BTCC Round 4 – Oulton Park Review

A year ago EngageSportMode was at Oulton Park for the British Touring Car Championship. Although we might not have been there in person this time round, ESM’s BTCC correspondent still brings you the lowdown on all the action:

Plato’s on Fire with Double Oulton Park Win

Jason Plato secured his first victories since the opening two rounds of the season with victories in the first two races at Oulton Park. Plato was largely untroubled in both races and was a dominant winner each time out. He did, however, suffer some bad luck in the third race, a rather large fire under the bonnet meant it was no points third time out.

Race One saw the first ever MG 1-2 starting grid as Sam Tordoff backed up Plato’s dominant qualifying performance. There was drama before the race started as Ollie Jackson’s Speedworks Avensis failed to make the grid due to an issue, but he did later join the race. There was a lively start off the grid as Gordon Shedden did his best to drive past Tordoff, but the Yorkshire man just held his ground.

Frank Wrathall’s Avensis and Warren Scott’s Seat Leon were next to encounter trouble as they were promptly into the pits on lap 2. Island Bend, as ever, provided great overtaking opportunities and also opportunities for plenty of contact over the weekend, with Andrew Jordan particularly finding the backs of other cars easier to help him stop rather than his own brakes. Race One saw notable taps from the aforementioned Jordan on Dave Newsham, James Cole on Lea Wood and Colin Turkington on once again, the unlucky Newsham.

Race One was a bit of a precession to be honest and not a great deal happened. Aron Smith was out on lap 6, with the Airwaves NGTC Focus still struggling to find reliability this season. A point of drama however, was when Jordan’s car started pouring out black smoke on lap 8. It looked inconceivable that he would be able to finish the race, but finish the race he did with the eventual cause being diagnosed as an exhaust issue.

Lap 11’s dramatic incident saw Tom Onslow-Cole put a wheel on the grass following a good challenge with Rob Collard, but despite a spin across the track and grass, TOC was able to carry on. The end of the race had a tight finish further down the grid with Adam Morgan taking 9th from Collard in a photo finish across the line. I must highlight a much improved performance from Dave Newsham during Race One, although he did tail off with his tyres towards the end of the race.

Race One saw Plato romp home from Tordoff, Shedden, Jordan, Matt Neal and Turkington. Liam Griffin took the honours in the Jack Sears Trophy from Lea Wood. I have to admit, I didn’t realise the Jack Sears Trophy was won on most race wins rather than accumulation of points, so apologies for any confusion there.

Race Two saw Plato and Tordoff get away cleanly from the front row, but Turkington made a great start jumping up from 5th to 3rd. Plato was able to create a huge lead on lap 1 as Tordoff held up the bunch, perhaps he was being a little more conservative as he was running the soft tyre option. Plato’s lead was soon cut on lap 3 as the safety car came out due to Jack Goff’s car being stuck in the pit lane entrance due to a fire. The Hondas of Shedden and Neal pulled off some interesting moves, perhaps against the spirit of the rules, overtaking just before the safety car boards came out as others started to slow.

Race Two was following a similar pattern to Race One, not all that much to report in ways of incident. Shedden pulled off a good racing move on Tordoff on lap 8 as he looked to chase after Plato. Tordoff fell further down the pack on lap 13 as Turkington, after a good battle, eventually got past.

Mat Jackson’s Focus was actually looking pretty good on the soft tyres and he was making good ground before a collision with Tordoff at Island Bend put them both out of the race with a lap left. Tordoff had been smacked on the previous lap by Jordan at Island Bend as he barged his way past, so Tordoff was a little too keen to defend against the stronger car of Jackson at that stage of the race.

Plato secured his second victory of the day with relative ease, with Shedden 2nd and Turkington 3rd. The top six were rounded up by Neal, Jordan and Newsham. Wood continued a strong weekend, taking victory in the Jack Sears Trophy.

Alan Gow performed the reverse grid draw for Race Three and surprise, surprise he picked out the weighted ball that ensured it was number 10. Obviously, the draw was fair and it was just lucky! Anyway, it meant Jeff Smith was on pole from Dan Welch and Rob Austin. Warren Scott’s Leon was once again out, this time before the race even started.

Austin was able to power through at the start with his rear wheel drive Audi to lead and he made a great lead on a busy first lap full of minor incidents. Smith however, was soon able to catch Austin where they had a good honest battle for the lead. That was until Smith smacked Austin in the back three times until he lost control, giving Smith the lead around lap 7.

Lap 3 saw Jordan smack Turkington up the backside at Island Bend although Turkington stood his ground and stayed ahead. Lap 4 saw plenty of incidents as Plato’s car decided it had given up for the day with an engine fire and there was a massive queue of cars trailing around the circuit which finally saw the unfortunate Newsham spat out.

The Hondas had an interesting few laps midway through the race, as Shedden suffered a puncture and Neal’s car was left on two wheels after going up the curbs rather aggressively. After Austin suffered his Smith battering, he eventually fell down the pack with Neal getting past him, as Jordan was getting past Morgan. Turkington, having another strong race, got ahead of Morgan on lap 12 and Smith had a huge tank slapper across the track allowing both Jordan and Turkington by. Smith was off once again on lap 13 with a big slide at Hislops.

The end of the race was less dramatic than the laps that had preceded it and Jordan took the top step of the podium with Turkington and Morgan either side of him. Neal, Austin and Will Bratt completed the top six, with Griffin taking the honours in the Jack Sears Trophy.

In all honesty, Oulton Park didn’t deliver the best races of the BTCC season so far, but it was still much better than Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit. Plato looked dominant throughout the weekend and made valuable gains in the championship. It would have been interesting to see where he would have finished if it wasn’t for his fire in Race Three. The Hondas of Neal and Shedden definitely looked in the shadows of the MGs at Oulton Park and we haven’t said that very often this season.

I’m pleased to report that Pirtek pair, Jordan and Jeff Smith both received 3 penalty points and fines following their poor driving at Oulton Park. Jordan, in particular, seems to be intent to win at all costs and I’m quickly losing respect for his attitude towards other drivers.

Races One and Two were fairly processional, but Race Three demonstrated the reason why we have the reverse grid. It was great to see the more experienced cars and drivers coming through the field to achieve good results. Overall, the season is starting to shape-up and I’m really looking forward to Croft, where ESM will be reporting live on the day with Twitter updates.

Championship Standings after Round 12.

  1. Matt Neal                       173 points
  2. Andrew Jordan            169
  3. Jason Plato                     166
  4. Gordon Shedden          142
  5. Sam Tordoff                    129
  6. Colin Turkington          123

A quick summary of all the teams:

Honda Yuasa Racing- Honda Civic

By their standards, they will probably have been disappointed with this weekend, but I’m sure other teams would have snapped their hand off for their results. Still strong.

MG KX Momentum Racing- MG6

Great weekend for MG! 1-2 after qualifying, a 1-2 in Race One, a win in the second race and Tordoff came through the field valiantly in the third race. It was a shame Plato’s fire in Race Three spoilt their weekend.

eBay Motors/WSR- BMW 125i M Sport

Colin Turkington is like how Lewis Hamilton was at McLaren. He’s getting much more out of the car than his teammate. Collard looked slightly improved this weekend, but Nick Foster will be owing him a drink after smashing into him at Island Bend.

Airwaves Racing/ Motorbase- Ford Focus

A slightly better showing, but still not the Motorbase team we loving seeing winning races.

Pirtek Racing- Honda Civic

Andrew Jordan smashed his way through the field with some forceful moves over the weekend and will be pleased to be only 4 points behind the championship leader. Jeff Smith still can’t get the luck to find his first win. Both drivers deserved their penalties.

Speedworks Motorsport- Toyota Avensis

Dave Newsham looked pretty strong for most of Race One, but didn’t do a lot else. Ollie Jackson no-where to be seen really.

Dynojet- Toyota Avensis

Frank Wrathall was fairly anonymous.

Ciceley Racing- Toyota Avensis

Adam Morgan was involved in a few incidents, pretty solid weekend and he’ll be pleased with his first ever podium.

Wix Racing- Audi A4

The Audis still look sluggish to me, despite Rob Austin now using a TOCA engine. They will be pleased with a 5th and 6th in Race Three and rightly so. It was great to see Sherman leading the race until Smith decided to play unfairly.

Kraftwerk Racing/ Team HARD.- VW Passat CC

Not as strong as Thruxton for TOC, but still making improvements.

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, although they were meant to be. Neate’s car is at least built now.

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)

We didn’t see much of David Nye and Dan Welch fell down the field in Race Three despite a promising starting position. Definitely not as strong as last year.

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 although he has now tested it, but Liam Griffin had a good weekend.

Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing- Vauxhall Vectra

Lea Wood won Race Two, sandwiched by Griffin in One and Three.

M247 Racing- Chevrolet Cruze

Joe Girling was unable to race due to medical advice.

Team BMR Restart- SEAT Leon

I can’t see Warren Scott completing the season. Another nightmare weekend.

AmD VW Golf MK5

No James Kaye due to work commitments so Aaron Mason made his BTCC debut. He did ok in Race One before that Golf let him down again with engine trouble.

It all looks like this weekends meeting at Croft could be a cracker. Keep a look out for the EngageSportMode team; we’ll be the ones in the ESM branded Polo shirt (yes, really).

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