Sunny conditions greeted the BTCC parade as they made their second visit of the season to Thruxton. Sweltering conditions at Snetterton gave the BMW drivers an unplanned advantage last time out, but would they continue to dominate at the high-speed Hampshire track?
Qualifying – Dan Cammish, Josh Cook, Jake Hill, Ash Sutton, Gordon Shedden, Ash Hand
Dan Cammish secured the first ever pole position for NAPA Racing in his Focus, while his teammate Ash Sutton, who started the day 25 points behind championship leader Colin Turkington, completed the second row. Cammish was joined by Thruxton specialist Josh Cook on the front row, with Jake Hill in third being the only BMW to qualify in the top ten. Gordon Shedden qualified in fifth and there was a season’s best of sixth for Ash Hand. Turkington qualified down in 15th, two places behind his closest rival, Tom Ingram.
Race One, 5/10 – Dan Cammish, Gordon Shedden, Ash Sutton
- There was a frantic opening to the race as Cook, Hill and Sutton were all involved in contact, which ultimately ended up with Cook being left down the pack. More collisions occurred throughout the pack with Tom Chilton and Ricky Collard notably bashed as a result.
- On lap 2, Ingram and Turkington had gained positions to 9th and 10th respectively after the dramas of the opening lap, but neither driver made any further progress throughout the race.
- The opening lap dramas allowed Cammish to get a clean break and by lap 5, he had a comfortable lead of a couple of seconds from Shedden, with Sutton slightly further back. Although the gap to Cammish reduced as the race went on, he managed the race expertly.
- Much of the race entertainment came from a battle down the pack for positions just outside of the points, as several drivers including Jade Edwards, Dan Lloyd and Ollie Jackson tried to gain ground.
Race Two, 4.5/10 – Ash Sutton, Dan Cammish, Gordon Shedden
- A great start by Sutton allowed him to move behind Cammish in a significant early change of position, although there wasn’t that much more action behind for a few laps.
- As the mid-point of the race approached, the top four had a good gap to Rory Butcher, while Cammish, once again, had a decent lead. The drivers involved in the lower end battle in race one, resumed rivalries to provide further entertainment.
- With Turkington down in 10th and Ingram 6th, NAPA Racing switched their drivers around on the penultimate lap, as they were clear of Shedden, to help Sutton’s championship cause.
Race Three, 4/10 – Josh Cook, Colin Turkington, Stephen Jelley
- Ball 11 was picked by Sutton from the bowl and that promoted Stephen Jelley to pole, with Turkington lining up alongside him. Michael Crees, Cook, Dan Rowbottom and Ingram completed the front three rows.
- Crees was mugged off the line and Cook was quickly ahead of Turkington, although Jelley held the lead for the lap, before Cook made his move around the outside of him.
- At the end of lap 3, championship battle team orders also came into play at WSR as Turkington and Jelley swapped positions, where they remained for the rest of the race.
- Despite a couple of lower down battles and good progress by Butcher, it was generally a poor race for action.
Thruxton didn’t provide the best set of races for the fans, but Sutton will be delighted with the inroads he made into Turkington’s championship lead, with it now down to just six points with six races remaining. While the conditions at Snetterton favoured the rear-wheel-drive machines, it was quite the opposite at Thruxton with Hill seemingly the only car to break the trend.
Hill’s results were solid, yet not spectacular, as he maintained his championship challenge. He remains very much within touching distance of Turkington and it will be interesting to see if WSR resort to team orders between him and Jelley, like they have with Turkington and Jelley. Will the ROKIT sponsorship come into play? Time will tell.
There’s little doubt that for the remaining six races, Cammish, who had his best weekend of the season, will support Sutton’s challenge. Sutton simmered in the opening half of the season achieving consistent results in a new car and team, but now he is on a charge following three wins at the last three meetings. He is certainly in-form and probably has the momentum with him at the moment.
Despite having three top ten finishes, Ingram was relatively quiet at Thruxton, although he remains very much in the hunt to win his first championship crown. Ingram will fight to the death and will be helped by having slightly more hybrid power for qualifying and race one, given he has dropped a place in the standings.
At the top of the tree remains Turkington, but with an extremely slender lead. A favourable reverse grid draw saved his day, as a brace of tenths was the best he could manage previously. Although he qualified in 15th, just 0.2 of a second would have seen him in the top six, such are the fine margins. Of course, hybrid may have helped. However, Turkington will once again have to deal with similar restrictions at Silverstone, where the lap time will be under a minute and the margins are likely to be even smaller.
The championship battle is well and truly alive and with four drivers seriously in the hunt, it’s going to be a fantastic final six races.
Championship Standings after 24 races:
|1.||Colin Turkington||311 points|