The first meeting of back-to-back September weekends took place at Croft, where championship leader, Ash Sutton, arrived with a comfortable 30-point lead. Would nearest rival, Tom Ingram, close the gap or would a new contender emerge to threaten Sutton’s dominance?
Qualifying: Aiden Moffat, Jake Hill, Colin Turkington, Senna Proctor, Adam Morgan, Tom Oliphant
Saturday’s qualifying session was interrupted by two red flags after incidents for Rory Butcher and Nic Hamilton. As the chequered flag came out, it wasn’t a pole for Sutton’s Infiniti, but a first-ever pole for his teammate, Aiden Moffat. Jake Hill joined him on the front row, with Colin Turkington and Senna Proctor behind them. Sutton qualified a solid 8th with full ballast, while Ingram was down in 21st.
Race One: 3.5/10 – Aiden Moffat, Jake Hill, Senna Proctor
- The top three drivers made clean getaways and despite Turkington’s best efforts, he remained in third, but after being slightly out of position, Proctor found a way by at Tower corner.
- By the end of lap 2, Hill was right on the back of Moffat, where he remained for the entire race without ever having a serious overtaking chance.
- The race was interrupted by a four lap safety car period to recover Dan Rowbottom’s stricken car, but following the re-start it was incredibly processional. Sutton managed to gain a couple of places to finish 6th, while Ingram recovered to 12th.
Race Two: 6.5/10 – Jake Hill, Aiden Moffat, Josh Cook
- Moffat retained the lead off the line and despite another good Turkington start, he made no progress as Josh Cook made contact with him.
- Hill, however, would not follow Moffat this time as he made a great move over a third of a lap to take the lead and scampered off to take victory by the biggest margin so far this season.
- At the end of the opening lap, a collision between Butcher and Tom Chilton required the safety car, while a kerb strike also had Tom Oliphant as an early casualty.
- Following the re-start, Moffat was holding up several cars, but he valiantly defended in the right areas of the track and Cook wasn’t able to overtake.
- Turkington regained 4th from Proctor and was soon on to Cook, but after being on the outside line, Gordon Shedden nudged him off as Ingram was in the mix too, leaving Sutton to overtake them all leaving Turkington down in 9th, although he did recover to finish 7th.
Race Three: 4.5/10 – Colin Turkington, Gordon Shedden, Ash Sutton
- Turkington was drawn on reverse grid pole by Series Director, Alan Gow, with 7 places switched. The top 6 started well and some late braking by Turkington held off Shedden’s first corner challenge.
- Behind the leaders, drama ensued with several cars becoming victims of damage and a beached Astra of Dan Lloyd needed recovering from the gravel under a short safety car period.
- The top three were soon away from the pack, with Turkington slowly but surely edging out a comfortable lead, while Sutton put Shedden under immense pressure for the entire race.
- The top 8 finished in the same positions they started, which not only was some achievement for Shedden’s defending, but also Hill’s, as he also had a train of cars behind. Progress was made by some though, as Butcher moved from 29th to 11th.
Croft 2021 Analysis
In terms of the championship, the big picture didn’t change after some relatively average racing at Croft, in-line with what has generally been a very average season. Sutton retained his healthy championship lead, albeit with one point less and Ingram has dropped from being Sutton’s nearest rival to fifth, despite a brace of 4thplace finishes.
A superb weekend for Hill has propelled him to second in the standings. Turkington is now in third with Cook and Ingram just a point and two points further behind. If it wasn’t clear before, it certainly is now: this is still Sutton’s title to lose, with nine races left.
It could be argued that Sutton’s huge points lead is making the championship a little underwhelming at the top end, as realistically we know that he is going to retain his crown. It is going to take a massive series of unfortunate events for him not to win it, given that he and his car are seemingly at one in every race. Even with full ballast, he regularly makes progress, often ahead of his rivals.
At Croft, there were some good battles a little further down the grid, but at the front it was fairly processional with some good defensive driving keeping people at bay, most notably from Moffat, who had by far his best weekend in a touring car to date. The fact that the top eight drivers in race three, the normally crazy race three, finished where they started would support this argument.
A man ready for an argument after his premature exit in race two was Oliphant, who branded the circuit ‘a disgrace’ when chatting to fans, including ESM, after ripping off his rear suspension following a kerb strike. There were also several not-so-floppy markers flying all over during the meeting and their effectiveness and safety has to be questioned in 2021, not least when one smashed a windscreen during the Mini race.
The next meeting at Silverstone will define whether the championship is all over or whether we go into the final two meetings with a championship battle on our hands. Sutton can play the percentage game, like he did in race three, with the advantage he holds and it is becoming ever more difficult to see him not claiming a third championship crown.
BTCC Championship Standings after 21 rounds:
|1.||Ashley Sutton||247 points|
|3.||Colin ‘King of Croft’ Turkington||212|