The penultimate round of the 2021 British Touring Car Championship was held at Donington Park, in a change from the normal race meeting calendar of recent years.
Not since 2010 had Donington held the penultimate meeting, where Jason Plato looked to secure the championship title. This year, Ash Sutton is hoping to retain his title and he arrived in the East Midlands with a healthy 36-point lead.
Qualifying – Gordon Shedden, Dan Lloyd, Jason Plato, Rory Butcher, Senna Proctor, Colin Turkington
For the second successive meeting, the Qualifying Showdown format was used with Senna Proctor initially heading the timesheets. However, in the second part of the session, it was Gordon Shedden who secured a first pole of the season and he was followed home by the Power Maxed Racing duo of Dan Lloyd and Jason Plato, as they looked to continue their good form from Silverstone. Rory Butcher, Proctor and Colin Turkington completed the top six, with Sutton 9th.
Race One, 4.5/10 – Gordon Shedden, Dan Lloyd, Rory Butcher
- Shedden started well and retained his lead, while Plato was the big loser on the opening lap as he fell behind Butcher and Proctor. However, the racing didn’t last for long.
- Adam Morgan was sandwiched by a pair of MB Motorsport Ford Focuses and as he was spat out as the filling, he had a hefty smash into the barriers, resulting in a four- lap safety car session.
- After the re-start, Dan Rowbottom tried to take 6th from Turkington, but then Josh Cook became involved too. As Rowbottom and Cook held each other up, that allowed Sutton to nip through and overtake the pair and he soon set the fastest lap, despite carrying full ballast.
- At the front, Shedden was still having to defend stoutly from Lloyd, who was less than a second away, although Lloyd never really mounted a serious attempt to pass.
- There were some good midfield battles at the back end of the race, while slightly further forward, Turkington secured fifth from Plato, who just managed to hold off Sutton to secure a top six finish.
Race Two, 7/10 – Tom Ingram*, Gordon Shedden, Rory Butcher
- Butcher made a great start to the second race and after a short battle with Shedden, he took the lead, albeit only for a lap. While Turkington and Sutton were battling, Tom Ingram came out of nowhere to take 6th from Sutton.
- Ingram continued his charge over the next few laps and on lap 5, he was up to 2nd. On lap 10, a move on Shedden secured the lead with a run up the inside, before completing it under braking.
- Turkington was showing good pace and at the half way point he made similar moves on both Proctor and Lloyd to take 4th, before setting off after Butcher. However, after catching him, he ran slightly over a kerb and was sent spinning, before finishing down in 11th.
- Meanwhile, Sutton drove well, and with patience, as he eventually finished 4th after making some good passes as the laps ticked down.
- *Post-race, Ingram was found guilty of ‘pushing to pass’ Shedden and the positions were reversed.
Race Three, 7/10 – Colin Turkington, Jake Hill, Aiden Moffat
- Although Turkington was unfortunate in the second race, his luck was in for the final race of the day as a reverse grid pole was converted to a lights to flag victory, with a point for fastest lap too. However, Turkington couldn’t get away too quickly as there was a safety car period as Sam Smelt and Jack Butel collided.
- After the re-start, Sutton was all over Ingram, who was struggling again with 75kgs ballast, while news broke of 5-second penalties for Dan Rowbottom, who started 2nd, Lloyd and Nic Hamilton for grid misdemeanours.
- There was a great battle for 8th between five cars at the half-way stage, while at the front, there was also a good battle for 2nd, where Hill came out on top with Moffat through too on Rowbottom.
- The racing during the final third of the race was incredibly close as 13th to the back of the grid were almost one long train.
Victory in the final race, his 60th win, moved Turkington up to be Sutton’s nearest challenger with one event left. However, Sutton is unlikely to be having any nightmares as he once again maintained his healthy lead in the standings. Despite conceding four points to his rivals, everyone would be delighted to take a 32-point into the final three races of the season.
Like in recent previous events, Sutton drove relatively conservatively and waited his time in the races before gathering as many points as he could. It would take a disaster of epic proportions for him not to retain his championship title.
The battle to be runner-up remains close, as Ingram trails Turkington by six points, with Hill a further seven back. It is anyone’s guess who will finish second. Ingram’s car looks fantastically quick with no ballast, but with ballast it seems to be the complete opposite. Depending on how the ballast plays out at Brands Hatch, will most probably impact on who secures second.
Ingram was incredibly unfortunate to be found guilty of pushing to pass Shedden in the second race as it looked like the most minor of contact. The extra points could have been useful in his challenge, while Shedden will be delighted with his best weekend in the championship since returning.
As Sutton goes for ultimate glory in the next event, a notable mention must go to Shedden’s teammate, Rowbottom, who secured the Jack Sears Trophy in the opening race. He has a had a good season, with his notable high point coming at Oulton Park with a first and a second.
Championship Standings after 27 rounds:
|1.||Ashley Sutton||316 points|