Could a second trip to Thruxton deliver some excitement to the BTCC? This is what happened.
The third race day in an action-packed August took place at Thruxton, with the circuit previously hosting the season opening rounds. Ash Sutton brought a 14-point lead to the meeting, with Tom Ingram and Colin Turkington his nearest challengers.
Qualifying – Dan Rowbottom, Jake Hill, Josh Cook, Rory Butcher, Tom Oliphant, Adam Morgan
After a low scoring meeting at Knockhill, Dan Rowbottom secured his second pole position of the season by under a tenth of a second from Jake Hill. Josh Cook, who had won two of the races at Thruxton in May, was joined on the second row by Rory Butcher. Sutton qualified 7th, ahead of Turkington in 9th and Ingram in 12th.
Race One rating, 5.5/10 – Josh Cook, Jake Hill, Tom Oliphant
- Cook made an excellent start and was soon in the lead after a couple of corners, and he never looked back during the race, as Rowbottom fell down the pack. Oliphant also had a good opening lap, although Hill pulled an excellent move on the brakes to take 2nd from him just before the chicane.
- A couple of laps in, after a small tap, Turkington was down in 12th, while Ingram had to allow a much faster Senna Proctor through for 9th. Sutton, meanwhile, was in a queue of cars battling for 4th as Rowbottom continued to struggle.
- Sutton made a great move on Adam Morgan for 6th, before immediately closing up to Rowbottom, who had been overtaken by Butcher, and he soon displaced him too. Butcher, however, proved a step too far as they finished 4th and 5th.
- Ingram was struggling with his tyres and the ballast at the end of the race with Jason Plato all over him and he couldn’t hold him off. Although Turkington initially made his way by too, Ingram recovered to reclaim the position to finish 10th.
Race Two, 6/10 – Ash Sutton, Josh Cook, Tom Oliphant
- As the lights went out, Cook made a clean getaway as Oliphant made another good start to take 2nd. Half way around the opening lap, Sutton was sandwiched between Butcher and Hill before coming out on top in 3rd.
- After overtaking Oliphant on lap 4, Sutton started to chase down Cook, who was just over 2 seconds up the road. At the end of lap 10, Sutton had an overlap and took the lead over the start-finish line after putting Cook under pressure.
- By lap 5, Ingram was on Butcher’s rear bumper for 5th, but it took a move ten laps later, before he found a way by, in a way that nearly let Turkington through too after he had been released from Proctor.
- However, on the final lap, Ingram suffered a front puncture and limped over the line to finish 12th as Sutton maximised his opportunity.
Race Three, 6/10 – Adam Morgan, Colin Turkington, Senna Proctor
- Eight cars were reversed as Adam Morgan was the lucky man to be chosen on pole and he made a good start, as Turkington moved up a place to second ahead of Proctor. However, the safety car was needed as an incident towards the back of the grid saw Jade Edwards and Gordon Shedden heavily hitting the barriers.
- The racing re-started on lap 6, as Morgan caused confusion behind, as he left it until the last possible minute to put the power down, causing cars to be overlapping each other on the start-finish line.
- The top 4 were fairly evenly gapped despite Turkington’s efforts to overtake Morgan, although Sutton was overtaken by Ingram and a few others as he finished 10th.
- A second safety car period was needed for several laps on lap 10 to recover Sam Smelt’s car from the barriers and this time Morgan re-started much earlier, but within a lap another safety car was needed, this time to recover Ollie Jackson’s stricken Focus.
- After the third re-start, Ingram and Cook battled well with Ingram prevailing, before he set off to capture Butcher, which he did on the final lap, to finish 5th.
- Morgan, meanwhile, secured his second victory of the season, despite completely missing the chicane with a few laps to go as Turkington’s pressure told. Although a huge advantage was gained for doing so, no penalty was exercised.
It was another excellent race meeting for championship leader Sutton, as he extended his lead over Ingram to a whopping 30 points after 18 races. With 12 races still to go, it looks extremely ominous for the rest of the grid as Sutton and his Infiniti seem unstoppable. All season, he has carried ballast, never mind full ballast, better than any other car on the grid and this shows no signs of stopping.
Ingram and Turkington struggled with their success ballast, but both showed that when they were lighter, they were more competitive and nearer the top of the standings. Interestingly for Turkington heading to Croft, one of his most successful circuits, it may be a small blessing that he missed out on the couple of extra points he would have had Morgan been given a penalty for cutting the chicane.
Turkington is now 5th in the championship standings, dropping a couple of places from 3rd, but as a result he will have 18kgs less, which could be crucial for qualifying and the opening race. As we saw at Knockhill, he performed superbly with less weight and rear wheel drive advantage.
Similar to Turkington at Croft, Cook has become a master of Thruxton with 7 wins and he also made use of front wheel drive advantage in Hampshire. It will be interesting to see how competitive he can be at Croft and whether he can sustain a serious title challenge from the good position that he is currently in. Cook is driving very well and shouldn’t be discounted from the title race.
Ingram, meanwhile, must keep plugging away at Sutton’s gap and at Thruxton he was, of course, hampered by his late puncture in race two. Given Sutton’s current charge towards the title, the points lost will probably make no difference regardless, but it would be great if we could actually have a title race and Ingram is best placed to challenge him.
Hill’s excellent season continued at Thruxton and he seems to have gone a little under the radar with his title challenge. He’s had eight top-8 finishes in his last nine races, with one retirement. Hill is bang in-from and even with the success ballast, he remains right in the mix. If he was to have one special meeting before the end of the season, then you just never know.
Next time out at Croft, traditionally the rear wheel drive Infinitis and BMWs should have an advantage, but last season Cook won twice, with Ingram securing the reverse grid draw win. Imagine what could happen to the championship if Cook won twice again this season.
Championship Standings after 18 rounds:
|1.||Ash Sutton||210 points|