British Touring Car Championship fans rejoiced at the weekend as the first of ten Sundays were taken over by the sound of purring engines and screeching tyres. After the first round of action, what have we learnt?
With the grid being as strong as ever, it was important that reigning champion Gordon Shedden made a good start at Brands if he wishes to retain the trophy for a third successive season. And he did. Come 6pm on Sunday evening, Shedden was once again top of the pile following a win, second and a seventh. It appears clear at this early stage that his main challengers will be from the BMW trio of Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan as well as his teammate, Matt Neal. I would suggest there’s an outside chance of Tom Ingram realistically challenging Shedden too, if he can maintain his opening round form for the season.
Turkington looked like he’d never been away from the BMW 1-series, with which he won the championship in 2014, despite a two year absence with Subaru. His teammates, however, are still ahead of him in the points chart showing how competitive the BMW was at the weekend and will be, again, over the season. Turkington, of course, was not helped by Neal wiping him out off the start line in the opening race.
A similar fate ruined Turkington’s former teammate Jason Plato in the second race too. Worryingly for Plato though, he and his teammates’ Subarus never looked competitive all weekend. A few regulation changes to the Subaru Levorg over the close season certainly looked to have ‘worked’, depending on your point of view. They will need to find some solutions quickly if Plato wishes to mount a serious title challenge this time around.
Is it too early in the careers of some of the younger challengers to mount a serious title challenge? Possibly, for someone like Jack Goff, who excelled back in a front wheel drive, but try telling that to Ingram who once again showed he’s got what it takes to win races. It will be interesting to see where Ingram is come the midpoint of the season after Croft
It will also be interesting to see where Tom Chilton and Vauxhall are too, back in the championship racing with Power Maxed Racing and as a constructor for the first time since 2011 and 2009 respectively. Chilton showed no signs of rustiness as he finished the weekend sixth in the overall standings after a final race podium following a reverse grid pole. The Astra certainly appeared to be quick and competitive on its first outing which is no mean feat, albeit with a horrible livery.
The weekend’s action probably won’t live long in the memory, like Brands Hatch Indy from last year, the year before, the year before that and so on. There’s no need for me to argue the case about why we shouldn’t have a 48 second lap, again. One thing’s for certain though, the season has started and there’ll be much more excitement, drama, twists and turns to come. Next up: Donington Park over the Easter weekend.