The British Touring Car Championship reached the midway point of the season after another entertaining day of racing at Oulton Park. Championship leader, Colin Turkington, extended his lead at the top of the leaderboard after a sublime performance in his BMW.
Turkington’s excellence started on Saturday as he produced an unbelievable lap, with full ballast, to claim pole position. Sam Tordoff, Dan Cammish, Andrew Jordan, Rory Butcher and Matt Neal completed the top six.
Race one saw Turkington make a great start, on the soft tyres, while Tordoff fell back into the clutches of Cammish and Jordan, although Jordan was briefly second. The safety car was called for on lap 5 as Matt Neal lost a wheel and subsequently smashed into the barriers at Druids.
After six laps, the race re-started with Turkington in control, but behind him there were several close battles, including Ash Sutton tapping the rear of Adam Morgan, which left the latter with a puncture and Sutton with a five place grid penalty for the second race. Without the safety car to bunch the pack up, this race wouldn’t have even been half interesting as Turkington won with ease from Cammish and Jordan. Rating rating: 5/10.
Turkington, once again, made an excellent getaway in race two, as did Jordan who took second from Cammish. The first lap didn’t pass without incident after the safety car was called for after Jack Goff lost control before Island Bend, possibly with the help of Josh Cook, and careered into Chris Smiley. Before that, Ash Sutton was off the road too after contact with Rob Collard.
After a lengthy safety car period, Tom Chilton was forced to retire after hitting Jake Hill. That was one of several battles down the field, as Turkington, Jordan and Cammish sped off into the distance. Ollie Jackson, Jason Plato, Stephen Jelley, Cook and Hill were involved in a good ding-dong, with Jelley coming out on top before the next safety car period. A big hit into the tyres for Sam Osborne looked like it could be a red flag, but after three laps the safety car was in leaving a three lap sprint to the finish.
With the field being bunched up again, there were more mid-pack battles with Jelley coming out on top of the best one between him, Butcher, Cook and Neal. With one MG already in a terrible state after a big crash, Osborne’s teammate, Rob Smith, gave the team even more work after a massive crash of his own. How the MG didn’t flip over defied the law of physics.
Victory, once again, went to Turkington who secured his 50thin the BTCC, becoming only the fourth man to achieve such a feat. He was joined on the podium by teammate Jordan and Cammish. Race rating: 7/10.
Race three saw the maximum reverse grid possible, as twelfth placed Hill in race two was drawn on pole. Neal lined up second with Plato, Ingram, Butcher and Jelley completing the starting top six.
Hill made a good start, as did the rest of the top six, but Tom Oliphant was joined by Tordoff in challenging Jelley for sixth. At the front, Neal was looking racy and tried a move on Hill at Island Bend, but after a small rub, Hill retained his lead. However, it didn’t last for long, as Neal got a better exit off Lodge at the end of the lap and powered through. Neal’s joy lasted for seconds as Hill, trying a cutback, misjudged it badly and hit the back of Neal sending him into a wild tank-slapper across the track leaving plumes of tyre smoke everywhere.
As a result of the smoke, cars took a variety of lines, including the grass, in trying to avoid the incident. In turn, this caused more drama as Plato’s Astra ruptured an oil line in avoidance and the track was covered in oil on the outside line leading to Island Bend before Plato sensibly pulled off. Several cars followed him off after skidding on the slippery surface before re-joining. All of this drama meant that Hill had a massive 5.4 second lead from Butcher and Jelley on lap 5.
Turkington was running well in eighth and his Team BMW teammate, Oliphant, was all over Tordoff for several laps before eventually securing fourth. Hill’s gap at the front was eventually diminished by Butcher, with Jelley a little further behind. As Butcher tried to take the lead at Island Bend, the oil once again played a part and Butcher flew off the track leaving Jelley in second and Hill with enough of a lead at the front to secure his first ever BTCC victory. Butcher did, however, manage to recover to sixth. Race rating: 8/10.
Post-race, Neal had some choice words with Hill in the paddock [because Matt has never touched another car when racing – Ed], but the stewards also wanted a conversation with Hill and they ruled in favour of Neal. They handed Hill a twenty second penalty which allowed Jelley to take his first BTCC victory in ten years.
Jelley’s BMW 1-Series may have taken victory in the final race, but it was the 3-Series of Turkington that was the talking point of the weekend. It was an utterly dominant performance by Turkington and with full ballast. Is that right and fair? As Tim Harvey pointed out on ITV, it’s up to the others to catch-up to the BMWs, rather than the powers that be penalising Turkington and co.
Turkington’s dominance may not be the most enjoyable to watch for some, but the inter-team battle with Jordan is going to be incredibly spicy in the second half of the season. This seems to be Jordan’s best season since he won the championship in 2013 and will he get a better car to try and win a championship in? Turkington, of course, won’t give Jordan an easy ride as he wants to secure a fourth crown. It’s hard to see anyone other than either of these two winning the championship, even at the halfway point of the season.
Oulton Park produced more exciting racing than we’ve become accustomed to in recent years, although the first race was poor and only helped by the appearance of the safety car. The day seemed to have some dominant performances, great overtaking, dramatic crashes and controversy, which all made for an entertaining day’s racing.
The BTCC will resume after the summer break at Snetterton where it will be interesting to see if the BMWs can continue their dominance. To win nine out of the fifteen races is quite astonishing and something that we’ve not been used to in recent years.
Championship standings after 15 races out of 30:
|1. Colin Turkington||195 points|
|2. Andrew Jordan||162|
|3. Josh Cook||148|
|4. Rory Butcher||147|
|5. Ash Sutton||147|
|6. Dan Cammish||130|