BTCC 2014 – Croft – Rounds 13/14/15 – Review

You’ve already seen the galleries (one, two), but here’s the review from our Correspondent as the British Touring Car Championship hit the North East.

Turkington Maintains Championship Advantage

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In the latest rounds of the British Touring Car Championship held at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire, 2009 champion Colin Turkington maintained his lead at the top of this year’s championship. It would have been a perfect weekend for Turkington, had it not been for a retirement in the final race of the day.

Following a superb performance at Oulton Park, Turkington arrived at Croft leading the championship for the first time since his title-winning season in 2009. Despite carrying full ballast, Turkington set a new lap record with his qualifying time to take pole from Jason Plato, Honda Yuasa Racing duo of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, reigning champion Andrew Jordan and Rob Collard. Since Oulton Park, all rear wheel drive cars have had their first gears lengthened, to much discussion down the pit lane, so they have less of an advantage off the start line.

Turkington lined up on pole after a record lap

Turkington lined up on pole after a record lap

However, in race one, nobody was moving off the start line quickly as the red lights stayed on for an age, before the start was aborted. It was decided another green flag lap would be completed, knocking one lap off the final race distance. Lap 1 of the first race, arguably, brought more action than all three of Oulton Park put together. Turkington was sluggish off the line, but he just held position from Plato, whilst Collard made a good start and ended up 4th. A couple of places back, Jordan tagged Neal and sent him sideways, although he was able to control it and continue. Nick Foster found himself taking a huge excursion across the midfield after he was spat out after the chicane, at high speed, and Rob Austin, who’d qualified well in 10th, was turned around by Adam Morgan’s A-Class. In the meantime, Shedden had found a way past Plato to take 2nd.

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Lap 3 saw Morgan’s damage from his earlier collision prove too much as he was forced to retire, whilst Collard started to apply heavy pressure to the back of Plato’s MG. Throughout the entire race, Plato demonstrated a master class in defensive driving and nobody was able to find a way past, which meant Collard was rather frustrated come the end of the race!

Geddie gets in a spin at The Complex

Geddie gets in a spin at The Complex

Lap 5 saw Turkington starting to stretch his lead, something he continued to do lap after lap and by lap 12 his lead was nearly 6 seconds. However, most of the action in the race focused on Plato’s defensive driving and the battle that ensued to try to get past him, with Collard, Jordan and Neal all trying their hardest to no avail. There were several mini battles throughout the field which resulted in several cars missing front wings, in what proved to be a weekend of high front end damage from cars clipping tyre stacks, as well as other cars.

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Come the end of the race, Turkington was a comfortable winner, from a comfortable 2nd for Shedden and Plato completed the podium with Collard, Jordan and Neal completing the top 6.

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In race two there were no problems with the lights and Turkington was off to a flyer, with Shedden maintaining 2nd, but Collard immediately made the jump on Plato for 3rd. One man who was not off to a flyer was Austin, who’d recovered to 13th in the first race, after he was in the middle of a Dave Newsham and Fabrizio Giovanardi Ford Focus sandwich. Austin’s car suffered terminal damage and was left on the grass to the side of the start/finish line, collecting the Dunlop advertising banner on the way. Newsham, who was starting his 100th BTCC race, came in at the end of the lap suffering terminal damage too.

On lap 5, towards the back of the grid, Simon Belcher had a grass cutting adventure resulting in a front splitter full of the green stuff after the chicane and subsequently a pit stop, whilst at the front, Neal launched it up the inside of Plato at Sunny In for 4th. It was a ‘typical Matt Neal move.’ The following lap saw Hunter Abbott, who’d finished an excellent 10th in Race One, cut across the midfield following an incident at the chicane, whilst Glynn Geddie also suffered substantial damage to his front wing. Lap 7 saw Jordan complete a carbon copy move on Plato at the same corner, as it appeared that the MG driver was struggling for pace.

 

At the front, all 3 cars heading for the podium received track limits warnings as they pushed hard to secure their positions, although once again Turkington was well clear. Lap 11 saw Neal take 3rd from Collard at Sunny In and Morgan made more progress from 29th on the grid to his eventual finishing position of 11th. The end of Race Two perhaps brought the most controversial incident of the weekend. Plato and Menu were neck and neck as they headed for the first corner, Clervaux. It appeared that Menu had managed to cleanly pass Plato, until Plato turned in catching the back of Menu’s car, sending it flying into the barriers, resulting in one very unhappy Swiss. The eventual result was a 10 place grid penalty for Plato in the final race of the day.

 

Plato was able to come home in 6th, behind Jordan, Collard, Neal, Shedden and race winner, Turkington. It was Turkington’s 30th BTCC win and unbelievably his 10th at Croft. However, post-race, Neal’s damaged front end meant that he failed the ride height checks and he was excluded from the race result, promoting Mat Jackson to 6th.

Win number two for CT

Win number two

Due to Neal’s exclusion it meant that Giovanardi, who’d picked himself for pole again in the reverse grid draw, was not actually on pole and that honour fell to Jack Goff, who’d originally finished 11th. The grid for race three lined up: Goff, Giovanardi, Tom Ingram, Sam Tordoff, Jackson and Jordan.

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As the lights went out, Goff got a good start, but ran wide at Hawthorn, handing the lead to Ingram, who then went wide before the chicane, meaning Giovanardi had the lead as the cars headed for Tower with Jordan behind him. Goff had recovered to claim 3rd. At Barcroft, Giovanardi had a mighty hit into a tyre stack, ripping most of his front end away from his car. However, replays clearly showed that Jordan had tapped the Italian from behind and he was lucky to keep his car out of the barriers. Jordan took the lead of the race and never looked back and although the stewards allowed him to keep his victory, he has received 3 penalty points and a 10 place grid penalty to be taken at Snetterton, subject to his appeal. The opening lap also saw Neal smack what appeared to be the battering car of the weekend, Glynn Geddie’s, and the emergence of the safety car to recover Ingram’s broken car that was stranded at Tower.

Andrew Jordan jumped Goff in the melee

Andrew Jordan jumped Goff in the melee

The safety car returned to the pits at the end of lap 4 and the order was now Jordan from Goff, Collard, Jackson, Tordoff and Turkington. The damage sustained by Giovanardi proved to be too much and he retired soon after the restart. Lap 6 brought more action as the trio of Austin, Neal and Warren Scott collided at Hawthorn in what appeared to be three cars into one corner not going. Austin suffered more terminal damage and was immediately out, soon to be followed by Neal who limped back to the pits. Scott was able to recover and eventually finished 17th.

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The end of lap 7 brought an end to Turkington’s perfect weekend as a broken clutch forced him into retirement. Turkington cited the longer first gear and the false start in Race One as major factors in the breakdown.

Lap 10 saw the pacey Shedden trying to overtake Tordoff at Tower, but to little avail. However, a lap later, Shedden made the position his with a good move at Sunny Out, whilst ahead of them, both Collard and Jackson had found a way past Goff at the same corner. A couple of laps later, it was Shedden again making a move at Sunny Out, this time on Goff for 4th as he chased down Jackson. Lap 17 saw Shedden finally make his move stick on Jackson exiting Hawthorn and having the move completed by the chicane. At the same area of the track on the final lap, it was the turn of Goff, Morgan and Aron Smith to have a small coming together, which resulted in Goff’s bumper hanging off, but they all managed to escape any major drama.

The race winner was Jordan to help him stay in the championship hunt from Collard, Shedden, Jackson, Morgan and Goff, with the latter duo being separated by just 0.001s. However, after the race Shedden was relegated to fourth after it was deemed his contact in passing Jackson was unfair, a little harsh in my opinion.

Shedden barges past Jackson

Shedden barges past Jackson

Overall, it was an excellent day of racing and more of what we expect from the BTCC after the events at Thruxton and especially Oulton Park weren’t the most thrilling. It was once again a fantastic weekend for Turkington, despite his final race failings. We are now at the half way point in the season and it looks like the championship is going to be a 3-way battle between Turkington, Shedden and Jordan. You should never discount Plato, who is in 4th, but he is 49 points off the lead and he would also have to bank on Shedden and Jordan having a couple of nightmares too, which would seem unlikely given the luck Shedden has had this season.

The second half of the season is shaping up to be as exciting as ever and after another month-long break, I can’t wait for the action to start again.

Championship Standings after Round 15 of 30.

1. Colin Turkington 228 points
2. Gordon Shedden 221
3. Andrew Jordan 200
4. Jason Plato 179
5. Rob Collard 170
6. Mat Jackson 138

 

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

1. Alain Menu 70 places gained
2. Nick Foster 61
3. Adam Morgan 54

 

Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic
A better weekend for Jordan and his victory in the final race was vital if he retains aspirations of retaining his title. Depper was actually in the action for a change and had his best results of the season with 14th, 17th and 13th.

Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer
Another mixed weekend for the two drivers: Great for Shedden, terrible for Neal. Although, Neal would have had a great weekend had it not been for the failed ride height in race two as I’m sure he wouldn’t have suffered in race three if he’d been nearer the front. I can’t remember the last time Neal was not in the top 6 of the championship standings.

MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
MG just aren’t quite right this season for me. They’re lacking something more than the obvious pace needed to win races. However, a lot better than they were last year at Croft.

Quantel Bifold Racing / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Not the greatest of weekends for Marc Hynes.

eBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport
Another super weekend for the team who are going from strength to strength. Nick Foster is up to 2nd in the Jack Sears Trophy too.

Airwaves Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
A better weekend for Jackson than Giovanardi and he is now 6th in the overall standings. There’ll be plenty of new parts orders going in for Giovanardi’s car.

Crabbie’s Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
I’m sure Jack Clarke was missing his front wing in two races this weekend, but he still finished the first two before retiring in the last one.

CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Volkswagen CC
Menu – 7th, RET, 8th. It would have been even better had it not been for contact with Plato. A much stronger weekend for him. Smith was fairly innocuous really.

CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
No points for Warren Scott as he appeared to be constantly in the wars.

RCIB Insurance Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
Goff did well in the final race to finish 6th, although I’m sure he’ll have been hoping for a podium.

Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
Poor weekend in reality.

STP Racing with Sopp & Sopp – Proton Persona
Around the 20th place mark for both cars all weekend.

Laser Tools Racing / RML – Chevrolet Cruze
Moffat had a couple of 20th place finishes sandwiching a DNS.

AmD Tuning.com – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Newsham’s 100th race didn’t exactly go to plan, although he finished 11th and 16th in the other races.

United Autosports – Toyota Avensis
United Autosports probably have the largest list of parts to order after Croft as both cars seemed to have lots of damage all weekend long- not always their fault to be fair!

Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze
I said after Oulton park, “It seems to be getting progressively worse for Stockton – 3 retirements this time out.” Well things can only get… worse. Blown engine in qualifying, didn’t start any races.

WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
A much better weekend for Morgan despite a retirement in the first race as he finished the next two 11th and 5th.

Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis
A very quiet weekend for Wood, although he scraped a couple of points in the last race.

AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Hunter Abbott finally showed some promise! 10th, RET and 11th means this was his best weekend of the season by a long way.

Exocet Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Not such a good weekend for Rob as he suffered damage in all three races with it being terminal in races two and three.

Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon
Robb Holland is a jolly nice chap and I enjoyed chatting with him at Croft. I just hope he can find some more pace in his great looking car as he’s not near the sharp end of the grid.

Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
15th, 8th and a retirement when he was in a good position, meant that it wasn’t the worst weekend Ingram will ever have.

 

Next up: Snetterton, 3rd August.

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