Le Mans might be the big event on everyone’s mind this weekend, but cast your mind back a few days to the British Touring Car Championship’s outing at Oulton Park. Our correspondent brings you his detailed review.
Turkington Takes Charge of the Championship
Colin Turkington enjoyed a fantastic weekend in the latest rounds of the British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park in Cheshire. The Ulsterman finished the weekend leading the championship for the first time since his title triumph in 2009.
All the drivers and important people from the teams had to pass the mandatory breath test before any action could take place on both Saturday and Sunday. Qualifying on Saturday took place in mixed conditions and on a drying International Circuit, being used in the BTCC for the first time since 1996, Turkington stormed to pole ahead of Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden, Rob Collard, Sam Tordoff and Rob Austin. Championship leader Andrew Jordan qualified in 13th with Matt Neal a place behind him.
The weather had cleared up for Sunday and the first race took place in dry conditions. As the lights went out for the start of Race One, Turkington sped away from the line, making the most of his rear wheel drive power. Turkington’s teammate, Collard, made a similarly good start, charging up to 2nd. Austin, in his rear wheel drive Audi A4, also made a good start by jumping Tordoff for 5th, although Tordoff tried his best to regain the place, but to little avail. First lap action was fairly quiet, but Warren Scott and Hunter Abbott managed to collide at Hislop’s.
In all honesty, the first race was extremely poor if you wanted to see action and overtaking. By lap 4, the running order was pretty much the same as after the start. Lap 5 saw Neal still struggling in 14th and Jordan in 15th, both stuck behind Alain Menu. However, one person finding overtaking slightly easier than others was Adam Morgan, who within 3 laps, managed to complete identical overtakes on Jack Clarke and James Cole at Lodge for 19th and 18th positions. The lack of action from the race is summed up here by the fact I need to mention overtakes for 19th and 18th position. Neal did eventually get Menu for 13th, but Jordan remained at 15th until the end of the race.
Nothing should be taken away from Turkington however, as he drove a superb race to lead home a BMW 1-2 finish. Plato joined Collard and Turkington on the podium with Shedden, Austin and Tordoff completing the top 6.
Race Two saw all the rear wheel drive cars do well at the start again, with Turkington leading from Collard and Austin, who jumped to 3rd from 5th. Plato, in 4th, was all over Austin as the cars finished the end of the first lap, but he couldn’t find a way past. As Plato continued to attack Austin, it allowed the lead BMW pair to build a lead, but by lap 5 Turkington was 2.4 seconds ahead of Collard. Lap 5 also saw Menu, aggrieved by a manoeuvre in the first race, barge into Fabrizio Giovanardi at Hislop’s as he tried a move up the inside, which failed as they both ended up losing places.
Lap 7 saw Austin and Plato still battling, with Shedden close behind. Jordan was still enduring a nightmare day, running in 14th. However, lap 8 brought out the safety car as Jack Goff went down the inside of Dave Newsham at Lodge and the pair were side by side for some distance until after Old Hall Corner where contact was made twice and Newsham was sent crashing into the barriers. Austin opportunistically overtook Collard before the safety car boards were out as Collard slowed down, or at least he thought he did. The following lap, Collard regained his 2nd following orders from his team to do so. The safety car came in at the end of lap 10.
Lap 12 finally saw Jordan making some progress as he went up the inside of Neal for 12th, with the pair eventually finishing each a place higher thanks to Nick Foster’s BMW breaking down. The final lap saw Glynn Geddie finding the grass and Mat Jackson elbowing Tordoff out-of-the-way for 6th at the last corner before the finish. Tordoff lost momentum and eventually finished 9th.
Turkington led home another BMW 1-2 from Austin, Plato, Shedden and Jackson. However, post-race it was found that Austin’s move on Collard was legitimate and the places were reversed, giving Austin his best finish in a long time. The reverse grid draw saw ball 8 of Aron Smith drawn on pole for the final race of the day.
Between the races, there was a deluge of rain that meant the highly anticipated Super Tourers race had to be postponed until after round 12, as they had originally gone out on slick tyres which were clearly the wrong option! It also meant that Race Three would take place on a drying track, but wets were the only realistic option to start on.
Smith was on pole from Tom Ingram, Jackson and Shedden and whilst Smith got away cleanly, Jackson jumped Ingram, who broke down halfway around lap 1, and immediately applied the pressure on Smith. Collard made a great start and jumped up to 3rd ahead of Shedden in 4th. However, they weren’t racing for long because as the mid-field approached Old Hall Corner, Goff, Abbott and Neal collided, which sent Neal smashing into the barriers, resulting in another safety car period.
The safety car came in at the end of lap 2, but as Jackson was trying to pressurise Smith after the re-start, Jackson lost control of the back of his Focus and ended up ‘having a moment’ on the grass before re-joining a little further back. Collard also made a mistake, out braking himself at Hislop’s, allowing Shedden by as Smith started to break away. Lap 4 saw the top 6 as Smith, Shedden, Collard, Plato, Turkington and a little further back, Austin.
Lap 6 saw Plato and Collard come together at Lodge, with Plato making a move down the inside before Collard shut the door on him. Collard was well down the pack by the time he was able to get going, but the collision had allowed Turkington past Plato. As the track started to dry, the drivers were starting to look for the wet lines on lap 8 to try to keep the tyres in the best condition they could. Plato was looking strong as the race neared completion and he had a good run on Turkington out of Lodge corner, but Plato ran wide and Turkington was able to temporarily take the place back. As the pair arrived at Shell Oils Corner, Plato gave Turkington a tap to force him a little wide and Plato snuck up the inside.
However, the final race of the day belonged to Smith, who had looked after his tyres admirably and he secured his second ever BTCC win. Shedden took 2nd with Plato 3rd. However, post-race, Plato’s tap on Turkington was found to be illegal and the places were reversed, giving Turkington podium finishes in all 3 races. Austin completed an excellent day in 5th with Tordoff 6th and reigning champion Jordan in 8th.
The weekend’s racing was certainly not of the normal high standard we are accustomed to seeing at Oulton Park and I believe there was only one reason why: The International Circuit. It was the first time since 1996 that it had been used and you can see why now. With it being a longer lap, it meant there were 12 laps in total per race, plus safety car laps, meaning there were fewer chances to overtake at Lodge and it also eliminated the opportunity of overtaking at the Island Bend as it wasn’t used. I hope that Alan Gow takes note of this and changes it back for next year.
As for the drivers, it was a nightmare weekend for Jordan and Neal, a steady one for Plato and a great one for Turkington. EBay Motors have really got the little 1-series performing well now and Turkington looks set for a real title charge. Next up is Croft, an event ESM will be once again attending. In the past, Turkington and the BMWs have gone well at Croft so things may get even better for Turkington before the month’s out. However, as well all know there are no certainties in motorsport and we eagerly await what will happen next.
Championship Standings after Round 12 of 30
|1. Colin Turkington||183 points|
|2. Gordon Shedden||174|
|3. Andrew Jordan||156|
|4. Jason Plato||147|
|5. Rob Collard||125|
|6. Matt Neal||117|
Jack Sears Trophy – Given to the driver who gains the most places over the season
|1. Alain Menu||52 places gained|
|2. Rob Austin||46|
|3. Rob Collard||39|
Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic
After a great weekend for Jordan last time, it was a nightmare this time. Depper was once again dismal.
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer
Mixed for the two drivers: Great for Shedden, terrible for Neal.
MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
A much stronger weekend for the team with some good results for both drivers.
Quantel Bifold Racing / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Marc Hynes secured his best result with a 10th in the first race, but he was in the points for all 3 races.
eBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport
A great weekend for eBay Motors, with two 1-2 finishes, although one was taken away, and Foster was strong too.
Airwaves Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Not quite as good as Thruxton, but Jackson was definitely the better this weekend.
Crabbie’s Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Finished all 3 races again. Clarke had a big off in qualifying too.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Volkswagen CC
A frustrating weekend for Menu, but Smith will be delighted with his victory. Is this the first of many? I doubt it.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
After 3 retirements last time out, anything would have been better for Warren Scott and he finished all the races this time.
RCIB Insurance Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
Not Goff’s greatest weekend.
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
It was great to see Belcher even racing this weekend after his massive smash at Thruxton. Apparently cost about £25,000 to repair. Finished all 3 races.
STP Racing with Sopp & Sopp – Proton Persona
Jackson’s car was repaired to the tune of around £50,000 after his crash at Thruxton, but he’s still propping up the championship. Welch wasn’t that far ahead of him.
Laser Tools Racing / RML – Chevrolet Cruze
After going out in race one, Moffat didn’t start the other two.
AmD Tuning.com – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Newsham didn’t start the final race after his big hit in the second race.
United Autosports – Toyota Avensis
Not the greatest of weekends.
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze
It seems to be getting progressively worse for Stockton – 3 retirements this time out with a new engine to blame
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Morgan struggled after being well down the field after a crash in qualifying.
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis
3 more finishes, but no points to show for it.
AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Abbot was definitely the weaker of the Audis.
Exocet Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Finally, a great weekend for Rob Austin! 5th, 2nd, 5th.
Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon
Good to see Holland back after his big crash at Donington.
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
9th, 7th and a retirement isn’t too shabby!
The next outing is Croft on the 29th June. As EngageSportMode.com’s local race, expect to see the team there – probably sunburnt, again.