A sizeable trackside crowd enjoyed the BTCC’s annual trip to Scotland and they were treated to three very watchable races, which hasn’t been the norm for much of the season. At Croft, Tom Ingram took over at the top of the standings from Josh Cook, but how would he fare on a track notorious for favouring rear wheel drive cars?
Qualifying: Jake Hill, Ash Sutton, Colin Turkington, Adam Morgan, Stephen Jelley, George Gamble
Jake Hill followed up three top five finishes at Croft by claiming pole position at Knockhill in his ROKiT MB Motorsport BMW. Reigning champion, Ash Sutton, was the only front wheel drive car in the top six as he made the front row, but was then followed by four other BMWs of Colin Turkington, Adam Morgan, Stephen Jelley and George Gamble. Morgan, however, had to start from the back of the grid following an issue on the green flag lap. Ingram qualified 8th, with Cook 14th.
Race OnE: 7/10 – Jake Hill, Ash Sutton, Colin Turkington
- The top five all got away cleanly, but Sutton’s tyres provided more grip early on and a great move at the start of the second lap slipped him into the lead. After a couple of laps, Hill was soon pressurising Sutton and despite a heavy tap in the rear and a real battle, Sutton held on for a little longer.
- However, on lap 8, Hill regained the lead, only for Sutton to take it straight back in great racing between the pair. There was nothing Sutton could do a few laps later as this time Hill’s move stuck as the top nine were practically in a line.
- As Hill started to move away at the front, Turkington pressurised Sutton for prolonged periods of the race, but to no avail and it was a similar story for Gamble on Jelley.
- Despite, Morgan’s green flag issues, he stormed through the field to finish 14th after his progress was halted by a determined Cook, although he did finally pass him. Ingram extended his lead over Cook with a top six spot.
Race Two: 6.5/10 – Ash Sutton, Jake Hill, Colin Turkington
- There were no position changes from the top four as the lights went out, but Ingram soon changed that with moves on Gamble and Jelley in an aggressive opening that was soon halted by a short safety car period.
- A lap after the re-start, Hill went wide and into the gravel at the chicane and Sutton needed no second invitation to take the lead. Turkington, meanwhile, seemed to be holding up Ingram, amongst others, but held position before building a gap.
- Turkington’s teammate, Jelley, then appeared to be the cork in the bottle as the top four raced into the distance and Jelley was eventually undone as several were able to find a way by.
- Like in the first race, Hill closed up to Sutton, but as he looked to strike, he ran wide again at the chicane allowing Turkington up to second, although that didn’t last long as he ran wide at the start of the lap.
- Despite Hill closing up to Sutton again and practically pushing him over the line at the end, Sutton claimed his first victory of 2022.
Race ThreE: 6.5/10 – George Gamble, Jake Hill, Rory Butcher
- BTCC legend, John Cleland, created minor disruption with the reverse grid draw by choosing ball seven, which belonged to Gamble. The leaders had a clean start off the grid, but within a few corners, Ingram launched a move up the inside of Gordon Shedden and as the pair collided, Shedden collected the unfortunate Dan Cammish as he re-joined the circuit.
- On lap 4, Hill once again went wide at the chicane and it allowed Sutton through to 4th, but, again, Hill reclaimed the place with good drive off the final hairpin.
- After a lull, the race reignited after the halfway point as Ingram continued to move forward after dropping to 17th and Turkington was all over Butcher’s rear. However, after not finding a way by, he allowed teammate Hill to try.
- After a couple of taps, Hill eventually overtook Butcher after great traction off the hairpin and despite Turkington nearly doing the same, Butcher held on. In the final laps, Sutton joined the party, but at the front Gamble zoomed away to secure his first BTCC victory.
After several subdued and below-par race meetings, Knockhill finally delivered some exciting and entertaining races; it’s what we’d been waiting for. The nature of the short circuit meant that cars were always going to be close together and so it proved with lots of action.
It was great to have three different winners at a meeting for only the second time this season, although you suspect that had Hill not made an error in race two, it could well have been the fifth time in six that we would have seen a double winner.
Hill has thrust himself right into the middle of the championship battle after an immense 59-point haul in Scotland and what a championship battle it is shaping up to be with four rounds remaining. Despite the poor entertainment in races prior to Knockhill, it has to be said that it has created a close championship and with 23 points separating the top five drivers, anything could happen going forward.
Turkington takes over as championship leader for the first time this season after a strong showing at Knockhill and it is a position he is accustomed to over the years. However, a five-point lead is nothing and you wouldn’t pick him as favourite to win, nor are you able to pick any of the other four. Even though Cook is 23 points behind Turkington, he is a Thruxton specialist and could easily pick up another double win there later in the season.
Ingram has been there or thereabouts all season as he has really become at one with his Hyundai and you sense that this finally could be Ingram’s year. However, current champion Sutton isn’t going to relinquish his title easily. All season he has driven with consistency, banking points, and he will be delighted with his strong showing north of the border, including his first win of the season.
It had also been a while since Hill last won, back at Donington on the opening weekend. A win and two seconds is championship winning form, but for him and Turkington there are no rear wheel drive favoured circuits left to visit. However, if they could perform like Sutton did at Knockhill in a less favoured power drive, they will still be in the hunt at Brands Hatch in October.
Who will win the championship is anyone’s guess and that’s exactly the situation we want to see. With especially the top four drivers in great from, it’s going to be a pleasure to watch the next round at Snetterton to see if we can form any further opinions.
Championship Standings after 18 races:
|1.||Colin Turkington||227 points|