The second race weekend of the 2014 BTCC calendar produced more dramatic and controversial racing. What did our BTCC Correspondent make of it? Read on for his in-depth analysis.
A Weekend to Savour for Plato
It was a great weekend for title contender Jason Plato in the latest rounds of the British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park. Plato secured a huge haul of points thanks to a victory, a second and a sixth place which meant he finished the weekend as joint leader of the championship with reigning champion Andrew Jordan.
Saturday qualifying saw Plato take pole from Gordon Shedden, teammate Sam Tordoff, Colin Turkington, Aron Smith and Alain Menu in what was an impressive performance for the two VW drivers. This time last year, I remember complaining about the lack of action at both Brands Hatch and at Donington Park, but the same cannot be said this year. This weekend’s racing was certainly helped by changeable weather conditions.
Race One brought a damp track, leading to some tough decisions between the teams on whether to go with wets or slicks. The main men went wets and the rest followed. The start saw Plato get away cleanly with Turkington coming through from 4th to take 2nd in the, as ever, fast starting BMW. However, Tordoff soon took the position from Turkington with a great move down the Craner Curves and Turkington was soon back to his starting position as Shedden took 3rd from him not long after. Tordoff was working hard to put Plato under pressure and on the second lap he was only 0.2s behind him. Other second lap action saw Rob Collard make great strides from his starting position of 13th as he made his way up to 8th and Dave Newsham went sideways down the Craners after contact with Adam Morgan’s A-Class.
Jordan, who’d qualified 7th, was making slow progress and on lap 3 he took Smith with a good move at the end of the pit straight for 5th. Soon to be behind Jordan was Collard, who was continuing his impressive rise up the field. Lap 4 saw Rob Austin come in for slicks as the track started to dry, although coupled with other complications, he came back out 2 laps down and the gamble didn’t pay off. As the tyres on Turkington’s BMW were finally up to speed, he was able to take Shedden for the final podium position place with a late lunge at the end of the pit straight on lap 6. A couple of laps later, saw Jordan now 3rd and Collard 4th as they both found their way past Turkington on lap 8, but the lead MG pair were well in the distance.
Further down the pack, there was some great close racing with a long gaggle of cars swapping positions at will. Naturally, as the race neared its conclusion the cars were desperate to find the wet patches to cool their wet tyres as the track had dried out fairly quickly. However, this didn’t bother Plato as he came home in first position to take his first win at Donington Park for six years. MG teammate Tordoff followed Plato home in 2nd, with Jordan completing the podium. Collard remained in 4th ahead of Turkington and Shedden. Fabrizio Giovanardi secured his best finish since his return to the BTCC with a well-earned 7th in the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus.
After a heavy downpour, there was little doubt about which tyres the drivers would be starting Race Two on. This time, Plato’s start was a little slow and it allowed Tordoff to take the lead as they went down the Craner Curves. Collard and Turkington both made up a place each off the start line as the starting phase left Lea Wood in the gravel, although he recovered, and James Cole smashing through a marker board on the pit straight after being tagged. However, the most alarming incident on the first lap involved Menu, as he had an enormous tank-slapper across the track and onto the grass before firing back across the track, miraculously not collecting anyone on his way. However, his stranded car required a safety car period and the race re-started at the end of lap 4.
It was a good re-start from Tordoff and Jordan was up on Turkington for 4th, although that would soon turn to 3rd, as Collard lost control of his car on the Craner Curves and beached it in the gravel trap. Lap 6 saw the biggest crash of the day as Robb Holland and Cole came together and both cars hurtled towards the concrete safety wall, with Cole’s especially looking completely wrecked on one side. It’s the worst state I’ve ever seen the side of an Avensis in and it was clear he wouldn’t make the third race of the day and I’d suggest he’ll be struggling for Thruxton too. The two drivers weren’t exactly happy with each other either following the collision, exchanging blame between themselves. Before, all this had happened Chris Stockton and Austin had been for a spot of grass cutting. Following all this action, it was time for another safety car period to clear up the gravel traps of cars.
The safety car was about to come in at the end of lap 10, only for Ollie Jackson’s car to break down on the last corner across the track, so it went around for another circuit. When it did eventually come in, Matt Neal, who’d finished 8th earlier, overshot the last corner and lost a couple of places as a result. Once again, Tordoff controlled the getaway admirably, but soon there was another chance of a safety car as Hunter Abbott beached his Audi A4 in the gravel at Redgate. Luckily, this time it was avoided with the incident being dealt with under waved yellows.
Shedden pulled a good move on Jordan for 3rd on lap 12, only for him to take it straight back, although he did secure a move the following lap. Turkington ran a little bit too deep at the final corner allowing the other Honda Civic Tourer of Neal to take 6th. Once again, Giovanardi was going fairly well in 10th, although he ended up 12th. Like in Race One, there were some great battles further down the grid, notably between Wood and Dan Welch and Nick Foster and Morgan. However, it was Tordoff who took the chequered flag for his second ever BTCC win from Plato, Shedden, Jordan, Neal and Turkington. The Airwaves Focus finishing 7th this time belonged to Mat Jackson.
Tom Ingram picked out ball six for the reverse grid pole draw, which meant Turkington started 1st with every car starting the final race on the soft tyre as it was a dry race. Race Three saw Turkington get away cleanly as Jordan went sideways following a small tap from Plato at the first corner. The first lap continued to provide incidents as Marc Hynes hit the tyre wall after spinning across the track, Aiden Moffat went grass cutting, but recovered, and Giovanardi missed the safety car boards, which were out to recover Hynes’ car, before braking too late which sent him into Smith and subsequently Ingram. The safety came in at the end of lap 3.
Turkington made a great re-start as he led from Neal and Plato, although Plato soon took 2nd. Another man making a gravel appearance was Jack Goff, who may have been helped off by Austin who is now facing an investigation at Thruxton next time out. Lap 7 saw Jackson take the battle to the Yuasa Honda duo of Neal and Shedden, but he ultimately lost out to them both after trying an unbelievable move on Neal on the outside line of the Craner Curves.
Towards the end of the race, the action continued to intensify as Ingram smashed into the back of Austin’s Sherman causing him to retire, Plato’s tyres gave up causing him to drop down the order and Menu continued his charge through the field after starting 29th to an eventual finishing place of 9th.
Turkington had looked comfortable at the front of the pack, but then Shedden found something extra in the last couple of laps as he eradicated Turkington’s lead. The final lap saw Shedden all over Turkington, but he defended honourably until the final corner. The pair clashed and they both crossed the gravel to enter the final straight. Questions were rightly asked by Turkington and his team post-race about whether it’s acceptable to overtake in the gravel and it would appear it is as the race result stood. So, Shedden took the first ever victory for the Honda Civic Tourer, also the first time an estate car has won in the BTCC, from Turkington, Neal, Jackson, Jordan and Plato.
The controversial ending to the day was quite fitting for what had been an excellent day of racing. The day unquestionably belonged to Plato who will be delighted with his haul of points, but others will also be pleased with their day’s work. Shedden will be pleased to have taken his first victory of the season, in the new car, as his consistent start to the season continued. Jordan will be pleased as he continued to take points in the defence of his crown and Tordoff will also be delighted with his second BTCC win.
This season’s first six rounds have been incredible compared to last year and it leads us into an intriguing and exciting battle for the remainder of the year. Next up is Thruxton, the country’s fastest circuit, and ESM will be there watching the action live with pictures and a report to follow soon after.
Championship Standings after Round 6 of 30
|1. Andrew Jordan||87 points|
|2. Jason Plato||87|
|3. Gordon Shedden||86|
|4. Colin Turkington||84|
|5. Matt Neal||79|
|6. Rob Collard||56|
Jack Sears Trophy – Given to the driver who gains the most places over the season.
|1. Alain Menu||42 places gained|
|2. Rob Collard||34|
|3. Rob Austin||34|
Here’s the full run down of all teams and drivers:
Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic
A steady weekend for Jordan and Depper finished all three races.
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer
The usual strong weekend for the Honda duo.
MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
A great weekend for the team with a double 1-2.
Quantel Bifold Racing / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Marc Hynes secured his first ever BTCC points in Race One with an 11th place finish.
eBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport
Another promising weekend for the team as it looks like all three cars are going to challenge this season. Collard’s form certainly seems to have improved from last season.
Airwaves Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
A good weekend for the team with especially strong finishes for Jackson.
Crabbie’s Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Jack Clarke again finished all 3 races, but this time he secured his first ever BTCC point in the final race with a 15th place finish.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Volkswagen CC
Both Smith and Menu were around the 10th place position all weekend which shows progress from last season, but they’re still a little way off a title challenge.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
Not the best of weekends for Warren Scott with two retirements.
RCIB Insurance Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
A couple of points for Jack Goff this time out.
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
Finished all 3 races, 0 points.
STP Racing with Sopp & Sopp – Proton Persona
Dan Welch was back and finished all 3 races, but with no points. Ollie Jackson’s contribution was conking out at the last corner in Race Two.
Laser Tools Racing / RML – Chevrolet Cruze
Three more finishes for Moffat, but no points as yet this season.
AmD Tuning.com – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Dave Newsham picked up a few more points as he finished all the races.
United Autosports – Toyota Avensis
The team have a massive re-building job on their hands with Cole’s car, although Glynn Geddie picked up a couple of points for finishing 13th.
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze
Chris Stockton was on the grass a few times, that was about it.
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Not the usually strong weekend for Morgan, although he did pick up some points.
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis
Lea Wood had a little bit more luck this time out with 3 finishes.
AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Two retirements and a 24th place for Hunter Abbott.
Exocet Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Austin had a bit of a nightmare weekend with a 29th, 18th and a retirement. One to forget.
Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon
A re-building job on for the team after Holland’s crash in Race Two.
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
A couple of 10th place finishes for Ingram show he’s mixing it with the big guys. However, he was disqualified from the final race following his crash into the back of Austin.
Next up is Thruxton on May 4th. Keep your eyes peeled for the EngageSportMode team who will be in attendance at the fastest circuit on the calendar!