Plato at the double but Jordan remains in control
The penultimate weekend of the 2013 BTCC season took place at Silverstone and produced some excellent close racing. As I have previously mentioned, I am not a fan of these ridiculous laps that take last than a second to complete, but for once I could get away with it because of the high-speed nature of the National Circuit.
Qualifying on Saturday produced one of the closest sessions that I can remember, but then again, there’s going to be less variance when the lap takes less than a minute to complete! Jason Plato took the honour of pole, ahead of his teammate Sam Tordoff, a fabulous third for Dave Newsham, Colin Turkington, and an impressive fifth and sixth for Frank Wrathall and Jack Goff.
The MG pair were able to get off the line cleanly in Race One, with Tordoff getting the better start and he was able to challenge Plato for the lead. However, after the pair had a small rub of body work, it allowed Turkington to nip through and take second as Plato just held onto the lead. Towards the end of the first lap, as the cars approached Brooklands, Newsham was able to challenge for second – that was until he lost it on cold tyres and went spinning backwards.
The second lap brought a decent sized crash as Will Bratt found the pit wall and it appeared that Nick Foster and Andy Neate took evasive action to avoid him, but could only find the gravel trap, which eventually resulted in the first safety car of the day. However, despite appearing to pass under yellow flags, Tordoff was able to pass Turkington to re-take second and a little further down Rob Collard was able to make a pass on Wrathall.
Lap 9 still saw a close train of cars circling the track, a couple of laps after the safety car had returned to the pits. Matt Neal, who had endured a miserable weekend at Rockingham last time out, was able to take fifth from Wrathall as he recovered from a lower than normal qualifying position of ninth. This was the start of Wrathall’s demise as he eventually finished in fourteenth. By lap 12, Turkington was under serious pressure from his teammate Collard, as well as Neal, who were clearly quicker.
The charging Neal found a way passed Collard and then Turkington in quick succession, but surprisingly he was unable to get away from them despite looking much faster. This meant that at the finish line, Neal only retained third by 0.008s. Plato and Tordoff had scampered off into the distance after the safety car and were naturally delighted in completing another MG 1-2. Collard took fifth, ahead of championship leader Andrew Jordan who had a fairly quiet race, while reigning champion Gordon Shedden only salvaged an eleventh place after qualifying fifteenth. Already crowned Jack Sears Trophy Champion for the season, Lea Wood, took yet another victory in his class.
Race Two was one of the most interesting races that we have seen this season with action from start to finish. A great start from Turkington saw him jump from fourth to second off the line, as the first lap brought more crash action. Wrathall, Rob Austin and Tom Onslow-Cole collided at Maggotts in the mid-field, with Wrathall and Austin immediately out and although TOC limped back to the pits, it was also curtains for him. Another crash on the first lap between Lea Wood and Warren Scott also meant it was the end for Scott, but not Wood as the first lap claimed many casualties. As the first lap came to an end, there was more contact, this time between Collard and Tordoff, but Tordoff just held on to his place.
At the end of the second lap, there were cars and debris spread everywhere and that meant it was time for another safety car period. Collard’s contact with Tordoff appeared to have done some serious damage as he retired shortly after coming into the pits. The safety car came in after four laps and the following lap, Jordan was able to find a way passed Neal. Lap 8 produced some of the most entertaining racing of the season as the Ford pair of Mat Jackson and Aron Smith not only battled with themselves but also Adam Morgan and Shedden. In the end, I was so excited by it all; I can’t even remember who came out on top. However, on lap 10 the quartet became a trio as Morgan had to pull off the track after appearing to lose drive.
Also on lap 10, saw a clearly slow Turkington caught and passed by Tordoff for second and then Turkington fell further down as a quick Jordan on soft tyres also made his way passed. Turkington’s tumble down the order was completed on lap 13 as Aron Smith took fourth place from him. Turkington did however, finish fifth.
A scary moment on lap 15 saw Neal squeeze Jackson incredibly close to the pit wall, something that made me think more of the potential consequences than the possible entertainment from it. As agreed with ESM chief, it was seriously uncalled for. Jackson’s Ford teammate, Smith, was continuing his charge up the field and he found his way passed Tordoff to take the final podium position.
The close racing continued in the latter stages of the race as the battle for sixth heated up. Neal, Jackson, Newsham and Shedden were all competing for the spot and although there were a few notable taps (Shedden), the racing was generally clean and excellent. Neal was able to eventually hold on for a hard-fought sixth.
Up at the front, Jordan who had been on a massive charge all race, had finally caught up to Plato and was putting him under all sorts of pressure in the final few laps. The pressure finally told as Jordan found a way by at Maggotts, but Plato wasn’t going to give up easily. As they came into the complex at Luffield, Plato gave Jordan a gentle rub and was just able to squeeze passed into the lead, where he stayed for the remainder of the race despite the best efforts of Jordan. It was a cracking end to a cracking race with the final order being Plato from Jordan, Smith, Tordoff, Turkington and Neal. Predictably, Wood completed yet another victory in the S2000 class.
The third race of the day saw Neal on pole after the reverse grid draw, followed by Turkington and Tordoff. As expected, the rear wheel drive power of Turkington’s BMW zoomed off the line and into the lead, whilst Tordoff was hot on the tail of Neal for second. As the second and third placed cars came into Luffield on the second lap, Tordoff was able to get his nose up the inside of Neal to fairly take the second place from him. However, Neal was having none of it. He returned Tordoff’s nudge with a ‘Matt Neal special,’ normally reserved for Plato. Tordoff was sent spinning and Neal lost places to Aron Smith and his teammate, Shedden. Those positions were soon to change as Shedden made a good pass on Smith.
A little further down, Jordan and Plato continued to lock horns as their battle continued from race two, with Jordan eventually claiming fifth, a couple of places ahead of Plato who had achieved the milestone of 80 race wins in the second race.
There was a brief appearance from the safety car on lap 13 for a bumper to be collected from the track at the start of the pit straight and it was the last thing Turkington needed. He hadn’t looked as fast as the cars around him all weekend and after the re-start he was soon passed by both Shedden and Aron Smith. One of the other Airwaves Racing Focuses was making good progress too, with Jackson first taking Plato for sixth, then Jordan for fifth.
Jackson soon caught Turkington, who was now in fourth after Neal had found his way by, but not without a battle. Jackson and Turkington battled for fourth with some close racing, but the Ulsterman once again found himself severely without luck as a tap from Jackson left him spinning around with lasting damage of broken suspension. What was left of Turkington’s dying embers of a title challenge were finally extinguished with ice-cold water in a moment. The final laps saw Newsham on a charge and he took sixth away from Plato for a solid finish in the points. However, Shedden was the race winner, from another good result for Aron Smith, Neal, Jackson and Jordan. Wood completed his third hat trick of wins of the season in the Jack Sears Trophy, although his competition seems to be diminishing by the race.
What can we take from the weekend? Well it’s going to take some divine intervention to stop Jordan taking his first ever BTCC driver’s title in two weeks’ time at Brands Hatch. He’s now got a massive 34 point lead in the championship and I think it will be all over after the first race next time out. However, the positions after Jordan are certainly up for grabs as 15 points separate second to fifth. If MG can continue their form from Silverstone, you would expect Plato to secure the runner’s up spot, but MG have been terribly inconsistent this season and that is why Plato doesn’t have a realistic chance of gaining another driver’s title. The Honda duo of Neal and Shedden are going to be looking to see who can finish as the best member of their team, whilst Turkington will be looking for a strong finish to the campaign on his return season in the BTCC.
What we do know is that ESM, will have a full round-up of events after Brands Hatch.
Championship Standings after Round 27 of 30
- Andrew Jordan 378 points
- Matt Neal 344
- Gordon Shedden 343
- Colin Turkington 330
- Jason Plato 329
- Sam Tordoff 250
Jack Sears Trophy
- Lea Wood 16 wins (Champion)
- Liam Griffin 6
- James Kaye 2
Here is the usual round-up of the teams:
Honda Yuasa Racing- Honda Civic
A pretty decent weekend in the end for Honda after a poor show in qualifying. Neal intends to appeal a penalty given to him for driving standards in Race Three. It looked pretty clear cut and aggressive to me, but there you go.
MG KX Momentum Racing- MG6
A much better weekend for MG, just showing that had they been like this all season they would have walked the championship.
eBay Motors/WSR- BMW 125i M Sport
Turkington’s slim title chances are over after another piece of bad luck in Race Three, but in fairness he didn’t look to have strong pace all weekend. Collard looks like he’s finally getting on top of the 1-series and Foster was fairly innocuous.
Airwaves Racing/ Motorbase- Ford Focus
A better weekend from the Fords once again, with strong finishes especially for Aron Smith. Jackson has received a penalty for his contact with Turkington in Race Three, but TOC was fairly quiet.
Pirtek Racing- Honda Civic
Jordan will be champion at Brands Hatch, that’s for sure. He did what he had to do at Silverstone and that was finish races in the points.
Speedworks Motorsport- Toyota Avensis
Again, an improved display from Speedworks and they’ll be pretty happy with 3rd in qualifying. Newsham had a good result in Race Three, but they still need to improve their race pace.
Dynojet- Toyota Avensis
Frank made it into the top 5 for qualifying, but again he had poor results.
Ciceley Racing- Toyota Avensis
Morgan was in there once again, mixing it with the best drivers. It’s been a hugely impressive season from him and next time out will be the last time we see him in an Avensis before switching to a Mercedes A-Class for 2014.
Wix Racing- Audi A4
Not a great weekend at all. It’s the consistency that’s let down Rob Austin this season. Will Bratt may also have a few repair bills to cover.
Kraftwerk Racing/ Team HARD.- VW Passat CC
Aiden Moffat took over the TOC car and was fairly quiet.
Team BMR Restart- VW Passat CC
Warren Scott had his off and that was about as exciting as it got.
RCIB Insurance Racing/ Team HARD.- Vauxhall Insignia VXR-R
Jack Goff is really improving in his Insignia, the signs are good for next season. Fuller was ok.
Team 44 Club- Chevrolet Cruze
Fair play to Neate, he qualified 11th and was unlucky to be taken out in the first race. The rest of the time was spent at the back.
BTC Racing- Chevrolet Cruze
Welch Motorsport with Sopp + Sopp- Proton Gen-2 (NGTC) and Ford Focus (S2000)
Nye was absent and Welch had an alright weekend with a 9th, 10th and 13th.
Addison Lee/ Motorbase- Ford Focus MK II (S2000)
Another poor weekend for Griffin.
Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing- Vauxhall Vectra
Another hat trick of wins for Lea Wood although he didn’t have to work hard this time out.
M247 Racing- Chevrolet Cruze
Joe Girling has left the championship.
AmD Tuning.com- Honda Civic
Absent, again. I’m not quite sure what’s happened to James Kaye. I guess he won’t be at Brands Hatch either.
EngageSportMode will be back for the full roundup of all the news from the final round of the season at Brands Hatch. We’d also like to congratulate our BTCC correspondent on the birth of his new baby – she’s already a Colin Turkington fan!