solid, if yet unspectacular weekend. The team need to find more rear grip desperately.
Airwaves Racing/ Motorbase- Ford Focus
Once again, I think Aron Smith had the slight edge on more experienced teammate Mat Jackson and achieved a good 5th place in the final race. Like eBay Motors, in desperate need of rear grip.
Pirtek Racing- Honda Civic
Like the factory team, doing a great job this season. I’m starting to know who Jeff Smith is now, after his somewhat quiet start to touring cars over the last couple of seasons.
Speedworks Motorsport- Toyota Avensis
Once again, a fairly anonymous weekend.
Dynojet- Toyota Avensis
Frank Wrathall had a difficult weekend with various issues. We’ve not seen the best of this Avensis yet.
Ciceley Racing- Toyota Avensis
A more difficult weekend for Adam Morgan compared to the opening 2 rounds, but I’m sure he’ll be back on form at Oulton Park.
Wix Racing- Audi A4
Another poor weekend in all honesty. I’m sure Rob will be working hard to sort it out.
Kraftwerk Racing/ Team HARD.- VW Passat CC
What a weekend for Tom Onslow-Cole with a 2nd, 3rd and 4th. My driver of the weekend.
RCIB Insurance Racing/ Team HARD.- Vauxhall Insignia VXR-R
Started on pole in the 3rd race, but not up to the standard of the Passat yet.
Team 44 Club- Chevrolet Cruze
Nothing to report because they weren’t there again. However, they are expected to be at Oulton Park.
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 good weekend for David Nye in the S2000 Focus, not such a great weekend for Dan Welch who will have a big bill for his Proton.
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 again but Liam Griffin had a good first race.
Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing- Vauxhall Vectra
A couple of wins for Lea Wood will see him happy after Thruxton.
M247 Racing- Chevrolet Cruze
Not much to report, but I’m sure the car’s changed colour.
Team BMR Restart- SEAT Leon
Once again, there were a few visits off the road for Warren Scott in the Leon. (Same summary as Donington)
AmD Tuning.com- VW Golf MK5
Once again, the Golf suffered a few problems, but the podium in the last race may have brightened James Kaye’s day.
The BTCC next visits Oulton Park after a 5 week break. Last year, it was a great day out, but I’m not sure if I’ll get there this season. The tickets for Croft however, have arrived.