BTCC 2014 – Brands Hatch Indy – Rounds 1, 2 and 3

The British Touring Car Championship got itself back on track at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. Just what did our BTCC Correspondent make of the opening three rounds? Read our in-depth coverage below:

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2013 BTCC champion Andrew Jordan was in a defiant mood as he started the defence of his title at the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit with 2 victories. However, the usual protagonists were not too far behind him and the standings were very close at the end of the first BTCC meeting of the year.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of the Indy Circuit, it’s just too short and I find it ridiculous that we’ve got a serious championship with cars doing sub 49 second lap times. Having said that, I was able to bare it more this year than on previous occasions and that was because there was a better quality of racing. This was also the first event where a few new rules or tweaks to the rules have been introduced, most notably the track limits of the circuits have been considerably tightened to encourage the drivers to stay on the track, rather than gaining advantages from run-off areas.

One man, who seemed to have no problem staying on track in qualifying was Jordan who took pole from Jason Plato by 0.012s. Colin Turkington lined up third ahead of the Yuasa Honda Racing duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, while there was an impressive 6th for Tom Ingram in his first BTCC qualifying. The ridiculousness of the Indy Circuit was shown by the fact only eight tenths of a second separated the top 23 drivers.

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Race One saw a clever start by Jordan and Plato as they worked together to box in the fast starting Turkington, as all the top drivers held position. Further down the pack, returning double champion, Alain Menu, had a nightmare start as he lost the back of his car at Paddock Hill Bend sending him sprawling across the track where he was lucky not to be collected by someone. Menu was ok to continue after a quick excursion onto the grass. At the end of the lap, Turkington received his usual treatment as he was bulldozed past by Neal at Clearways. A couple of laps later at the same corner, Mat Jackson got the same treatment from former teammate Aron Smith, as he started his supposed title charge.

By lap 4, Rob Austin had made his way up to 6th and ahead of him were five previous champions of the BTCC. Another previous champion who was returning at Brands, Fabrizio Giovanardi, wasn’t having the best of races and became the first person to fall foul of the tightened track limits rule as he received a driving standards flag on lap 10.

Lap 12 saw Turkington close in on Neal, but after a couple of laps of close racing it was Shedden who overtook Turkington with a small tap. It was the start of the end for Turkington as a broken roll bar meant he fell back down the pack, eventually finishing 8th. James Cole and another returning driver, Martin Depper, had a collision at Druids which left the former with broken rear suspension. It wasn’t the first time Depper would be involved in crash action during the afternoon and after this collision he was excluded from the race results.

Towards the end of the race, one of last season’s biggest disappointments for me, Rob Collard, went past Smith for 7th in what was a strong performance from him. Plato closed up on Jordan as he struggled to make his way through traffic, but the Pirtek driver held on to win by half a second. Neal and Shedden followed home in 3rd and 4th with Austin taking 5th ahead of Collard who gained another place after overtaking Smith, who was later in trouble for some of his actions in the first race. Round one was the perfect start for Jordan.

Jordan’s perfect start continued in Race Two as he secured another lights to flag victory. He was made to work hard for his victory by Shedden in particular, but nothing was going to stop Jordan tasting the winner’s champagne again. Austin’s race was effectively over before the green flag lap began due to a broken prop shaft, although he did later re-join the race. Another man’s race that was wrecked by an issue was 2nd placed Plato. As the lights went out, an electrical issue meant he was left behind as the field whizzed past him. Jordan went off into the lead, but Collard was tapped by Neal at Paddock Hill Bend and while they both sorted their sideways moments out, Shedden nipped past and Nick Foster, in the third BMW, split Neal and Collard to take 4th place. However, Jordan was unable to build much of a lead as the safety car was called for after Chris Stockton beached his Chevrolet Cruze in the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend.

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The safety car period allowed the now moving Plato to catch up with the back of the field and we were racing again at the start of lap 5. There was little movement in the top order until lap 9 when Turkington started his charge towards the podium. First, he took Collard with a great move at Paddock Hill Bend before repeating the trick two laps later on his other teammate, Foster. His podium position was secured on lap 14 as he managed to squeeze down the inside of Neal at Paddock and completed the move at Druids. Turkington eventually closed on the leaders, but it was a step too far in the end despite a late safety car due to a visit to the barriers for Depper. The final result saw Jordan win from Shedden, Turkington, Neal, Foster and Collard.

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This season, the person who finishes 10th in the second race will perform the reverse grid draw. The first honours of the season went to Giovanardi who chose ball 6, therefore keeping the disruption to a minimum, but making Collard a happy man in the process.

At the start of Race Three, Turkington jumped Neal to create a BMW 1, 2, 3 and Giovanardi just escaped the barriers after going off at Paddock Hill Bend. The first lap saw a repeat of the crash between Depper and Marc Hynes at exactly the same corner. Depper’s race was over, although Hynes continued. Lap 2 saw Turkington overtake Foster for 2nd and after 4 laps of clearly being faster than Collard, he took the lead as the BMWs still raced in formation. However, the formation driving was soon to be broken as Foster, who appeared to go and then stop on the grid, was penalised for his offence with a drive through penalty.

Lap 11 saw a good battle between Dave Newsham, Jack Goff, Smith and Austin, but their fun was halted on the following lap as the safety car came out due to Ingram having a heavy hit into the barriers after contact with Menu. The safety car returned to the pits after three laps and Turkington made a good re-start, but was closely followed by Collard.

Plato was making good progress through the field and by lap 17 he was 6th after passing his teammate, Sam Tordoff, which soon became 5th on the following lap after overtaking Adam Morgan in the new Mercedes Benz A-Class. Plato wasn’t finished there, as he took 4th from Shedden and later 3rd ahead of Collard, although his old nemesis Neal proved a tougher nut to crack.

 

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Menu was enjoying a more exciting race, mixing it with Goff, Morgan and Jackson. On the final lap, the Swiss was able to overtake Shedden at Paddock Hill Bend to secure a solid 5th place on his return to the BTCC. However, the final race of the day belonged to Turkington who took his first win of the season from Neal, Plato, Collard, Menu and Shedden.

What did we learn from the first round of the season? In all honesty, not a great deal that we didn’t already know. The top 5 in the championship standings are last season’s final top 5 and they look like the men to beat again. It will be interesting to see if Jordan’s reliability will hold out for an entire season again and whether Plato will once again suffer with car gremlins. If that’s the case, Plato won’t have a chance of the championship and Jordan’s challenge will probably come from the Hondas. Or will it come from Turkington? This time last year, the BMW 1-series was a brand new car and WSR had a lot to learn, which they’ve done admirably. If Turkington’s performance in race three is anything to go by, maybe, just maybe it could be his year.

Championship Standings after Round 3 of 30

  1. Andrew Jordan – 47 points
  2. Matt Neal – 45
  3. Colin Turkington – 44
  4. Gordon Shedden – 40
  5. Jason Plato – 38
  6. Rob Collard – 34

 

Jack Sears Trophy – Given to the driver who gains the most places over the season.

  1. Rob Austin – 23 places gained
  2. Alain Menu – 22
  3. James Cole – 15

 

Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic
Great weekend for Jordan who carried on where he left off. Not so great for Depper.

Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer
A great start by the Honda Yuasa Racing duo in their new Tourer. They didn’t match their previous efforts in new cars by winning on debut, but they’ll still be pleased with their efforts.

MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Plato will be feeling frustrated that once again his car has let him down. He’ll be hoping this will be the only time it happens this season, but two podiums is still a decent return. Tordoff was fairly quiet, I’m sure he’ll have stronger weekends this season.

Quantel Bifold Racing / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Marc Hynes will be hoping for better. Retired, disqualified, 18th isn’t the best start to his BTCC career.

eBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport
The team have done a great job in getting all three BMWs now up and running quickly. Turkington still looked to be the best out of the three, but the signs are promising.

Airwaves Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
A fairly unspectacular return for Giovanardi and he’ll have better weekends. Jackson grew stronger as the weekend went on.

Crabbie’s Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Jack Clarke finished all 3 races, but just outside of the points on each occasion.

CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Volkswagen CC
Their drivers sit 14th and 15th in the standings so Aron Smith’s going to have to work hard if he wishes to challenge for the title as he stated in pre-season. Always great to see Menu racing in the BTCC and his 5th place showed he still has what it takes.

CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
Warren Scott has a point to his name after the weekend and at least that’s something.

RCIB Insurance Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
Jack Goff finished in the lower points in all 3 races. I’m sure he’ll be popping up in the top 6 every now and then.

Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
Finished all 3 races, 0 points.

STP Racing with Sopp & Sopp – Proton Persona
Dan Welch failed to make the qualifying session and Ollie Jackson hardly had the best weekend.

Laser Tools Racing / RML – Chevrolet Curze
A drive through penalty was the main incident of note to happen to Moffat.

AmD Tuning.com – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Newsham finished 9th in the final race. Probably has more points than ‘that Golf’ already.

United Autosports – Toyota Avensis
I’m sure they’ll improve as the season goes on.

Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze
A bad weekend for Stockton. 26th, gravel trap, didn’t start.

WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Morgan may have changed car, but still had a strong weekend and is currently 7th in the championship standings.

Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis
Bit of a disaster for Lea Wood with 2 retirements.

AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Hunter managed a point in the last race.

Exocet Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
After a great finish in race one, Rob’s weekend was ruined by the broken prop shaft on race two’s grid. He did well in the last race to finish 11th.

Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon
A learning curve from Robb Holland, but I’m sure he’ll get stronger as the season continues.

Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
Two top 10s and a retirement isn’t a bad start to Ingram’s BTCC career. It’ll be interesting to see if he can build on this at Donington next time out.

Next BTCC action: Donington Park, 19-20th April.

 

Photo credits: Newspress.com and Honda Yuasa Racing 

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