Although we’ve already discussed ITV’s coverage of the BTCC, our Touring Car Correspondent gives his opinions on whether the races at Donington Park were worth getting so worked up over.
After 5 rounds of the BTCC, I still didn’t have that excitement about the championship that I’ve had in previous seasons. However, in one race that all came flooding back. Race Three was everything you could have possibly ever wanted from a BTCC race. Finally, I have my BTCC excitement back and I can’t wait for the next meeting!
Race One can be quickly disposed of to the back of the BTCC drawer. Not a great deal happened after Jason Plato zoomed through into the lead, ahead of Gordon Shedden and pole sitter Colin Turkington, and he subsequently took a dominant race victory. Shedden and Turkington provided the ‘entertainment’ as they battled for second and that was that. A point of note is that Matt Neal, championship leader, really struggled with the ballast and soft tyres. I guess that is exactly what Alan Gow wants, to make the championship interesting. Hardly fair though. Adam Morgan, in 9th, was the best placed finisher on soft tyres in the opening race. It was cold, but have the rules gone too far in making drivers use the soft tyres three times in races one, two and three?
Race Two saw a fifth different winner in 5 races as Turkington took his first victory of the season in car number 1 and his first victory in a front wheel drive car for a decade. The second race showed glimpses of what we’ve become accustomed to in the BTCC with a fairly close and entertaining race, but it was nothing more than a warm-up for the final race of the day.
Josh Cook was drawn on pole and he continued his impressive form for the day with a superb race. However, that was just one of the stories from an amazing round 6. It was like bumper cars at times with several drivers using each other as their brakes. Aron Smith had a great race and showed what can be done with no ballast in a quick car as he was a man on a mission from 12th on the grid, albeit helped by a safety car to bunch everyone up on lap 7. Eventually, Smith and Cook clashed for the lead which ended with them both going off on the Craner Curves. How Smith didn’t collect anyone as he returned to the track was a complete miracle; it was like a stunt show as he slotted in between Rob Collard and Neal. The general racing in the final race was unbelievably close with so much happening up and down the field and it really was the best race I’ve watched in a long time.
Part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was down to the young talent, in particular Cook. He was in his 6th ever BTCC race and he raced like he was in his 6th season. Cook showed no fear after progressing from the Clio Cup and he really battled hard with some of the ‘big boys.’ His never say die attitude with Smith was brilliant. Smith was clearly in the quicker car, yet he fought him every inch of the way as he tried to preserve his lead. Ultimately, the collision between them brought both of their chances of a victory to an end, but they still finished inside the top 10. Aiden Moffat showed more of his promise too, with a fantastic 5th place in the final race. Jack Goff was there or thereabouts as well all weekend and he showcased his talent with some unbelievable moves on the outside line of the Craner Curves. We really do have a healthy crop of talent coming through which makes for an exciting future.
In the short-term, I’ll settle for more of the same at Thruxton next time out on 10th May. Let’s hope they’ve fixed the barriers after last year’s dramatic crashes!
Championship Standings after Round 6 of 30:
|1. Matt Neal||75|
|2. Colin Turkington||73|
|3. Gordon Shedden||67|
|4. Andrew Jordan||63|
|5. Jason Plato||58|
|6. Jack Goff||54|
Team BMR – Volkswagen CC (Plato, Turkington, Scott, A Smith)
The first two races brought two race victories for Plato and Turkington and for the rest of the time it was a case of making as many points as possible under the conditions of ballast and soft tyres. A pretty good weekend though. 8/10
WSR, Team JCT600 with GardX – BMW 125i M Sport (Collard, Tordoff)
WSR, Team IHG Rewards Club – BMW 125i M Sport (Priaulx)
Collard and Tordoff were in the top 10 for most of the weekend, but it was more difficult for Priaulx this time out. 7/10
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Type R (Neal, Shedden)
Another great weekend for the duo. Other than one poor result each, not helped by ballast and soft tyres, they were both in the top 3 all weekend. 9/10
MG 888 Racing – MG6 GT (Goff, Jordan)
A much better weekend for Jordan, finishing no lower than 4th, and Goff once again showed great promise. 8/10
Exocet AlcoSense – Audi A4 (Abbott, Austin)
Not a great weekend for the team and they only picked up a couple of points. 5/10
Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST (Cole, Jackson)
We won’t be seeing Motorbase until Snetterton due to financial sponsorship issues.
Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic (Depper, J Smith)
Depper achieved his best ever finish of 9th and Smith finished in the lower points in each race. A much better showing from the team.7/10
Welch Motorsport – Proton Persona (Welch, Wilmot)
A team still with problems. Wimlot has started one out of six this season and Welch raced despite his broken foot, but with little joy. 2/10
Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing – Infiniti Q50 (Hawken, Palmer)
Both cars made it out on track this weekend although Palmer didn’t start the second and third races. Hawken finished all three down the grid. 3/10
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Morgan)
Another super weekend from Morgan and was unlucky to feel the force of contact. 3 good finishes. 9/10
Laser Tools Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Moffat)
More good work from Moffat this weekend and a super 5th place in the final race. 8/10
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Belcher)
No points for Belcher this weekend. He had a trip in the gravel too. 3/10
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Ingram)
A quiet weekend for Ingram by all accounts. A couple of low scoring finishes. 5.5/10
RCIB Insurance Racing – Toyota Avensis (Gallagher)
No points, but steady progress again. 4/10
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis (Lines)
Improved throughout the weekend once again. 4/10
Dextra Racing – Ford Focus ST (Martin)
Rammed Warren Scott off the road in the second race after a mistake, but still no points for the season. 3/10
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze 4dr (Newsham)
Another good weekend for Newsham and he scored good points, but retired in the last race. 7.5/10
#RacingforHeroes – Chevrolet Cruze 4dr (Cook)
A brilliant weekend for Cook with two 7th places and a 13th. He really showed some great racing class this weekend. I certainly didn’t think a Chevrolet would be leading a race anytime soon, especially given their form over the last couple of years. 8/10
AmD Tuning – Ford Focus ST (Bushell)
Had troubles after the formation laps in the first two races and finished the third. 3/10
AmD Tuning – Audi S3 Saloon (Hamilton) Guest racer
Hamilton is due to start his BTCC career at Croft.
We’ll be back for more opinions after Thruxton.