The second proceedings of this season’s races took place in mixed conditions on the Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch, as we continued to learn about the new hybrid technology.
Qualifying – Colin Turkington, Jake Hill, Stephen Jelley, Adam Morgan, Josh Cook, Tom Ingram
On sunny Saturday, Colin Turkington claimed his 25th BTCC pole position and headed the way for a first 1-2-3 in qualifying for West Surrey Racing, although it had previously been achieved in races. Another BMW lined-up in 4th under Adam Morgan’s stewardship, with Josh Cook leading the way as the highest front wheel drive car in 5th. Early championship leader, Tom Ingram, rounded up the top six.
Race One, 8/10 – Josh Cook, Tom Ingram, Dan Cammish
- The race started on a damp track with the majority of the grid choosing wet tyres. However, Rory Butcher, starting 9th, chanced his arm on slicks. He didn’t start well and ended up well down the pack.
- At the front, Turkington and Hill retained position and after a few laps, Hill applied heavy, but unsuccessful, pressure for the lead.
- On lap 7, Cook made a move stick on Jelley, after previously being denied, and he soon found his way onto the back of Hill. As Cook made his move on Hill at the halfway point of the race, Butcher set the fastest lap, albeit being out of the top 20.
- It didn’t take long for Cook to make use of his tighter lines and he overtook Turkington for the lead, as the latter slipped several positions to finish 5th, behind Hill. However, Butcher had driven brilliantly to be 5th, but a last corner spin pushed him down a couple of places.
- The drying track conditions catered for an excellent race with many drivers moving up and down the grid depending on their type and condition of their tyres.
Race Two, 7.5/10 – Josh Cook, Dan Cammish, Rory Butcher
- In similar conditions to the opening race, Cook kept the lead as the lights went out. It was a chaotic opening lap with cars on and off the track and while Hill and Turkington made their way to 2nd and 3rd, Turkington didn’t stay there for long.
- Ingram and Dan Cammish soon found their way by Turkington, as did Sutton, before the pair exchanged places several times with the 2021 champion eventually coming out on top.
- In a typical BTCC moment, Butcher went briefly 2nd with a move on Hill, but Hill got the position back, before Cammish came in to take a position away from Butcher too, leaving him 4th. The pair resumed their battle later in the race, but Cammish finished ahead in 2nd at the chequered flag.
- At the front, Cook and Hill were incredibly close and Cammish started to close in on the pair. However, Hill lost control and slid wide with a lap to go, leaving Cook to win for the second time in a few hours.
Race Three, 6/10 – Colin Turkington, Jake Hill, Bobby Thompson
- A full twelve cars were reversed for the final race, in wet conditions, with Tom Chilton drawn on pole from Bobby Thompson and Turkington, who soon swapped positions off the line.
- Jason Plato was a little optimistic with a move at Druids on the opening lap and beached himself in the gravel resulting in a safety car period.
- After the re-start, Turkington looked incredibly racy and pulled a superb move on Chilton that took around a quarter of lap on the outside line. It was a move that inspired teammate Hill to do something similar to Thompson a few laps later for 3rd.
- Chilton soon lost out to the pair and after slight contact during the moves, he suffered a puncture a couple of laps later.
- Meanwhile, Turkington pulled out a huge six second lead, but that was evaporated by another safety car to recover Chilton’s car, that came out of the pits on slicks after his puncture.
- Turkington controlled the re-start well and cruised home to secure his first win of the season.
It was a highly enjoyable day’s racing that was clearly helped somewhat by two of the races starting on a damp, but drying track, leaving drivers with a tyre gamble. In the opening race, it so nearly paid off for Butcher, despite going off on the green flag and ending up outside of the top 20 in the opening parts of the race. Had Butcher had another lap or two, we could have witnessed one of the greatest victories in the BTCC.
While the gamble worked for Butcher, the conditions proved difficult for some teams to cater for. As now seems the norm, Turkington and WSR just cannot find the right set up for mixed conditions, with them preferring either fully dry or wet conditions.
On Saturday, WSR showed their pre-season form, that was perhaps missing a little from Donington Park, as they powered to a first-ever 1-2-3 qualifying lockout for the team in fully dry and sunny conditions. Similarly, the team secured a 1-2 in the final race in wet conditions. It was a vital victory for Turkington too as he got this season’s title challenge underway.
However, at the top of the championship table remains Ingram, after an excellent trio of top five finishes. Ingram couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season, but it must be said that he is being closely followed by a string of championship stalwarts. There is no chance of him having an easy ride this season as he looks to secure his first BTCC title after years of trying.
At Brands, in particular, Cook once again showed that man and machinery are at one with his double victory. Cook has to be seen as a real contender this year with his experience and natural ability to get results in the Honda Civic Type R.
While Hill is lacking experience in a rear-wheel drive BMW, he isn’t showing it at all. He is consistently putting more experienced teammate Turkington under pressure and delivering high quality results. Time will tell if Hill can continue the form he has opened the season with, but you wouldn’t bet against it.
Finally, at Brands Hatch we saw the second race with hybrid technology being implemented. With the mixed weather and racing conditions, plus a general lack of experience with how it works in a race format, it was hard to assess its impact. The graphics are blue lights are helpful to the spectators, but a true assessment of how it has impacted on the championship will need to be made in a few races time. The extra speed it will give the drivers could be frightening at Thruxton, already the UK’s fastest circuit, next time out.
2022 BTCC Championship Standings:
|1. Tom Ingram||92 points|
|2. Josh Cook||84|
|3. Ashley Sutton||71|
|4. Jake Hill||69|
|5. Colin Turkington||69|
|6. Gordon Shedden||67|