Author: BTCC on ESM

BTCC 2017 | Donington Park – What did we learn?

The first race weekend in the 2017 British Touring Car Championship failed to excite our correspondent. What did he take away from Donington Park?2017 BTCC | Donington Park

After a rather tepid affair at Brands Hatch last time out, the action and drama heated up at Donington Park on a weekend marred by the horrific injuries suffered by Billy Monger in the F4 support race. Apart from learning there was more brilliance shown from the marshals and medical services at the track, what else did we learn?

It is perhaps time to stop referring to Tom Ingram, Aiden Moffat, Jack Goff and Josh Cook et al. as ‘young guns’ and ‘rookies’ despite their age and experience after yet more sterling efforts at Donington. In fact, Ingram leads the championship, as his outstanding displays from Brands Hatch continued. Ingram was naturally helped in achieving this by Gordon Shedden’s failed ride height in the final race where he’d crossed the line first. However, Ingram followed up a strong qualifying with a brace of fifth place finishes and another win. He is deservedly top of the ladder and it is a great achievement for Speedworks and Ingram.

When you consider that Ingram is already 82 points ahead of Jason Plato, you would suggest the he will be, or is, a serious title challenger, but what is happening to Plato? His new teammate, Ash Sutton, has outperformed him so far and achieved two podiums at Donington, and these were achieved after starting at the back in the opening race after his qualifying pole lap was discounted. Rarely has Plato been uncompetitive in his BTCC career, but this season has been quite disastrous so far, albeit six races in and with a DNS. A serious championship contender can perhaps afford one bad event per season, yet alone two when the competition is as tough as this season’s. Although, I didn’t publicly air my predictions for the season, I did fancy Plato in what looked like a strong Subaru last season. Will he win the championship? No.

Similarly, Moffat won’t win the championship either, but we did learn that his consistent improvement over the last couple of years has been finally rewarded with a maiden win. It was a great effort from the Scot and I’m sure that it will be the first of many in what promises to be an excellent career. He seems a genuine chap, who just wants to race and not be bothered by complaining about boost levels and such like as some of the field mix themselves with.

2017 BTCC | Donington Park

The mere sight of rain clouds often causes panic and more debate amongst teams and drivers, yet sheer pandemonium greets the precipitation and it was no different at Donington. Generally, the drivers hate rain and the fans love it because it makes the racing unpredictable and ups the ante of excitement. Race three was no different. Several drivers took the scenic route on the warm up laps and the race was stopped after a lap with cars strewn everywhere, including leader Matt Neal. It was, as a fan, brilliant to watch. It was, as a driver, a nightmare.

Why? These drivers are meant to be the best in Britain, yet some of them are calling for the race to be delayed, stopped and so on. Motorsport is dangerous, we all know that, but if you’re not prepared to play ball, don’t race. Similarly, the F1 drivers have a tantrum at the sight of rain. They are meant to be the best in the world. Yet, their former supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, even pondered the idea of fake rain via sprinklers to liven up the races. As a driver, the spray is obviously horrendous, blinding, but surely in 2017 there must be some technological advances somewhere to ease the problem in one way or another? Admittedly, there were small streams across the track, but again, remind yourself that these are supposedly the best drivers in Britain. Again, do we not have the technology to easy these problems? A lot of questions, I know, but it seems completely stupendous that we have to stop racing because it’s a bit wet. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy – What did we learn?

British Touring Car Championship fans rejoiced at the weekend as the first of ten Sundays were taken over by the sound of purring engines and screeching tyres. After the first round of action, what have we learnt?

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy

With the grid being as strong as ever, it was important that reigning champion Gordon Shedden made a good start at Brands if he wishes to retain the trophy for a third successive season. And he did. Come 6pm on Sunday evening, Shedden was once again top of the pile following a win, second and a seventh. It appears clear at this early stage that his main challengers will be from the BMW trio of Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan as well as his teammate, Matt Neal. I would suggest there’s an outside chance of Tom Ingram realistically challenging Shedden too, if he can maintain his opening round form for the season.

Turkington looked like he’d never been away from the BMW 1-series, with which he won the championship in 2014, despite a two year absence with Subaru. His teammates, however, are still ahead of him in the points chart showing how competitive the BMW was at the weekend and will be, again, over the season. Turkington, of course, was not helped by Neal wiping him out off the start line in the opening race.

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy

A similar fate ruined Turkington’s former teammate Jason Plato in the second race too. Worryingly for Plato though, he and his teammates’ Subarus never looked competitive all weekend. A few regulation changes to the Subaru Levorg over the close season certainly looked to have ‘worked’, depending on your point of view. They will need to find some solutions quickly if Plato wishes to mount a serious title challenge this time around. (more…)

BTCC 2016 – Silverstone | Recapped and Rated |

Forgotten what happened in the BTCC last time out at Silverstone? You’re in luck, as ESM’s BTCC Correspondent is here to refresh your memory, and make predictions on tomorrow’s season finale.2016 BTCC SilverstoneEight drivers will go into the season finale at Brands Hatch with a chance of becoming the 2016 British Touring Car Championship champion following the latest rounds at Silverstone. Once again, the action-packed races produced three different winners and a bout of controversy.

Saturday’s qualifying brought a return to form for the MGs as Ashley Sutton took pole and teammate Josh Cook qualified third, with the duo sandwiching Tom Ingram. Andrew Jordan took fourth, Adam Morgan fifth and Rob Austin sixth, but championship leader Tordoff qualified poorly for the second meeting in a row, down in sixteenth.

2016 BTCC Silverstone

Race One (Sutton*, Cook*, 1st Ingram, 2nd Jordan, 3rd Austin)
The opening race was certainly lively, especially by first race standards. It started with Ingram taking the lead off the line and Jordan moving up the third, before cars swapped places up and down the grid, more regularly than normal. After a robust move to retain third, Jordan eventually lost out on the fifth lap as Cook powered through, while Sutton also closed on Ingram. It didn’t take long for Sutton to make his move and Cook was soon on the tail of the lead duo. Cook had a fantastic battle that lasted several corners with Ingram as he tried to make it an MG 1-2 and he succeeded following a little tap.

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BTCC 2016 – Rockingham | Recapped and Rated |

With BTCC back in action this weekend, here’s a reminder of what happened last time out along with ratings from our BTCC Correspondent.2016 BTCC RockinghamIt was yet another great day of racing in the BTCC, this time at Rockingham. There may have been a few more notable rough moves, but in general the closeness of the racing was incredible. There were once again three different winners on the day, but this time a BTCC record was broken as the 12th different winner of the season was crowned in the final race with the honour falling to Aron Smith. At the top of the standings, Sam Tordoff remains the man to beat after a couple of outstanding recovery drives after a nightmare qualifying session.

Race One 1st Gordon Shedden, 2nd Mat Jackson, 3rd Jason Plato
Race Two 1st Sam Tordoff, 2nd Andrew Jordan, 3rd Rob Collard
Race Three 1st Aron Smith, 2nd Gordon Shedden, 3rd Colin Turkington

2016 BTCC Rockingham

Championship Standings after Round 24 of 30: (more…)

BTCC 2016 – Knockhill – Reviewed and Rated

The annual trip to Scotland produced some fantastic racing, especially amongst the front runners, which hopefully now means we can forget about the driving standards furore of Snetterton.2016 BTCC Knockhill (C) BTCCThree of the most experienced drivers on the grid came to the fore with a win apiece, demonstrating outstanding defensive driving and a classic charge through the field. At the front, consistency was the key for Sam Tordoff as he regained the championship lead from Rob Collard.

Race One (1st Plato, 2nd Goff, 3rd Turkington)
Jason Plato started his 500th BTCC race from pole position after an incredibly tight qualifying session. Tom Ingram took 2nd ahead of Tordoff, Jack Goff, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan. The championship leader, Collard, once again qualified poorly, down in 18th.

As the lights went out, the top 6 all got away well from the line, but there were echoes of Snetterton at the third corner as Matt Neal barged Adam Morgan off the track, which left Morgan well down the pack and Neal with a post-race verbal warning. This allowed the top 6 to pull out a gap on the rest of the field. Jordan was looking competitive in the opening laps and he was soon ahead of Turkington after a sweet move at the hairpin, but Turkington kept pace and re-took the position mid-race.

Ingram found himself under immense pressure from Tordoff and Goff, before the pair switched positions over the start-finish line. Goff continued his pursuit of Ingram and after a long, late lunge on the brakes into the hairpin, he succeeded in taking 2nd. Tordoff then set about Ingram too, but his challenge was halted by a safety car to recover Warren Scott’s stricken Subaru following an incident with Dan Welch.2016 BTCC Knockhill (C) Subaru UKAfter the safety car period ended, it was a quick sprint to the finish, but it was just enough time for Turkington to make a couple of brilliant moves to jump from 5th to 3rd. His first victim was Tordoff, who was almost overtaken by Jordan too, and then Ingram at the hairpin. However, it was Turkington’s teammate, Plato, who celebrated his 500th race with his 95th victory and he also became the 11th different winner of the season, equalling the BTCC season record. (more…)

BTCC 2016 – Snetterton – Reviewed and Rated

After a long break BTCC finally returned this week. There was chaos at Snetterton, and our BTCC Correspondent has got stuck into the big debate about driving standards. Which side of the fence are you on about it?

2016 BTCC Snetterton

Hunter Abbott’s wrecked Chevrolet, following the incident at the start of race three (C) BTCC

The British Touring Car Championship returned at Snetterton following the traditional mid-season six week break and oh boy, it returned alright! Where to start? Three different winners? The first red flag? The second red flag? The camera gantry being rolled into by a flying Hunter Abbott? Drivers complaining about standards? The media complaining about safety?

It would be sensible to remind ourselves at the start of this article that, as Tim Harvey quite rightly pointed out on ITV’s coverage, all tickets state, ‘Motorsport is dangerous.’ Correct, it is. I don’t want to see anyone injured, whether it be minor or serious, nor do I want the unthinkable to happen and a driver be killed or anyone else for that matter. However, we must ask ourselves, why are we fans of the BTCC? Why are we fans of motorsport? We watch it because we want to see close, hard and fair racing. To achieve this, it naturally brings an element of risk and danger and it is something we have to accept if we want to watch motor racing. The debate to be had is how we control this danger. Has it become too dangerous?

Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s first race would suggest not. Qualifying saw Gordon Shedden take pole by the smallest of margins, 0.015s, from Colin Turkington who in turn was the smallest of margins, 0.013s, ahead of Adam Morgan. The gaps were amazingly small on what is the longest lap of the season. In addition to the amazingly close gaps, it was also amazing that it was the first Honda pole in over three years, since Donington Park in 2013.

2016 BTCC Snetterton

(C) BTCC

Race One (1st Turkington, 2nd Shedden, 3rd Jackson)
Turkington got away well from the line, but couldn’t quite take advantage of his start as Shedden retained the lead, but Mat Jackson was able to jump into 3rd. Andrew Jordan’s issues in qualifying were compounded by being pushed out onto the grass at the first corner, but he wasn’t the only one to experience trouble. Morgan was knocked sideways, but retained 5th, Alex Martin went off and Aron Smith picked up a problem to go with his ‘eye-catching’ new livery.

The opening laps saw Turkington keep Shedden honest and Morgan climbed back into 4th. Five drivers, including Turkington, were soon under investigation for a potential false-start, but none were found guilty come the end of the race. Half way through the race, Shedden still needed to be incredibly defensive to stave off Turkington’s attacks, but on lap 8 he could no longer repel the Ulsterman, as he made an outstanding move over several corners flipping from the inside to the outside and back to the inside again. Turkington’s move almost allowed Jackson to overtake Shedden too, but he couldn’t find a way by. Similarly to Turkington, Jason Plato felt as though he’d been held up by Tom Ingram and performed a similar move to his teammate on Ingram to take 5th. (more…)

BTCC 2016 – Croft | Photo Gallery

The British Touring Car Championship made the annual trip to the North East, and ESM’s BTCC Correspondent was on hand as usual. Whilst we wait for the words, he’s sent a selection of photos for us to enjoy first.2016 Croft BTCC

As you’ll probably discover, our BTCC Correspondent made the most of the pit lane walkabout to get up close and personal with the drivers. And their grid girls. But there’s race action in there too, we promise.

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BTCC 2016 – Oulton Park | Reviewed & Rated

Following a month’s break, the BTCC returned at Oulton Park as the series added another two winners to this season’s races.2016 BTCC Oulton ParkAstonishingly, one of those winners was former double champion Colin Turkington, who drove his Subaru home for a first ever BTCC win for the manufacturer. The win came in only their seventh BTCC race after their withdrawal of all of their cars on safety grounds from the previous three rounds at Thruxton. At the top of the championship, there was also a change of leader as Sam Tordoff now holds a single point advantage.

In the previous three or four seasons at least, Oulton Park has largely seen a procession of cars following each other around with very little action to speak of. Luckily, this season was a little different; nobody had told Rob Collard that you can’t overtake around the Cheshire circuit!

Turkington started Subaru’s unbelievable turnaround in fortunes in qualifying on Saturday with an early blistering lap that none of the other thirty-one drivers could beat. It was to be no fluke for Subaru as Jason Plato backed up his teammate’s new found speed with sixth place. An impressive Dan Lloyd joined Turkington on the front row with Tordoff in third, Tom Ingram fourth and reigning champion, Gordon Shedden, fifth.

Race One (1st Turkington, 2nd Tordoff, 3rd Plato)
The opening race of the day was surprisingly entertaining. Turkington made a clean start and retained his lead as Tordoff and Plato both made up places off the line. Lloyd lost a further place on the next lap as Shedden made one of many moves seen at Island Bend over race day. At the end of lap 5 and beginning of 6, Aiden Moffat and Rob Austin had an amazing side by side battle that lasted for nearly half a lap. Oulton Park is hardly the widest of circuits, but strong and respectful driving from both made great viewing. (more…)

BTCC 2016 – Donington Park Reviewed and Rated

The second meeting of the season saw the BTCC return to Donington Park. The three races produced some exciting racing, but at the end of the day, the championship had a familiar look to it. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent passes judgement. 

2016 BTCC Donington Park

Race One (1st Jackson, 2nd Cook, 3rd Ingram)
Ashley Sutton secured pole in only his second-ever BTCC qualifying session that was made livelier by a drying track. Teammate Josh Cook secured a MG lockout with Mat Jackson 3rd and defending champion Gordon Shedden 4th. Sutton’s joy was short-lived on Sunday as he made an awful getaway from the line, allowing Jackson to squeeze through between the MG duo for the lead. Jackson never looked back as he secured victory despite a couple of safety car periods at the beginning and end of the race. The race saw the Subarus struggle, Martin Depper off and missing wheel, Jack Goff in the thick of the action and Dan Welch and Matt Simpson in an avoidable collision that sent polystyrene everywhere. Simpson later admitted responsibility. The safety car was called for to recover the stricken cars, but the drama was only just starting as a well alight Subaru of James Cole pulled up at the end of the pit lane. Cole managed to escape the barbecue, but the race ended with a red flag and Cole’s weekend immediately.

Race Two (Collard, Jackson, A Smith)
Jackson made a good start off the line with Ingram moving up to 2nd but, as in the opening race, the safety car was needed at the end of the lap to recover Ollie Jackson’s Audi from the gravel at the first corner. As the race resumed, there was plenty of close action down the field, as it was almost 6 abreast over the finish line at the beginning of lap 6. However, as Turkington became sandwiched at the end of the lap, he spun off at the chicane and needed rescuing under another safety car period. As the race re-started, Jackson didn’t quite have it all his own way at the front as Ingram, Collard and Goff were in close attendance. Collard moved forward and took the lead with a few laps remaining, as Ingram fell well down the pack and Goff less so. That allowed Aron Smith to move up to the podium, despite Shedden’s best efforts.

(C) Honda 2016

Race Three (Neal, Shedden, Tordoff)
Sam Tordoff nearly secured a lights to flag victory after being drawn on pole, but his soft tyres gave up with a few laps remaining, allowing Matt Neal and Shedden to take full advantage to secure a Honda 1-2. The race contained plenty of passing moves up and down the field, with Goff notably overtaking Neal for 2nd on the 2nd lap. The BMW pair looked to make the most of their early soft tyre advantage, but the early hard pushing ultimately proved their downfall as the Hondas eventually clawed them back and secured the top positions. The race changed just after the half way point as the many cars running on soft tyres started to suffer. That allowed the cars on the medium tyres to take full advantage and it resulted in various drivers dropping down the field. Neal’s win meant that we’ve now had 6 different winners in the first 6 races of the season.

Like Brands Hatch in the preceding rounds, this certainly wasn’t the worst action we’ve ever seen at Donington. This bodes well for the remainder of the season. We’ve always been accustomed to close racing, but this season seems closer than ever with more cars seemingly closely matched. I watched the third race of the day, especially, with great intrigue as the cars on the soft tyres made a great start, but fell away badly. Some will argue that this forced running of soft tyres is interfering with the racing too much, but I think it adds great excitement to the championship. We will certainly need as much excitement as we can get further down the field, as Honda continue to dominate the standings.

(C) Honda

No prizes for guessing who’s on top, of the leaderboard.

Championship Standings after Round 6 of 30: (more…)