The latest rounds of the British Touring Car Championship were held at Knockhill as the series made its annual trip over the border to Scotland. This is what went down.
Following a relatively poor showing from the main championship protagonists at Oulton Park, would they return to form at Knockhill? Ash Sutton headed north with a five-point lead over Tom Ingram.
Qualifying – Colin Turkington, Senna Proctor, Chris Smiley, Josh Cook, Jake Hill, Ash Sutton
Following a dreadful meeting for Colin Turkington at Oulton Park, which saw him drop to 9th in the championship standings, he took full advantage of having minimal success ballast as he secured his second pole position of the season. Oulton Park pole sitter, Senna Proctor, joined him on the front row, with Sutton 6th and Ingram 9th.
Race One: 5.5/10 – Colin Turkington, Senna Proctor, Josh Cook
- The top seven made excellent starts as they held position off the line, with Ingram moving up one spot and they stayed like that until the safety car came out after Dan Lloyd’s Astra continued in a straight line to the barriers at the Chicane on lap 4.
- Turkington made an excellent re-start on lap 11, while Proctor remained comfortable in 2nd.
- Chris Smiley, Josh Cook and Sutton were all close and traded places with each other during an interesting battle, with Cook securing 3rd, Sutton 4th and Smiley 5th.
- The main cork in the bottle during the race was Ingram who was carrying 66kgs, as well as the unfavoured tyre. Ingram tried his best to hold on as he had quite a queue of cars behind him, before finally relinquishing 9th to Butcher as Turkington won by over 4 seconds.
Race Two: 6/10 – Ash Sutton, Colin Turkington, Jake Hill
- Turkington, once again, made a great start, while the cars behind him had to avoid a stalled Smiley on the line. They managed to, but further back, Nic Hamilton was flung into the pit wall as he cut across the front of Tom Oliphant resulting in a prolonged safety car period.
- After the re-start, Turkington tried to edge out a lead, but behind him, Cook’s defending from Sutton for 2nd was short lived and Jake Hill also found a way by.
- Sutton slowly caught Turkington and his first real challenge saw a resilient defence from Turkington, which cost Sutton a little bit of time and enabled Turkington a lap or so of breathing space.
- Further down the pack there was a great battle for 7th with plenty of close racing, but as usual, it ended it tears for someone – this time it being Rory Butcher as he touched with Aiden Moffat and was sent into the gravel. Despite a safety car, Butcher’s car was surprisingly left in the gravel and the race re-started for 3 racing laps.
- Turkington and Sutton made a break for it and it looked as though Turkington would hold on for his second win of the day, but he ran slightly wide at the Chicane on the final lap and Sutton needed no second invitation as he pounced for victory.
Race Three: 6/10 – Tom Ingram, Senna Proctor, Stephen Jelley
- Sutton selected ball 9 to be on pole for race three and it belonged to Stephen Jelley. He was joined on the front row by Jason Plato, with Proctor and Ingram on row 2. The top two started well, while Ingram jumped Proctor as the lights went out. Cook’s car was soon in strife and as he pulled off, the safety car was called for.
- Plato was close to Jelley on the re-start, but to no avail as the top three tried to break away. However, by lap 8, the top ten were running bumper to bumper and as Ingram made his move on Plato a couple of laps later, he was hung out to dry and tumbled down the order. Similarly, all three Infinitis overtook Turkington as he was left with no room and tumbled down the order, before recovering to finish 8th.
- Jelley was coping with the pressure from Ingram at the front, but on lap 17 an incredibly late move from Ingram saw him blast up the inside at the hairpin for the lead, with Proctor following him through. Jelley then held off several cars to finish third.
Several drivers had an excellent race day at Knockhill, but none more so than Sutton and Turkington with a victory each and other high points scoring finishes. Sutton has extended his lead over Ingram in the championship, while Turkington has moved up from ninth to third in the standings, albeit only closing up to Sutton by a few points.
Turkington made the most of a light car and a track suited to rear wheel drive in Saturday’s qualifying and waltzed to his second victory of the season in race one, which was incidentally West Surrey Racing’s 100th BTCC win. Given Sutton’s usual and incredible pace, with or without ballast, Turkington defended valiantly in the second race, before an uncharacteristic error under pressure allowed Sutton through.
For Turkington, it will have given him the confidence that he can compete with a heavy car, but for Sutton it will have been good to see Turkington succumb to some pressure. Following two really poor meetings for Turkington, a big haul of points at Knockhill was vital for any realistic title challenge.
Similarly, Ingram’s victory in the final race of the day was also highly important for the championship. Sutton would have an even bigger lead at the halfway point of the season and it was important for the competition that Ingram maintained a close gap. It must be remembered that Ingram is driving a new car to him in a new team and that the team hadn’t even had a victory before Snetterton, so for him to be within 14 points of the leader at this stage is excellent. His move for victory in race three was fantastically instinctive and showed real determination.
Dan Rowbottom arrived at Knockhill third in the championship, but a tough set of races meant he only added 7 further points, but his teammate Gordon Shedden remains in the mix after three top eight finishes. Shedden, of course, has experience of winning the championship and as he settles back into the hustle and bustle of the series towards the end of the season, he can’t be discounted.
The next meeting re-visits Thruxton where there was a double win for Cook at the opening event and a win for Sutton, with Hill claiming a trio of podiums. It will be interesting to see if the racing follows a similar pattern on the bank holiday weekend, or whether the data from last time out and the season has helped others improve. Either way, Sutton’s speed will be on show once again as he hopes to extend his lead further, but the question is, will the others keep pace with him to keep the championship fight alive?
Championship Standings after 15 rounds:
|1.||Ash Sutton||172 points|