Five weeks after the season opener at Thruxton, the BTCC returned for Round 2 at a sun-drenched Snetterton in Norfolk.
Snetterton would also be the first time since October 2019 that fans, albeit in limited numbers, were able to attend the action.
Qualifying – Colin Turkington, Tom Ingram, Rory Butcher, Stephen Jelley, Adam Morgan and Ollie Jackson
For the first time this season, Saturday’s qualifying session took place over two sessions: a shortened 25-minute session to establish an order, before ‘The Top Ten Shootout’ to find a pole sitter.
Gordon Shedden thought he had secured pole in the shootout, only for his car to be disqualified following a wing infringement in the post session scrutineering. Colin Turkington therefore inherited pole, although he was fastest in the original session.
Race One, 4/10 – Colin Turkington, Tom Ingram, Rory Butcher
- After fighting off Ingram’s opening lap challenge, Turkington was in control for the majority of the race. Meanwhile, Butcher spent most of his race alone comfortably in third, but some way off the top two.
- Stephen Jelley and Ollie Jackson seemed like magnets for much of the race, before Jelley finally got the better of him in the final third of the race. Jackson was very much the cork in the bottle, but he defended stoutly.
- Although there were a couple of passes down the field, most of the action was provided by Jackson’s defensive driving.
Race Two, 4.5/10 – Ash Sutton, Colin Turkington, Ollie Jackson
- An opening first lap saw Turkington retain his lead despite hard pressure from Ingram who ended up losing out after being forced on to the grass, allowing Jackson through for 2nd. After finishing 11th, in the opening race, reigning champion Sutton made his way up to 7th as he made advantage of no success ballast and the soft tyre.
- Over the next couple of laps, Sutton scythed his way through the field with ease, as we have become so accustomed to, and he rapidly closed down Turkington’s 2.5s lead before passing him with ease, although Turkington did cut the gap on the final lap.
- On the penultimate lap, Jackson looked like he had lost his podium position after another defensive performance, only for Ingram to run wide at the next corner allowing Jackson back through.
Race Three, 6/10 – Tom Ingram, Ash Sutton, Gordon Shedden
- Team BMW pair of Jelley and Tom Oliphant were promoted to the front row for the second race after the reverse grid draw which saw seven car positions reversed. They both got away well, ahead of Ingram.
- On the second lap, Jelley struggled to slow the car down after the start/finish straight, but retained the lead despite a huge lock-up. At the following corner, his early braking caught Oliphant out as he tapped the back of his teammate. Although, Jelley was fine to continue, Oliphant was collected by Jackson and sent spinning onto the grass. The drama allowed Sutton to climb to 3rd.
- Meanwhile, Shedden was cutting his way through the pack like Sutton did in race 2, both from 11th, with no ballast and the soft tyre.
- On lap 5, Ingram took the lead and disappeared, leaving behind a good battle for 2nd between Jelley, Sutton and Shedden with the latter two securing the podium positions.
- Despite the lack of weight and soft tyre, Shedden could not find a way to get close enough to Sutton to seriously challenge him, while Ingram’s win was the first ever win in the series for Hyundai.
In all truthfulness, this wasn’t the best BTCC meeting there has ever been and there will be much better days to come in the season. However, Sutton leaves Snetterton leading the championship and his dominance in races two and three is already looking ominous for the season ahead.
Although Sutton qualified poorly, an overnight engine change seemed to have the desired effect in races two and three when he very much looked like his dominant self, once again. Understandably in race two, with no weight and the grippier tyre, Sutton made great inroads to win the race, but it is worrying from the perspective of having a close championship battle with the complete ease that he completed this.
What is perhaps more concerning for the fans wanting a tense battle, is the way how he not only went from 7th to 2nd in race three, but how he did it with full success ballast and the less favoured tyre. Shedden, with no ballast and the soft tyre, challenged Sutton, but at no point was really a favourite to overtake him. Are Sutton and his car just that good? Is Shedden’s car just not good enough? A mixture of both?
Meanwhile, Sutton’s main challenger last season, Turkington, will be pleased to have his first win of the season under his belt after a controlled performance in the opening race. In the second race, although Turkington did well to create a small gap from most of the field, there was no way he could defend from a ballast free Sutton, given Turkington had the full amount.
Intriguingly, three of last season’s top four, already occupy the top three positions after just two rounds, with Dan Cammish, not competing for a full season this year, the one missing. Ingram’s victory in only his second outing in a Hyundai will give him great confidence for the season ahead. Ingram has always been there or thereabouts in recent seasons. Could this finally be his year?
The leaders coming into Snetterton didn’t fair particularly well. Jake Hill scored 11 points throughout the weekend, Josh Cook 15 and Jason Plato not one. It will certainly be a concern to Plato as at Thruxton he was in the top six for all three races, while this time out the best he could muster was 17th in the opening race, despite finishing all three.
Championship Standings after 6 rounds:
|1. Ash Sutton||80 points|
|2. Tom Ingram||78|
|3. Colin Turkington||75|
|4. Josh Cook||60|
|5. Jake Hill||57|
|6. Rory Butcher||47|
The Snetterton round of the BTCC deserves a special mention for featuring two female drivers on the grid. Unbelievably – or, sadly, perhaps not – this was the first time a pair of women drivers had raced in the BTCC at the same time since 2001.
Jess Hawkins reprised her role as “super sub”, standing in for Andy Neate. Jade Edwards also bagged her first BTCC point, taking 15th place in race three.
Who knows, maybe one day multiple female BTCC drivers on the grid will be the norm? Rather than being something so shocking it has to be highlighted here…