The second consecutive Sunday of BTCC action brought considerably more drama, twists and turns at Silverstone than the first at Thruxton. Despite having a yo-yo of a day, Ash Sutton remained the championship leader, but with a much smaller advantage.
Dan Cammish, fifth in the standings after Thruxton, took his second pole in as many meetings with his nemesis from last weekend, Tom Ingram, lining up second. Rory Butcher, Colin Turkington, Tom Oliphant and Matt Neal completed the top six, with leader Sutton not far away in seventh.
After making a couple of poor starts last week, Cammish made no mistake this time out and held Ingram at bay, while Butcher managed to regain third after a sluggish getaway in the opening race.
The safety car was called for on lap 5 after an incident between Michael Crees and James Gornall. At the front, it appeared that Ingram had just taken the lead by millimetres, but the position was reversed before the track was clear and racing re-started.
At the mid-point of the race, the top two had a little gap to the next gaggle of cars, but Oliphant was soon out of 5th after damaging his rear from using too much of the kerbs. It meant Sutton was promoted a position and he was soon attacking Turkington and Butcher. However, despite his best efforts, non-more-so than on the last lap when Turkington’s challenge on Butcher nearly cost him the position, Sutton remained 5th. At the front, Cammish managed to eek out a small advantage and eventually won by a second from Ingram.
Cammish started the second race well, but Ingram was determined not to be beaten this time and made a great move to lead. Sutton made his way in front of Turkington and then rammed Butcher, which sent the Scotsman hurtling down the pack. However, Adam Morgan soon passed Sutton as he started to lose positions and on the second lap he was back in 10th and not looking particularly fast, possibly as a result of his ram.
At the front, Ingram held off pressure from Cammish, but Turkington also started to catch the leaders and by lap 10 they were running together, as Aiden Moffat’s pressure on teammate Sutton eventually told. Similarly, Turkington’s pressure on Cammish paid off as he moved to 2nd with only a small gap to Ingram ahead.
Then, the lap, number 17, that changed everything. Ingram suffered a puncture to gift Turkington the lead and then Sutton suffered a puncture of his own to gift Turkington the championship lead. Sutton’s annoyance was shown as his petulance in driving the car back to the pits spread car debris over the track. Sutton’s fresh tyres allowed him to get the fastest lap on the final lap of the race, perhaps a point that will be all too crucial come the end of the season.
However, Turkington took victory for the first time in twelve races with Cammish and Morgan completing the champagne celebrations.
After Turkington’s previous two victories, both in race two as well, he had chosen ball 12 for the reverse grid pole, but this time, he had a bit more luck as he pulled out ball 9, that of his teammate Oliphant who had recovered from starting the race in 25th.
However, Oliphant didn’t make the most of his advantage as Ollie Jackson took the lead from second on the grid. The opening lap saw Ingram turned around and out of the race and yet another incident during the day for Andy Neate and Jade Edwards, who did a solid job in the PMR Astra on her BTCC debut.
On lap 4, Sutton was up to 17th and cutting through the field with ease as Turkington was 9th after a move by Butcher. However, a couple of laps later, Sutton’s progress was checked as the red flag was brought out for yet another time this season. An incident between Neal and Butcher saw the latter’s Focus head backwards across the grass at speed and after heavy contact with barriers, it went into several barrel rolls. The Focus was an absolute mess, but luckily Butcher walked away seemingly unharmed given the severity of the impact.
That meant when racing resumed, we were left with a 12-lap sprint race. Jackson got away well again off the re-start and Sutton was able to get ahead of Turkington on the opening lap. From then on, it was a case of how far could Sutton get in a ballast free and fast car.
Oliphant kept Jackson honest in the opening laps and on lap 6, he briefly took the lead before running wide and letting Jackson back through. However, this race belonged to Sutton and with a lap remaining, Oliphant was no match for him, although Sutton did run wide in passing him for 2nd. Jackson just held on to secure his maiden BTCC win on the final lap, but had there been one more lap, a different outcome would have been more than likely. Post-race, Sutton was awarded a time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage for his Oliphant move, resulting in their positions been swapped. Although Sutton would have loved the extra couple of points, he will still have been hugely satisfied with finishing 3rd after starting 25th, albeit with a huge helping hand of a red flag to bunch everyone back together.
As Turkington could only finish 10th in the final race as full success ballast took its toll, it meant that Sutton retained his championship lead, albeit by four points. After a couple of outstanding weeks for Cammish, including a 1st, 2nd and 4th at Silverstone, he is now seriously in the championship hunt, just 17 points behind Sutton. However, for Ingram, Silverstone was probably the end of his realistic challenge given the form of the three ahead of him and the fact he’s another 25 points behind Cammish. As is often the case for the unfortunate Ingram, a puncture and being wiped out was beyond his control.
Sutton is still the man to beat, as even when he has a bad day, like he did here, he is still able to find a way to score good points. It must be a hammer blow to Turkington to think that when he had a bad day last time out, it happened in the first race and on the fastest track in the country so the cars were much more spread out, rather than Sutton here on a sub one minute lap. And, on top of that, Sutton had the advantage of the red flag to regroup the grid. Although Sutton and his followers may argue differently, luck is still favouring the Infiniti driver.
Next time out, the series heads to the rear wheel drive favoured circuit of Croft. It is proclaimed that Turkington is the ‘King of Croft’ and he is going to have to live up to expectations if he wishes to grapple the lead back from Sutton. In such similar cars, it should be a great battle, but Sutton just has that edge when it matters this season and I expect Sutton to come away from Croft with a bigger lead. If Cammish can maintain touching distance, he will still be a contender with Snetterton and Brands Hatch Indy still to come.
Race One: 6/10
Race Two: 8/10
Race Three: 9/10
|Ashley Sutton||237 points|