BTCC

BTCC 2017 | Croft – what did we learn? | Plus, exclusive photos |

Last weekend saw the British Touring Car Championship make the actual trip to the North East. EngageSportMode dispatched our BTCC Correspondent, ably assisted by Uncle Steve, to cover things on the ground as they happened. 

2017 BTCC Croft (C) BTCC

Shedden arrived at Croft leading the championship table (C) BTCC

On Sunday, BTCC fans woke to the worrying news of the injuries suffered by Luke Davenport, Jeff Smith and Aron Taylor-Smith after the horrifying crash in Saturday’s qualifying. With oil on a wet track, they were simply passengers as events unfolded. It has been a worrying time for the series and support races, as a whole, with some serious crashes in recent weeks. It’s strange to write about because this is something that we have not become accustomed to. It also shows the strength of the cars and the general safety of the series that when an event like this happens, we are so shocked, worried and surprised.

Ever since the eleven, or twelve depending on who you believe, car pile-up occurred on Saturday, I’ve been racking my brains to think of the last BTCC driver to suffer broken bones as a result of a crash. Yes, plenty have been hospitalised over the years, but to break a bone? The best I could come up with was Charlie Cox from 1995, but research suggests he suffered severe concussion rather than broken bones. I know Matt Neal drove towards the end of one of the recent seasons with a broken bone in his hand, but that wasn’t a result of a BTCC crash. Either way, the injuries suffered by Taylor-Smith (broken leg), Smith (multiple chest and shoulder injuries in addition to a broken arm) and Davenport (multiple chest injuries, lung damage, broken arm, leg and pelvis) are horrific, but thankfully rare. ESM would obviously like to send all three our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

With the traditional summer break now upon us, there is an outside chance that Taylor-Smith may be fit to race at Snetterton in seven weeks. However, you feel that it could well be the end of the season for Smith and Davenport.

Following the weekend’s action at Croft, the championship is starting to form a clearer picture. Astonishingly, championship leader, Gordon Shedden, suffered his worst result of the season in Race 15, a not so lowly ninth. However, of course he suffered a disqualification at Donington, a race that he had won. Eleven points behind him is Rob Collard who, given his past reputation, has surprisingly scored points in every single race this season and achieved a podium at each track. This new, steady approach from Collard is proving greatly effective and he will be hoping it continues for the rest of the season as he looks to win his first title. Behind Collard, are the two stars of Croft.

Colin Turkington, ‘The King of Croft’, is a point behind Collard and a further eight points behind is Ash Sutton, who is fast becoming ‘The Prince of Croft’. Sutton continued his excellent Oulton Park form by securing pole position in the truncated qualifying session and made an outstanding start to the opening race as the top six got away in order. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Oulton Park – what did we learn?

The thrills and excitement of the British Touring Car Championship headed north for the latest rounds at Oulton Park. Tom Ingram had been on top of the standings for the majority of the season so far, but he didn’t leave as a happy driver after a disastrous weekend. This was the major headline from the weekend’s action, but what else did we learn?

2017 BTCC Oulton Park

Ingram wasn’t the only driver to have a poor weekend, as fellow championship rival, Colin Turkington, hardly had a dream weekend either. Ingram qualified relatively well in 11th, considering the weight, but that meant he was in a dangerous track position as the opening race started around the narrow circuit, and so it proved.

Ingram was collected by Jack Goff and was left on the grass as a result, while the rest of the field filed by. However, later in the race, worse was to happen as his back wheel came loose and he retired accordingly. Like Matt Neal’s rather unexpected 2 pole positions in a row, Ingram suffered two DNFs in a row. Things hardly improved for Ingram in the final race with a spin, although he did pick up a solitary point for his weekend’s efforts with a fastest lap. Where does this leave Ingram’s title chances? Realistically, Ingram would have been delighted to be 3rd in the standings after twelve rounds and he’s still in a great position to challenge for the championship.

Similarly, you can’t write Turkington off, especially with his favourite hunting ground of Croft coming up next. Turkington had suffered from electrical gremlins during Saturday’s qualifying and they appeared to return after he bumped into the back of Aiden Moffat during a great battle at the front. The subsequent problem dropped Turkington to the back of the pack, something he did well to recover in the second race to a low scoring points position, before finishing fifth in the final race of the day.

2017 BTCC Oulton Park

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BTCC 2017 | Thruxton – What did we learn?

The British Touring Car Championship returns this weekend, with the action taking place at Oulton Park. Our BTCC Correspondent recaps what happened last time out at Thruxton.

BTCC 2017 Thruxton

Thruxton may be home to the fastest corner on the BTCC calendar, but the latest rounds won’t be remembered for being a classic. Other than the incidents of a farcical second race, it was, in truth, a fairly processional affair. However, what else did we learn?

First of all, for how many years have we complained about the tyres at Thruxton and, in particular, punctures? This year, there were no major incidents, which ironically meant it perhaps wasn’t as entertaining as we’ve become accustomed to. Whether the tyres will ever be good enough to allow a soft option tyre here remains to be seen, but great credit must go to Dunlop for this season’s tread. A slight change in the compound make-up and width seems to have made all the difference, which is great if the drivers can now concentrate on driving without the worry of punctures.

Another thing we have become used to seeing at Thruxton is front wheel drive cars at the front, especially the Hondas. Saturday’s qualifying and the opening race seemed to continue the form guide as the evergreen duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in the manufacturer Hondas and Eurotech’s Jack Goff held the top 3 positions. An astonishing point to note is that it was Neal’s first pole in nearly five years. However, from the second race onwards, it was the BMW show – helped by the sunny conditions, which in turn helped their tyres.

BTCC 2017 Thruxton

Wins for Rob Collard and Colin Turkington handed BMW their 100th outright BTCC win. It’s a great achievement by one of the stalwart teams of the series.  Following the BMWs’ performance at Thruxton, supposedly one of their weaker circuits, they must be seriously confident for the rest of the season. Turkington is now less than 20 points behind leader Tom Ingram and must be feeling confident that title number 3 could be on its way if his and BMW’s form continues. (more…)

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…)

Friday Photo – BTCC Audi A4 quattro Super Tourer with Frank Biela

Twenty years ago the British Touring Car Championship was reaching peak popularity with global motorsport fans. On track, the 1996 season was being dominated by an all-conquering silver machine.1996 BTCC Audi A4 quattroFull disclosure – the Audi A4 quattro Super Tourer is, without doubt, the favourite BTCC machine of ESM‘s Editor. Ever. He even has the t-shirt, although it’s a little tight after nearly two decades… So the news that Audi Sport legend Frank Biela is going to be reunited with the A4 quattro this weekend is a big deal.1996 BTCC Audi A4 quattroIn 1996 the BTCC was one of the most competitive championships on the planet. To turn up and take both Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles at the first time of asking, was a huge achievement for Audi Sport, and a massive marketing boon for the Audi brand. Using all-wheel-drive gave the A4 a big advantage over two-wheel-drive rivals, resulting in Biela winning eight races in addition to taking another twelve podiums. Weight penalties in 1997 meant Biela could only fight to second in the championship, whilst for 1998 all-wheel-drive was banned from Super Touring.

Although the technical ability of the A4 quattro was immense, Frank Biela’s own personal talent cannot be understated. Along with the BTCC title, his career highlights include: five outright Le Mans wins (2000-2002, 2006, 2007), two American Le Mans Series wins (2003, 2005), 1991 DTM champion, 1993 French Touring Car champion, and 1995 Touring Car World Cup winner. For many racing drivers, winning one of the above would be immense, but to do all of them is off the chart. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, all those titles were taken behind the wheel of an Audi. Cut Biela open and you’ll probably find his veins arranged in the shape of the Audi badge, such is his association with the brand.

So it’s fitting that he’ll be driving the A4 quattro BTCC racer this weekend at Knockhill, doing parade laps as part of the David Leslie Super Touring Car Festival. It probably wouldn’t have been fair on everyone else to let him actually race, we imagine. To celebrate, Audi UK have shared a host of photos from that successful 1996 season. Enjoy:

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…)