A week is a long time. Here’s a reminder what happened last weekend when the BTCC circus rolled in to Norfolk. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent wasn’t too impressed with proceedings.
The series returned following the summer sabbatical, but in all honesty, we didn’t really learn a great deal. After Croft, the championship looked like it was going to be a four-way battle and this weekend’s action confirmed this thought following heavy points hauls for the current top four.
Colin Turkington’s rear wheel drive power enabled him to make Jack Goff’s clear view of the track last no further than the first 100 metres or so and championship contender Turkington sped off into the distance, or so it seemed. An extremely rare mistake, or a slippery surface, halfway through the race caused Turkington to spin off, although he did eventually recover to seventh. Ash Sutton strengthened his championship position by hunting down Goff, who was set for his first win, and used his superior tyre grip to secure the victory.
The day’s second race was again fairly dull until about half distance. However, this time it was a lights to flag victory for Sutton while all three BMWs hunted him down as a pack, although Goff ran second for quite some time. Rob Collard went into the weekend second in the championship and he needed a slight tap on Goff to achieve second in the race, although Turkington made a great move on him to secure the position for himself later in the race.
Sutton’s chance of winning all three races ended on an entertaining opening lap of the final race as a collision with Rob Austin ended both of their races, but Sutton later alleviated Austin of any blame, although it looked a rash move. Unlike the previous two races, most of the action in this race came at the start, rather than at the end. However, race leader Andrew Jordan suffered what appeared to be an electrical issue on the penultimate lap, whilst leading with a decent gap, which gifted the race win to championship leader, Gordon Shedden.
The victory meant that Shedden held on to his lead at the top of the standings, although with a reduced margin as the top four are now covered by eleven points. At the back of that pack, but most definitely in form is Sutton. Disregarding the retirement in the final race, Sutton had finished no lower than fourth in the previous eight races, winning four of them; serious championship form.
What’s more worrying for Shedden and Co, is the ease at which he looks to be winning the races. Right now, it’s hard to see anyone other than Sutton winning the championship. Shedden and Turkington may have titles under their belt, and Collard may have much more experience, but Sutton appears to have the speed. However, part of the excitement of BTCC is that things can change so quickly and while Sutton may currently look unbeatable, how long will it last?
Similarly, how long will the current driving standards last? Perhaps the summer break allowed some rustiness to creep in. The list of questionable manoeuvres started with Dave Newsham punting Mat Jackson from a long way back, resulting in Jackson losing a couple of places. However, and rather oddly, worse occurred, yet only Newsham and Stewart Lines’ poor move on Josh Cook were punished by the stewards.
Ollie Jackson suffered rough treatment all afternoon, often being the meat in a sandwich, yet no-one was punished for their actions. Jordan’s move to push Jason Plato off the track in the second race when challenging for second was certainly dubious as Plato lost a huge amount of positions. The questionable manoeuvres section would, of course, not be complete if we didn’t mention the manufacturer Hondas. Shedden’s move on fellow Scot, Aiden Moffat, left a lot to be desired, although Shedden later claimed he was also hit from behind. Moffat’s pictures of the incident told a different story though. Matt Neal’s constant battering of Cook was also somewhat unsavoury, as was Jake Hill’s torpedo strike to wipe out Neal too.
Hopefully, the couple of weeks until Knockhill will calm things down, but the stewards’ decisions to only punish two of the drivers seemed odd.
Knockhill should favour the rear wheel drive cars, so that may put Shedden at a disadvantage compared to the other three contenders, but on the other hand, Shedden’s day job is at Knockhill and the Honda’s short-wheelbase also favours the track. In truth, who knows what will happen next, but it’ll be exciting to find out.
Championship standings after 18 races out of 30:
|1. Gordon Shedden||221 points|
|2. Colin Turkington||219|
|3. Rob Collard||217|
|4. Ash Sutton||210|
|5. Tom Ingram||164|
|6. Matt Neal||157|