2017 British Touring Car Championship

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Grand Prix – What did we learn?

With the 2017 BTCC title going down to the wire, Brands Hatch was set for a knockout battle. 2017 BTCC Brands Hatch GP

After another thrilling weekend of action, the British Touring Car Championship has a new name on the coveted trophy – Ashley Sutton. Sunday was certainly another day of twists and turns, but even Saturday’s qualifying session made headlines.

Sutton went into the weekend with a 10 point gap over nearest, and only realistic rival, Colin Turkington. A rain and red flag affected qualifying certainly went Sutton’s way as he qualified third behind Jack Goff and Aiden Moffat. Turkington’s BMW suffered electrical problems, not for the first time this season, and it meant he could only qualify in 17th.

Another disappointment for Turkington was that potential ally, in the form of teammate Rob Collard, had to withdraw from the weekend’s action after free practice as he was still suffering the effects of his heavy crash at Silverstone. Turkington’s other WSR teammate qualified a place behind him in 18th. While two of Sutton’s teammates qualified well down the pack, Jason Plato qualified in a handy 10th, although none of the teammates had particularly much impact on Sunday.

Race one certainly went Sutton’s way as Turkington struggled to make progress while Sutton took 3rd. Conditions appeared tricky at the start of the race as the track was damp, but drying. Astonishingly, no safety car was needed throughout the race, although Goff lost it at Paddock Hill bend on the opening lap and Adam Morgan had a few encounters with the barriers too. By lap 6, the cars on the slick tyres were starting to go quicker than those on the wet versions. The race was generally quite good, with the top 3 of Moffat, Tom Ingram and Sutton challenging each other well and by lap 10 they had a 15 second gap to 4th.

Towards the end while Sutton was, stupidly, considering what was at stake, attacking Ingram for 2nd, Turkington who’d make his way up to 12th started to lose places and after a final lap incident with Matt Simpson. He finally finished a lowly 15th to gain a solitary point. The gap to Sutton was now 24 points. (more…)

Opinion | The BTCC needs to decide what it wants to be

The fallout from the recent Silverstone rounds of the 2017 British Touring Car Championship isn’t going to go away. ESM’s Editor gets stuck in to the debate.

Things should be perfect in the BTCC world right now. The grid is packed, fans are flocking to circuits, and ITV is broadcasting the entire race package live and free from subscription. It might not have the same number of manufacturers throwing huge budgets around like the peak of the 1990s, but all that aside, the British Touring Car Championship should be in rude health. But it’s not.

If you’ve read the report from our BTCC Correspondent on the events that took place at Silverstone last weekend, you’ll know that driving standards are a subject nobody can escape from. The fact that Mr. BTCC himself – and Series Director – Alan Gow had to wade in and release a statement specifically addressing the issue, suggests how serious this mess is. However, Silverstone wasn’t the only rounds which saw driving that could be classed as poor and unprofessional.

Both Snetterton and Knockhill saw races ended for drivers thanks to contact from other competitors. Andrew Jordan’s statement at the weekend that some drivers lack ‘spatial awareness’ may be true, but the carnage created by his mistake at Knockhill means that nobody on the grid can take a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude on this issue.

BTCC 2017 (C) BTCC

Gow asserts that the drivers themselves are the root cause of the problem which, of course, is the obvious assumption to make. Nobody but the 32 individuals out on track can decide whether to ‘bung an optimistic pass up the inside’ or perpetually nudge the back bumper of the car in front to unsettle it. Only they cause those actions, and there is only so much the race organisers and stewards can do. Yet if drivers are doing this, surely it’s because of the situation that has been allowed to fester. For some on the grid, the chance of being penalised seems low, and in many respects the BTCC likes to make hay from contact and controversy. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Rockingham – What did we learn?

The 2017 BTCC title race is heating up, and the action on track at Rockingham was closer than ever. ESM’s BTCC correspondent gives his views on what we uncovered.

BTCC 2017 Rockingham

© BTCC

Rockingham is like no other track on the BTCC calendar and the sight of 32 cars heading towards the Dean Hairpin on the opening laps of the races was quite some spectacle. We, the viewers, were treated to yet another feast of close and highly competitive action over the weekend, but what else did we learn?

BTCC 2017 Rockingham

© BTCC

Most significantly, perhaps, there has been another important change in the championship standings.  After Knockhill, Colin Turkington was at the summit for the first time this season, but we learnt at Rockingham that this lead was to be short-lived. The man in form, Ash Sutton, produced yet another set of stunning drives to secure top spot ahead of Turkington. The question now is: Will he be caught? As previously mentioned in race reviews, Sutton has produced a series of brilliant drives recently, scoring high quantities of points, regardless of ballast penalties or even tyre selection. At present, it would take a silly person to bet against him winning his first championship.

Similarly, it would take a serious show of faith to now put your money on Gordon Shedden or Rob Collard after what for them, was a disastrous weekend, leaving the championship as now seemingly a two-horse race. The pair scored just four and eight points respectively. With their championship hopes in the balance as it was, this was a weekend neither could afford to go wrong. A poor qualifying session for both on Saturday set the tone for an unhappy Sunday. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Knockhill – What did we learn?

The annual trip to Scotland produced three entertaining races, helped by more incidents of dubious driving standards. The series left Knockhill with a new leader at the top of the standings, but what else did we learn?

2017 BTCC Knockhill

Colin Turkington now leads the way following a hat-trick of thirds from Ash Sutton, while the former leader, Gordon Shedden, sits third and twelve points off top. Saturday’s qualifying saw a Subaru 1-2 with Jason Plato finally producing what we’ve come to expect of him, just ahead of the championship charging Sutton.

Plato duly converted his 50th pole position into a 96th BTCC victory and incredibly his first since the opening race at Knockhill twelve months ago. Although Sutton raced hard, and after a failed switch to try to gain an extra point for leading a lap, this race deservedly belonged to Plato. Their challengers, Turkington and Rob Collard, were a small gap behind the top two, but miles ahead of the rest of the field, which were headed by James Cole, who achieved a career best hat-trick of fifths over the weekend.

2017 BTCC Knockhill

The Subaru dominance continued in the second race, although the drivers switched finishing positions, further enhancing Sutton’s title credentials, while the three behind remained the same as before. The main talking point of the second race came within the first twenty seconds as a large crash, triggered by Andrew Jordan, wiped out several drivers. Jordan out-braked himself which meant he rammed Matt Neal, who in turn went into Senna Proctor who then collected Jordan. A few others had to take evasive action and ended up in the gravel trap, ruining their races too.

It was good to see Jordan admit his mistake afterwards, although it didn’t save him from a hefty fine and penalty points on his licence. Jordan has never shown championship form since winning the title in 2013 and this was a poor mistake. A championship challenge isn’t helped by moving teams each year, but he just doesn’t look as formidable as he was once.

However, the Subarus at Knockhill certainly looked formidable. In the second race, all four were inside the top seven – quite incredible. Just why did they go so well? Sutton’s looked great all season, but the other three have been nowhere to be seen. In Scotland, real wheel drive power was a huge advantage as the top five in the first two races were all powered from the rear. But then, why weren’t the BMWs seriously challenging? This could be down to the Subarus’ boxer engine which allows for a better centre of gravity and on a circuit such as Knockhill, this extra edge could well have been the difference. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Snetterton – What did we learn?

A week is a long time. Here’s a reminder what happened last weekend when the BTCC circus rolled in to Norfolk. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent wasn’t too impressed with proceedings.

2017 BTCC Snetterton

The series returned following the summer sabbatical, but in all honesty, we didn’t really learn a great deal. After Croft, the championship looked like it was going to be a four-way battle and this weekend’s action confirmed this thought following heavy points hauls for the current top four.

Colin Turkington’s rear wheel drive power enabled him to make Jack Goff’s clear view of the track last no further than the first 100 metres or so and championship contender Turkington sped off into the distance, or so it seemed. An extremely rare mistake, or a slippery surface, halfway through the race caused Turkington to spin off, although he did eventually recover to seventh. Ash Sutton strengthened his championship position by hunting down Goff, who was set for his first win, and used his superior tyre grip to secure the victory.

2017 BTCC Snetterton

The day’s second race was again fairly dull until about half distance. However, this time it was a lights to flag victory for Sutton while all three BMWs hunted him down as a pack, although Goff ran second for quite some time. Rob Collard went into the weekend second in the championship and he needed a slight tap on Goff to achieve second in the race, although Turkington made a great move on him to secure the position for himself later in the race.2017 BTCC Snetterton

Sutton’s chance of winning all three races ended on an entertaining opening lap of the final race as a collision with Rob Austin ended both of their races, but Sutton later alleviated Austin of any blame, although it looked a rash move. Unlike the previous two races, most of the action in this race came at the start, rather than at the end. However, race leader Andrew Jordan suffered what appeared to be an electrical issue on the penultimate lap, whilst leading with a decent gap, which gifted the race win to championship leader, Gordon Shedden.

The victory meant that Shedden held on to his lead at the top of the standings, although with a reduced margin as the top four are now covered by eleven points. At the back of that pack, but most definitely in form is Sutton. Disregarding the retirement in the final race, Sutton had finished no lower than fourth in the previous eight races, winning four of them; serious championship form. (more…)

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…)