EngageSportMode.com’s dedicated BTCC Correspondent made the trek to Scotland for the latest round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Turkington flies North of the Border
The BTCC made the annual trip north of the border to Knockhill for the latest rounds. It was a meeting dominated by rear wheel drive cars and Colin Turkington continued his late charge towards the Drivers’ Title as he was in inspired form once again.
Rob Austin achieved his first ever pole position in his Audi A4, followed by Turkington, local hero Gordon Shedden, Jason Plato, Matt Neal and Adam Morgan. Amazingly, it was the first Audi on pole since Frank Biela in 1997. There were BTCC debuts for Mike Bushell, Kieran Gallagher and Aiden Moffat, who became the youngest ever BTCC driver at 16 years, 10 months and 28 days. There was also a popular return for Paul O’Neill driving a Team HARD. prepared Vauxhall Insignia alongside Gallagher who replaced Jack Goff. Other notable absentees were James Kaye, Andy Neate, Jeff Smith and Joe Girling who now appears to be finished with the championship for the year.
Race One saw great starts from the front two of Austin and Turkington as they made the most of their rear wheel drive power. Andrew Jordan, who was starting in 9th following his penalty for several misdemeanours this season, made a clean move up the inside of Frank Wrathall on lap 1 as he tried to make his way up the field. Lap 2 saw a significant overtake as Turkington was able to take the lead by having the inside line at the Hairpin, with Austin in the middle of a sandwich with Shedden on the other side.
Lap 3 brought old enemies Plato and Neal together with the latter giving Plato a hefty nudge, but he just held on to his sideways moment although they both lost time on the top 3. Almost a rare a sight as a clean Jordan move, is one by Shedden, but that’s exactly what we got on lap 4 as he made an excellent late lunge on Austin at the Hairpin to take 2nd place.
The clean overtaking continued on lap 7 as Morgan was able to jump Neal before the race’s major incident on the following lap. O’Neill had been making steady progress on his BTCC return and had been embroiled in a decent scrap with Nick Foster’s BMW before it all ended in disaster. Foster was able to get up the inside of O’Neill at the Hairpin before Foster lent on O’Neill rather heavily, resulting in the Liverpudlian having a substantial front-on trip to the barriers. The incident was made slightly more dramatic by a small exhaust fire which the marshals quickly dealt with. As O’Neill’s car and debris were spread across the track, the safety car was naturally deployed for a few laps. A rather humorous moment came when they pulled O’Neill’s car down a hill with the recovery Land Rover, forgetting that going downhill would result in the car smashing into the back of the Land Rover.
Turkington was able to make an excellent restart at the end of lap 13, having previously held a 3.2 second lead. The race continued with decent entertainment, with Plato being tapped by Morgan at the Hairpin, Dan Welch making a good move on the struggling MG of Sam Tordoff for 9th place and Rob Collard and Jordan participating in a great clean battle with Collard eventually coming out on top after showing excellent patience.
The closing laps of the race saw Austin make ground on Shedden and it was clear Austin had the faster car at this point, but his efforts were to no avail as Shedden held on to 2nd place ahead of an equal seasons best for Austin in 3rd. Turkington was away in the distance to claim victory. There was a great 4th place for Morgan ahead of Plato and Collard. However, the stewards later swapped the positions of Morgan and Plato as a result of their earlier coming together. The first winner from some excellent racing in the Jack Sears Trophy was Liam Griffin, who just about held off Lea Wood for the entire race!
Race Two was a fairly quiet affair for BTCC standards. Turkington got away from the line well and immediately opened up a good lead on the first lap over Austin, who also made a good start. There was no such luck for Aron Smith as electrical gremlins left his car on the grid. Lap 3 saw youngster Moffat go off at the exit of the chicane, after a good first race, with what looked like suspension damage. The stewards took a surprising decision to leave his car there for the rest of the race when a safety car seemed likely.
By lap 5 the cars running in 2nd all the way down to 10th were still very close together, mainly due to Austin’s slightly slower Audi, but as well all know catching is one thing, passing another.
Lap 8 saw Morgan enter the pits as he appeared to lose all drive at the Hairpin. This was only Morgan’s second DNF of the season. Lap 12 saw the ever improving BMW of Collard take 4th from Plato and he fell further down the order on the next lap as Neal and Jordan both made their way by at the Hairpin. Race Two also saw another brilliant battle in the Jack Sears Trophy, with Griffin again taking the honours.
Turkington again took the honours in the main race, also clocking the fastest lap with full ballast, from a new season’s best for Austin in second, Shedden, a season’s best for Collard, Neal and Jordan.
The third race of the day saw Jordan drawn on pole by Turkington for the reverse grid race. Turkington couldn’t have hoped for a better draw as he tried to equal Dan Eaves and Plato in the record books for winning three races in a day. O’Neill’s mechanics were unable to get his battered Insignia ready for the second race, but he was able to line up at the back for the last race of the day. Tordoff, however, suffered similar problems to Smith on the grid and he needed to be pushed away by the marshals.
Jordan was able to have a clean getaway as the lights went out and Turkington made a good start to take Shedden into the first corner. The second lap saw Wrathall’s nightmare season continue as he ended up in the gravel at Turn 2 and again I was surprised by the lack of safety car.
Turkington continued his quest for his third victory of the day as he overtook Austin for 4th on lap 3 and Warren Scott was barged off by Smith, but he was able to recover. Scott’s recovery, however, only lasted for a couple of laps as he had to pull off with damage towards the Hairpin. Three laps later the stewards decided that his car was in a dangerous position, the least dangerous position of any of the cars that had gone off on the day, but out came the safety car no doubt to the flying Jordan’s annoyance.
Before the safety car had a chance to make an appearance, Shedden had made a fabulous move on Austin at The Scotsman to take 5th. On the restart Jordan made a quick getaway, leaving some of the field napping but not his closest pursuer Collard. Lap 12 saw Smith into the barriers after he tagged Bushell and then the turned around car of Bushell in turn smacked back into Smith, whilst his teammate Mat Jackson was swapping bodywork with Foster at the same time. Lap 15 saw the end of O’Neill’s day as he appeared to lose drive after the chicane and a couple of laps later saw the end of Shedden’s day in slightly more spectacular fashion. As Shedden was heading up the pit straight his engine appeared to let go which started a fire and Shedden needed to get out fairly rapidly.
Shedden’s teammate was having more success as Neal was enjoying a good squabble with Collard for 2nd, before eventually getting the better of him at the Hairpin on lap 19. Griffin’s hopes of completing a Jack Sears Trophy treble were ended when we was assisted off the track by Gallagher, with Griffin just stopping inches from Tordoff’s car that had been pushed to a ‘safe’ area by the marshals prior to the race.
Turkington in 4th, appeared to have the pace on teammate Collard in 3rd, but there were no team orders in the final few laps and they finished in those positions. Jordan won by a sizeable margin from Neal, with Austin and Plato coming home after the BMW pair. Wood took the honours in the S2000 class. However, post-race Turkington’s car was found to have exceeded boost levels and he was excluded from the race result. This meant there was a season best finish of 6th place for Dan Welch.
Following the weekend’s races there was a reprimand for Foster after his incident with O’Neill and a reprimand for Gallagher after his collision with Griffin. Aron Smith will start the next race with a six place grid penalty following a £500 fine and five penalty points on his licence following two separate incidents in the final race of the day. Smith was certainly pushing it to the limit all day and a penalty was probably just about right.
The three races of the day may not have produced the best action of the season, but it certainly wasn’t bad. The fans seemed to have a great day as they packed into the Scottish circuit, with it often being 3 or 4 deep around the track. It was my first visit to Knockhill and I was very impressed by the place, but I was really surprised by the lack of pit garages for the teams-maybe a little bit of ticket revenue could be invested in the future.
With nine rounds of the championship left, it is still wide open at the top. Neal continues to be top of the tree, but Jordan continues to push him hard as he took a couple more points out of his advantage. Turkington had an excellent day with two wins and would have been third in the standings had it not been for the boost level issue, so he remains in fourth albeit now three points behind Shedden. The MG pair of Plato and Tordoff complete the top six after what appeared to be a difficult weekend for them. The MGs just seemed a little bit off the pace this weekend, although Plato did score some solid points. Finally, I’d like to give some more credit to S2000 drivers as they put on another great show towards the back of the grid.
Championship standings after Round 21 out of 30:
- Matt Neal 293 points
- Andrew Jordan 287
- Gordon Shedden 266
- Colin Turkington 263
- Jason Plato 239
- Sam Tordoff 197
Jack Sears Trophy Standings
- Lea Wood 10 wins
- Liam Griffin 6 wins
- James Kaye 2 wins
Summary of the teams:
Honda Yuasa Racing- Honda Civic
Another decent weekend for Honda. Neal and Shedden just keep picking up points.
MG KX Momentum Racing- MG6
Not MGs best weekend with both cars struggling all weekend.
eBay Motors/WSR- BMW 125i M Sport
Another good weekend for eBay Motors and especially Turkington. Has he left his championship charge too late? Maybe not. Collard will be pleased with his results for the first time this year.
Airwaves Racing/ Motorbase- Ford Focus
Not on the pace again, looks like Snetterton’s improvement was a one off.
Pirtek Racing- Honda Civic
No Jeff Smith at Knockhill so Pirtek just had Andrew Jordan’s car. He had probably his cleanest weekend of the season and picked up valuable points in his title charge.
Speedworks Motorsport- Toyota Avensis
Still fairly disappointing this season. Both cars seemed to suffer issues at some point.
Dynojet- Toyota Avensis
I’m running out of ways to say ‘not having a good season.’
Ciceley Racing- Toyota Avensis
Adam Morgan had another strong weekend, shame about his retirement in Race Two.
Wix Racing- Audi A4
Probably Rob Austin’s best ever BTCC weekend with a 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Sherman is a popular car and it remains to be seen whether this improvement can be maintained. Bratt, however, was anonymous.
Kraftwerk Racing/ Team HARD.- VW Passat CC
A quiet weekend for TOC.
Team BMR Restart- VW Passat CC
Warren Scott seems to be getting better race by race as he gets to know the new car.
RCIB Insurance Racing/ Team HARD.- Vauxhall Insignia VXR-R
Paul O’Neill had a bit of a nightmare return following a crash into his teammate in qualifying, his big crash in Race One so he missed the next one and then retiring in the final race of the day. Kieran Gallagher, dubbed the ‘Knockhill Specialist’ didn’t really look it to me. The car looks smashing though!
Team 44 Club- Chevrolet Cruze
No Andy Neate, but Mike Bushell did a grand job in my opinion. He looked on the money for the car.
BTC Racing- Chevrolet Cruze
Aiden Moffat didn’t disgrace himself on his first outing in the BTCC at 16 years old. Well done.
Welch Motorsport with Sopp + Sopp- Proton Gen-2 (NGTC) and Ford Focus (S2000)
Dan Welch had his best weekend of the season as the Proton looked half decent again. David Nye was fairly quiet in the S2000 class.
Addison Lee/ Motorbase- Ford Focus MK III (NGTC) and Ford Focus MK II (S2000)
Liam Griffin has made the Jack Sears Trophy interesting again with his two victories, but Wood remains the firm favourite to win the title.
Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing- Vauxhall Vectra
Lea Wood found it hard to get in front of Griffin this weekend, but finished the weekend off with a win.
M247 Racing- Chevrolet Cruze
Joe Girling has left the championship.
AmD Tuning.com- Honda Civic
The BTCC calendar moves on to Rockingham, the UK’s fastest and slipperiest circuit, on the 15th September. As ever, expect coverage from EngageSportMode.com