BTCC Round 8 – Rockingham Review

Jordan takes control of the championship, whilst Austin secures a maiden victory

ESM BTCC Croft 2013 (61)up5

Rob Austin’s ‘Sherman’ took his first ever BTCC win at Rockingham!

The BTCC is approaching the business end of the season and this weekend saw the teams ‘rock’ up at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire, a track recently visited by our very own ESM Editor. It proved to be a weekend of delight for Andrew Jordan, but a weekend of despair for Matt Neal.

The big news in the build-up to this event was that Tom Onslow-Cole was to miss the remaining rounds of the season to concentrate on developing his NGTC VW Passat CC for next season. However, when I read about this I knew something didn’t feel right. The car was still going to be at the remaining rounds, just without Onslow-Cole as driver, but with a young driver. Onslow-Cole himself said that it was ‘‘hard to develop the car on a weekend,’’ something I would question, and that he wanted to make sure that by stopping now it meant that he had ‘‘the best possible chance of winning in 2014.’’ Fair enough so far you’d think. But, TOC continued to say, ‘‘obviously this turn of events negates our long-term deal and puts me in a position where I need to reassess my future in the BTCC. Hopefully we can look at the situation when the dust has settled and the team’s plans for 2014 are clear.” So now, he’s gone from saying he’s happy to develop the car, although it hurts him that he won’t be racing, to he’s now assessing his future in BTCC and that Team HARD. don’t have clear plans for next season. Confused? Yes, me too. I’ll predict it has something to do with money.

Anyway, in the following days after this announcement, Airwaves Racing confirmed a deal that would see TOC running in the third Airwaves NGTC Focus for the remaining 3 rounds. I, for one, am pleased that Onslow-Cole was able to get something sorted for the end of the season.

Race One saw a drying and extremely greasy track, similar conditions to those experienced by ESM Editor on his recent Rockingham jaunt. Rob Austin revealed that TOCA had turned his boost levels down following his best-ever weekend at Knockhill, although this still didn’t stop him taking another impressive qualifying position of 3rd, behind the two MGs of  Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff. Title challenger Jordan took 4th ahead of Gordon Shedden and Jeff Smith.BTCC Rockinham 2013 002As the lights went out and the cars put down the power to get away from the line, Plato almost slid down the track, due to the grease, and he was unable to hold on to the lead as Jordan made a terrific start. Tordoff was also slow away and Shedden managed to get into 3rd behind Jordan and Plato. However, Jordan was unable to build a lead as the safety car was called for with one of the largest crashes of the season. Will Bratt, in the sister Audi to Austin, had a coming together with Adam Morgan’s Toyota Avensis which sent them a little sideways in the middle of the track. That meant that Howard Fuller was grass cutting avoiding the incident, whilst there was no such luck for Dan Welch who was met head-on by Andy Neate at the side of the track. Onslow-Cole’s debut for Airwaves Racing lasted half a lap as he was also caught up in the incident and that left him with no brakes.

At the start of lap 7, we were racing again. Indeed we were racing again, but without championship leader Neal who spun by himself as the cars were heading back on to the straight for the re-start. It left Neal down in 21st. It became clear that Plato was really struggling with the grip of his MG as Shedden was all over the back of him with Mat Jackson lurking in the background too. Within the space of a couple of laps, Plato was duly sent down the pack. Laps 12 and 13 saw Austin gain in confidence after a poor start and Jackson getting past Shedden, but Jordan was long gone. Another rear wheel drive man on a charge was Colin Turkington, who had qualified in 9th, as he attempted to force his way up the field. By the end of the race he had managed to get past teammate Collard and into 6th. The last few corners of the race saw great drama for both Austin, who managed to take Shedden and third on the line, and Lea Wood in the S2000 class as he managed to get past David Nye to take the honours after starting in the pit lane.

The main race winner was a delighted Jordan as Neal could only recover to 14th, followed by a great result for Jackson, Austin, Shedden, Plato and Turkington. It meant that Jordan was leading the championship for the first time since qualifying at the opening round.

BTCC Rockingham 2013 001

Race Two obviously saw Jordan on pole, but he got a nightmare start as Austin shot through and into the lead in a field that was still missing some casualties from the Race One crash. The first lap saw Nick Foster, Jack Goff and Ollie Jackson off, but they all recovered to continue. The early laps saw Shedden on a charge as he was able to get down the inside of Jordan for 3rd and then Jackson a lap later for 2nd. Dave Newsham was running well again and he was all over Jackson until he faded out of the race, similar to the first race.

BTCC Rockingham 2013 004

Neal was doing well to force his way through the field as he tried to regain the championship lead and he was able to find a way by Turkington and then Jordan, with Turkington also finding a way through. Turkington’s teammate Collard was showing the BMW had good performance in this race as he was able to take Newsham for 4th, but Jordan was still struggling with the full ballast in his Honda Civic as he was severely harassed by the MG duo.

Lap 10 saw a highly strange incident at the Deene Hairpin. Both Collard and Neal went straight on at the corner, although there appeared to be nothing on the track. Neal was out of the race immediately with a broken steering rack and Collard was able to limp back to the pits with a puncture, although this ultimately caused his retirement.

Austin was able to build a decent gap towards the end of the race as the rear wheel drive cars were the beneficiaries of a highly abrasive track. The penultimate lap saw Turkington find a way past Jackson for the final podium position, but Shedden was just too far away to make it 2nd. That meant that Austin crossed the line in 1st for the first time ever in BTCC. It was a hugely popular win for the Audi driver and it also meant that an Audi took the top step for the first time since Frank Biela in 1997. Austin celebrated by jumping on his roof, and now his roof looks like mine, bent. Wood, once again, took the honours in the Jack Sears Trophy.

BTCC Rockingham 2013 003

Austin had the honour of making the reverse grid draw for Race Three and the luck most definitely fell for a now ballast free Jordan as he was drawn on pole. There was no Liam Griffin for the final race of the day which meant that the first honours of the season could be decided if Wood won a third S2000 race of the day. The track was completely dry, like in the second race, as the predicted rain never arrived.

A great start from Turkington saw him jump from 6th to 2nd as Jordan held the lead, although Tordoff soon forced Turkington back down a place. The safety car made its second appearance of the day as Jeff Smith span in front of Jack Goff who smacked into Collard as he was taking avoiding action; a racing incident. The race re-started at the beginning of lap 4, but it saw Turkington defending heavily from Plato- something that continued for several laps before the BMW’s tyres finally were up to speed as Plato’s were dropping off. Turkington and Plato had both been reigning in Tordoff and Turkington found a way past with a superb late lunge into the Deene Hairpin. He sprung into the move like a fox after a chicken! Tordoff put up little resistance as teammate Plato also found a way by for 3rd as he slid down the field before finishing an eventual 6th 

In the previous two races, the rear wheel drive cars had looked extremely strong in the closing laps, but there was no catching Jordan for Turkington. In the end it was Turkington who was defending from Plato and he relinquished the 2nd place for all of 5 seconds as he ran deep into the Deene Hairpin allowing Plato past, but a superb switchback meant that he wasn’t ahead for long. Austin, however in his rear wheel drive, was still trying to make progress and although he had a heavy tap with Newsham, both were ok to continue. Neal had managed to claw his way up to 7th after starting 24th to limit the heavy damage caused to his championship chances as Jordan extended his lead with another easy victory. Jackson claimed 4th ahead of Shedden and Tordoff.

Rockingham didn’t produce the most entertaining races that we’ve seen this season, but the action certainly wasn’t bad. Neal must be wondering who he’s upset recently as he was most definitely out of luck, not that Jordan will care a jot. Neal entered the weekend leading the championship, 6 points ahead of Jordan and now he’s 34 behind him, not even in 2nd. Anything can happen in the BTCC, but 34 points with 6 races to go is some amount to claw back for Neal considering Jordan’s current form and luck. Jordan even holds a 30 point advantage over his nearest rival Shedden. I can’t remember a gap so sizeable for a long time and I honestly can’t see Jordan being caught now. I think 2013 will see a new driver’s name on the trophy.

A driver who now has a title in his hands is Lea Wood after he completed his third victory of the day. Wood has an unassailable lead in the Jack Sears Trophy, a huge well done to him. I didn’t think it would have been this easy for him, but he’s kept himself out of trouble more often than not and his title is well deserved.

Championship Standings after Round 24:

  1. Andrew Jordan                338 points
  2. Gordon Shedden             308
  3. Colin Turkington               305
  4. Matt Neal                          304
  5. Jason Plato                       276
  6. Sam Tordoff                      218

Jack Sears Trophy

  1. Lea Wood                         13 wins (Champion)
  2. Liam Griffin                        6
  3. James Kaye                      2

Here are my usual thoughts on the teams:

Honda Yuasa Racing- Honda Civic

A disastrous weekend for Matt Neal sees his championship hopes in tatters and I don’t think Shedden has much chance either despite a strong weekend. The team have been docked 10 points for too many engine changes this season.

MG KX Momentum Racing- MG6

The MGs were stronger here than at Knockhill and are super quick in fully dry and reasonably warm conditions, but they struggle in anything else. A fairly decent weekend for Plato and not too bad for Tordoff.

eBay Motors/WSR- BMW 125i M Sport

Turkington continued to lead the way for eBay Motors, with Collard also looking strong but without any luck.

Airwaves Racing/ Motorbase- Ford Focus

Airwaves Racing went with 3 NGTC Focuses this weekend and it was probably Jackson’s best weekend of the season with a series of strong finishes. TOC recovered from a terrible first race to finish well in the other two. Aron Smith wasn’t really seen.

Pirtek Racing- Honda Civic

Jeff Smith was driving around, but for Pirtek it’s all about Jordan. A season defining weekend for him.

Speedworks Motorsport- Toyota Avensis

Dave Newsham showed that the Avensis has pace, but it seems to always tail off towards the end of the race.

Dynojet- Toyota Avensis

Frank made it into the top 5 for practice, but his results show a 10th, 13th and DNF.

Ciceley Racing- Toyota Avensis

A poor weekend by Morgan’s high standards. He was unlucky to be caught up in some of the midfield shenanigans.

Wix Racing- Audi A4

Get in there Rob! Race winner in the BTCC and here’s to many more. Great guy, top job, well done.

Kraftwerk Racing/ Team HARD.- VW Passat CC

Andy Wilmot is not TOC and therefore the Passat was at the back.

Team BMR Restart- VW Passat CC

Fairly anonymous to be honest.

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

Jack Goff had a great 9th place in Race One and ran well for most of the weekend. Howard Fuller wasn’t really spotted other than avoiding the big crash in the first race.

Team 44 Club- Chevrolet Cruze

Andy Neate’s car was too badly damaged on lap 1 of the first race and that was his weekend done. I actually am starting to feel a bit sorry for him now and I never thought I’d say that.

BTC Racing- Chevrolet Cruze

Absent.

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

David Nye was so unfortunate not to win his second Jack Sears Trophy race in the first race but that’s motorsport. Welch had a bit of a nightmare thanks to the first race crash.

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

He’ll probably be pretty disappointed the Jack Sears Trophy is over for the season, he’ll hope for more victories before the end of the season.

Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing- Vauxhall Vectra

A fantastic hat trick of wins means Lea Wood is the Jack Sears Trophy Champion.

M247 Racing- Chevrolet Cruze

Joe Girling has left the championship.

AmD Tuning.com- Honda Civic

Absent, again.

Join us again at ESM for the next rounds coming from Silverstone on 29th September as the title race gets hotter.

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