The annual trip to Scotland produced some fantastic racing, especially amongst the front runners, which hopefully now means we can forget about the driving standards furore of Snetterton.Three of the most experienced drivers on the grid came to the fore with a win apiece, demonstrating outstanding defensive driving and a classic charge through the field. At the front, consistency was the key for Sam Tordoff as he regained the championship lead from Rob Collard.
Race One (1st Plato, 2nd Goff, 3rd Turkington)
Jason Plato started his 500th BTCC race from pole position after an incredibly tight qualifying session. Tom Ingram took 2nd ahead of Tordoff, Jack Goff, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan. The championship leader, Collard, once again qualified poorly, down in 18th.
As the lights went out, the top 6 all got away well from the line, but there were echoes of Snetterton at the third corner as Matt Neal barged Adam Morgan off the track, which left Morgan well down the pack and Neal with a post-race verbal warning. This allowed the top 6 to pull out a gap on the rest of the field. Jordan was looking competitive in the opening laps and he was soon ahead of Turkington after a sweet move at the hairpin, but Turkington kept pace and re-took the position mid-race.
Ingram found himself under immense pressure from Tordoff and Goff, before the pair switched positions over the start-finish line. Goff continued his pursuit of Ingram and after a long, late lunge on the brakes into the hairpin, he succeeded in taking 2nd. Tordoff then set about Ingram too, but his challenge was halted by a safety car to recover Warren Scott’s stricken Subaru following an incident with Dan Welch.After the safety car period ended, it was a quick sprint to the finish, but it was just enough time for Turkington to make a couple of brilliant moves to jump from 5th to 3rd. His first victim was Tordoff, who was almost overtaken by Jordan too, and then Ingram at the hairpin. However, it was Turkington’s teammate, Plato, who celebrated his 500th race with his 95th victory and he also became the 11th different winner of the season, equalling the BTCC season record.
Race Two (Neal, Tordoff, Plato)
The leading cars got away cleanly off the line in what turned out to be a fantastic race. However, we had to wait for the action to start as, once again, Scott’s car needed to be recovered under the safety car as did Martin Depper’s Honda. Lap 6 saw both Tordoff and Jordan get ahead of Ingram, who really struggled in this race.
Turkington looked to have great pace all the way through the race and soon challenged for the lead, but as he went around the outside of Goff, Plato ran them both wide and on to the grass and it was as you were. Lap 10 saw Turkington finally make his move stick on Goff, but then Goff released Tordoff in a reversal of the first race and Turkington’s joy was short lived as Tordoff soon took over 2nd as Plato was driving incredibly defensively.Neal and Mat Jackson continued to come through the pack, as did Collard, but at the front Turkington was back in 2nd and challenging Plato for the lead again. However, Plato positioned his car wisely each time and there was no way through. Soon enough, Turkington lost 2nd to Tordoff again and he attempted to find a way past Plato, who really did appear to be struggling with the success ballast. Turkington’s luck continued to be out as Neal took 3rd at the hairpin leaving Goff and Turkington to tangle. As the race came to a close, Neal, on soft tyres, overtook Tordoff before they both overtook Plato, who couldn’t hold on to the very end.
Race Three (Jackson, Tordoff, Plato
Although the final race of the day didn’t produce much overtaking at the front, it was certainly entertaining. Jackson, 6th in race two, was drawn on pole and he got away well off the line, but Tordoff jumped Plato. On lap 2, a broken rear end on Ash Sutton’s car meant that on the following lap the safety car came out to aid the recovery.
Following the safety car’s return to the pits, Turkington pushed Collard hard as he tried to take 2nd. However, disaster struck for the pair on lap 8 as Turkington sent his nose up the inside of Collard, where he had been so successful earlier in the day, and sent the pair sideways. As the cars came to, Collard bashed into Turkington once or twice and that sent them both on to the grass and out. The stewards later took a dim view of Turkington’s move as he was punished by 2 penalty points. A little harsh.
Gordon Shedden, on soft tyres, was hoping to repeat Neal’s charge in the previous race and on lap 13 he had made his way to 4th. However, the top 6 of Neal, Tordoff, Plato, Shedden, Neal and Austin didn’t change for the remaining 13 laps despite several attempts. The power of the Ford engine and some interesting racing lines helped Jackson’s defence of the lead and he came home 1st to win for the fourth time this season.
The final race of the day was a great exhibition of defensive driving from Jackson and it echoed Plato from earlier in the day. It showed that despite Knockhill supposedly being a rear wheel drive track, both Neal and Jackson won without rear wheel drive power and traction. The narrow nature of the circuit certainly helped Plato and Jackson to drive so defensively, but we thankfully didn’t see any of the safety issues raised from Snetterton on this narrow circuit.
In addition, the drivers showed that they could race cleanly, give or take the odd incident. Perhaps the threat of driving bans were heeded. The punishments handed out after the races for incidents seemed a little inconsistent at Knockhill, but as ever some drivers can’t take what they give out without complaining. See, Collard
Perhaps, Collard should have given a little more room to Turkington after the initial contact and he may have been closer at the top of the championship. After starting the weekend 3 points ahead, he now finds himself 32 behind teammate Tordoff with Neal in 2nd, 9 points adrift. As after Snetterton, you would still favour the trophy to be presented to one of the current top three drivers but now you would favour Tordoff over Collard as the BMW driver option. Tordoff showed great maturity at the weekend to ensure that he consistently scored good points, rather than challenging for the race win which could have ended in disaster. Consistency normally wins through and there is little doubt that Tordoff has been that this season.
Championship Standings after Round 21 of 30:
|1. Sam Tordoff||231 points|
|2. Matt Neal||222|
|3. Rob Collard||199|
|4. Gordon Shedden||191|
|5. Mat Jackson||188|
|6. Colin Turkington||183|
Subaru Team BMR – Subaru Levorg GT (Cole, Plato, Scott, Turkington)
Turkington and Plato are 6th and 7th in the championship, while Cole and Scott are 25th and 26th. Quite an incredible difference. It was a great weekend for the lead pair and while Cole picked up a couple of points, Scott was out of luck. 8/10
WSR, Team JCT600 with GardX – BMW 125i M Sport (Collard, Tordoff)
WSR, Team IHG Rewards Club – BMW 125i M Sport (Goff)
Awful weekend for Collard in reality, but brilliant for Tordoff and good to see Goff getting back into the groove. 8/10
Halfords Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Type R (Neal, Shedden)
A decent weekend for the Hondas, with Neal’s performance in the second race the stand out moment. I always think Shedden should do better at the track he works at on a daily basis. 7.5/10
MG Racing RCIB Insurance – MG6 GT (Cook, Sutton)
11th for Sutton in the opening race were the only points for MG this weekend. Slow and poor. 2/10
Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST (Jackson, Jordan)
A good weekend for the Ford pair. The engine in the Focus generates fantastic power and it has certainly been highlighted over the course of the season. Another great win for Jackson and three top 10 finishes for Jordan. 7.5/10
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Morgan)
Morgan recovered well in the 2nd and 3rd races after being punted off by Neal in the opening race. Not been on the podium for four events now though. 6.5/10
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Austin)
Another good weekend for Austin with 3 top 12 finishes. 7/10
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Ingram)
A good opening race for Ingram and he recovered well in the final race after retiring in the middle race of the day. He showed real promise in the opening race, but struggled in the 2nd race before retiring with a couple of laps to go. 7/10
Notable mentions: Dave Newsham returned to the series to cover for Kelvin Fletcher as he was expecting the birth of his child. Safe to say, Newsham achieved more and was more competitive in his 3 races than Fletcher has been all year with 3 points finishes, while Fletcher still waits for his first point of the season. Credit must also go to the many teams who helped to complete a full grid of cars following all of the damage caused last time out at Snetterton.
Next up: Rockingham, 28th August.