The British Touring Car Championship returned to action on Sunday, following the mid-season break, at Snetterton and it continued the entertainment seen at Croft in the previous round. Our BTCC Correspondent gives us the low down.
Colin Turkington re-ignited his title challenge following a disastrous weekend for Honda’s Gordon Shedden who relinquished top spot to the ever-green Jason Plato. Shedden’s poor weekend started when he qualified in 16th following mechanical issues. Shedden only managed to score 3 points all weekend, and one of those was for fastest lap having pitted in the final race. However, qualifying couldn’t have gone any better for Team BMR and their Volkswagens as they secured a 1-2-3 led by Turkington who was followed home by Aron Smith and Plato. Team BMR were sporting a new livery this weekend following sponsorship from RCIB Insurance and the 4th placed man, Andrew Jordan, also had a different looking, shiny silver, car after securing a long-term sponsorship deal with Pirtek. Matt Neal took 5th and Andy Priaulx took 6th.
The returning Mat Jackson took 14th and James Cole was further down as Motorbase and the Ford Focus returned to the series after missing the first half of the season with sponsorship issues. Support our Paras Racing will be missing a car for the rest of the season after a failed sponsorship deal for Max Coates and they’ve already used up their changes of drivers this season. There was also a return for Robb Holland as he replaced Simon Belcher and there was a BTCC debut for Barry Horne, who replaced Alex Martin following the birth of his first child.
Race One saw Turkington get away well from the line as the top drivers stayed in position. Rob Collard was soon in trouble as he was rammed from behind by his teammate Sam Tordoff and he was not the only one to experience early drama, as there were also spins for Rob Austin and Jeff Smith. Turkington looked at ease as early as the fourth lap, the longest lap of the BTCC season incidentally.
Lap 7 saw a good battle for 5th between Priaulx and Neal with Adam Morgan, Dave Newsham and Jack Goff close behind with Priaulx eventually victorious in his pursuit of the position. Priaulx then tried to steal 4th from Jordan, but his efforts were in vain. Further down the field, Shedden was struggling with Warren Scott and Jackson as they both found a route past the Honda driver as he eventually came home 14th. Before the end of the race, there were offs for Nic Hamilton and Stewart Lines, but this race belonged to Turkington as he came home first with ease, followed by Smith and Plato for a Team BMR 1-2-3.
Turkington managed the fastest lap in the opening race which meant he was once again on pole for Race Two, this time alongside Tordoff with Morgan, Goff, Plato and Priaulx making up the top 6. Turkington, once again, made a great start off the line as Tordoff bogged down as the lights went out allowing both Morgan and Priaulx through. The opening laps of the second race were as mad as any witnessed in recent years!
Collard was fired off the track again just after the start following an incident with Lines and Shedden also went off following rear damage that looked like it was caused by teammate Neal. Smith, Martin Depper and Scott also had a coming together and found themselves in trouble on the opening lap. Lap 2 saw Jackson pressurising a damaged Honda of Neal, who later retired, while Newsham and Scott also suffered rear damage forcing them out of the race.
After the opening laps, the race settled down, missing several cars, and by lap 6 Tom Ingram and Jordan were involved in good battle. A little further forward, the race for 2nd place involved Morgan, Priaulx , Tordoff and Plato. Morgan managed to defend his place valiantly from Priaulx until the end of the race, but Plato managed to take 4th from Tordoff as he looked to make the most of Shedden’s retirement. However, this race once again belonged to Turkington who won with full ballast on board, emulating Plato’s similar success at Oulton Park earlier in the season.
Goff, who finished 6th, was drawn on pole for Race Three. Tordoff once again bogged down on the line allowing Priaulx and Plato through as Goff made a lightning getaway. The second lap saw Morgan make a good move on Turkington and Plato made an expert move on Priaulx for 2nd. However, an uncharacteristic error by Morgan saw him run wide and onto the grass on the 4th lap, letting a flurry of cars past. Shedden was back in the pits on the 5th lap with a boost issue. He was eventually fixed and set the fastest lap of the race and secured his third and final point of the weekend. Turkington was passed by Jordan and Jackson on consecutive laps as the double winner had to settle for 7th in the final race of the day.
It was an unusually quieter third race of the day with much of the race passing without major incident, although Newsham had to take dramatic evasive to avoid a tagged Hunter Abbott from Collard and later in the race Collard pulled off one of the overtakes of the day with a great move around the outside of Morgan. This race, and first ever BTCC victory, belonged to Goff as he held on despite last lap pressure from Plato. A thoroughly deserved win for one of BTCC’s rising stars. Priaulx was 3rd, Tordoff 4th, Jordan 5th and Jackson 6th.
I touched upon the BTCC’s rising stars earlier in the season, but this was another case of knowing that we’ll be in good hands in a few years’ time once the Platos, Neals et al have gone their different ways. Goff, Ingram and Tordoff, to name just 3, are shining examples of what BTCC has coming through the ranks and it’s exciting to think of how many people will be challenging for the title, assuming they have the car to support them. Goff has shown glimpses of brilliance and class so far in his career and I would suggest that this victory will only boost his confidence and help lead to many more. Amazingly, considering their recent history, it was MG’s first victory of the season in 18 attempts.
The man who brought home many of their victories, Plato, will be delighted with his day’s work despite not making it onto the top step of the podium. Two podiums and a 4th coupled with Shedden’s disasters mean that Plato has a 16 point advantage at the top of the standings going to Knockhill next time out. It remains to be seen whether the long VW CC will be suited to the track in Scotland, but he will be hoping the impressive BMWs from Croft will reappear to take points off Shedden and Neal. Shedden, of course, is well involved with the circuit on a daily basis, so you would make him favourite for the event.
Plato’s closest competitor is now teammate and reigning champion Turkington. As predicted, it took Turkington a little time to get used to the front wheel drive of the VW, but I think after Snetterton we can safely say he is now fully up to speed. The fact he is only 16 points behind the more experienced front wheel drive pilot in Plato shows his class and that he is not ready to hand over his drivers’ crown just yet, despite me ruling him out after Croft!
Championship Standings after Round 18 of 30:
|1. Jason Plato||230|
|2. Colin Turkington||214|
|3. Gordon Shedden||198|
|4. Sam Tordoff||191|
|5. Andrew Jordan||189|
|6. Matt Neal||188|
Team BMR – Volkswagen CC (Plato, Turkington, Scott, A Smith)
A superb weekend for the team with a 1-2-3 in qualifying and Race One. Great weekends for Turkington and Plato, plus Smith did well too. Scott seems to be improving under Alain Menu’s coaching as well. 9/10
WSR, Team JCT600 with GardX – BMW 125i M Sport (Collard, Tordoff)
WSR, Team IHG Rewards Club – BMW 125i M Sport (Priaulx)
Not quite as good as Croft, but still a strong weekend for the team at not their strongest track. Collard was in the wars, but Priaulx and Tordoff brought home plenty of points. 8/10
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Type R (Neal, Shedden)
A nightmare for Shedden. Neal had a good first race, retired in the second, but made up places in the third. It was Neal’s chance to boost his championship standing with Shedden’s poor weekend, but it didn’t happen. 3/10
MG 888 Racing – MG6 GT (Goff, Jordan)
Goff will be understandably delighted with his first win and Jordan will be pleased with 4th, 7th and 5th place finishes as it keeps him in with an outside title chance. 7/10
Exocet AlcoSense – Audi A4 (Abbott, Austin)
A couple of strong finishes from Austin after he started Race One in the pit lane. Abbott came across a bit of trouble, but scored points in the middle race of the day. 6.5/10
Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST (Cole, Jackson)
How lovely to see Motorbase back racing. Jackson showed he hasn’t lost any of his race craft, scoring an impressive 22 points on his return and Cole managed to score points in the second race. 7/10
Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic (Depper, J Smith)
Not a great weekend for either. 4/10
Welch Motorsport – Proton Persona (Welch)
Andy Wilmot has parted company with Welch Motorsport, leaving just Dan Welch as a driver. Engine parts didn’t arrive in time for him to race this weekend. N/A
Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing – Infiniti Q50 (Palmer)
It’ll just be Derek Palmer until the end of the season now, following several driver changes already and a lack of sponsorship. Palmer, however, did score his first point of the season in the second race as he avoided trouble. 6/10
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Morgan)
A bit of a yo-yo weekend for Morgan, but a superb 2nd in Race Two. 7/10
Laser Tools Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Moffat)
Moffat suffered concussion in a big FP2 crash and was ruled out of Sunday’s action. N/A
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Holland)
Good to see ESM’s mate from Croft last year, Robb Holland, back in the driving seat, albeit temporarily. The American scored a couple of points on his return, more than Belcher has achieved with the car in the previous 15 races. 7/10
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Ingram)
Unfortunate to retire in the second race, but showed more glimpses of promise consolidated by 2 top 10 finishes. 7/10
RCIB Insurance Racing – Toyota Avensis (Gallagher)
Engine issues are still troubling the Avensis. 23rd in Race One, before another DNS and a retirement for Gallagher. 2/10
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis (Lines)
A few places higher in each race than Croft. -5/10 was harsh from the Editor at Croft, this time I’ll say… 3/10
Dextra Racing – Ford Focus ST (Horne)
Barry Horne has 3 more points than Alex Martin (0) this season and he’s only raced at one event. Not a bad debut in the Focus. 6.5/10
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze 4dr (Newsham)
A decent weekend for Newsham. I’m sure he’d have scored more points in the final race if it wasn’t for his great avoidance of smashing into Abbott’s Audi. 6.5/10
#RacingforHeroes – Chevrolet Cruze 4dr (Cook)
Arguably Cook’s poorest rounds of the season so far. Scored just the one point. 4/10
AmD Tuning – Ford Focus ST (Bushell)
Achieved 10th in the second race – his best BTCC result so far. 6/10
AmD Tuning – Audi S3 Saloon (Hamilton) Guest racer
Another decent showing from Hamilton. I believe a broken throttle forced him off in the first race and the team did well to get him out for race two where he’ll be chuffed to have finished 16th. 6.5/10