Donington Park

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 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…)

BTCC 2015 – Donington Park | Rated and Reviewed

Although we’ve already discussed ITV’s coverage of the BTCC, our Touring Car Correspondent gives his opinions on whether the races at Donington Park were worth getting so worked up over.
2015 BTCC Donington Park 001
After 5 rounds of the BTCC, I still didn’t have that excitement about the championship that I’ve had in previous seasons. However, in one race that all came flooding back. Race Three was everything you could have possibly ever wanted from a BTCC race. Finally, I have my BTCC excitement back and I can’t wait for the next meeting!

Race One can be quickly disposed of to the back of the BTCC drawer. Not a great deal happened after Jason Plato zoomed through into the lead, ahead of Gordon Shedden and pole sitter Colin Turkington, and he subsequently took a dominant race victory. Shedden and Turkington provided the ‘entertainment’ as they battled for second and that was that. A point of note is that Matt Neal, championship leader, really struggled with the ballast and soft tyres. I guess that is exactly what Alan Gow wants, to make the championship interesting. Hardly fair though. Adam Morgan, in 9th, was the best placed finisher on soft tyres in the opening race. It was cold, but have the rules gone too far in making drivers use the soft tyres three times in races one, two and three?

2015 BTCC Donington Park 003

Race Two saw a fifth different winner in 5 races as Turkington took his first victory of the season in car number 1 and his first victory in a front wheel drive car for a decade. (more…)

BTCC 2013 Round 2 – Donington Preview

Ahead of this weekend’s second round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, ESM’s reliable expert gives us the latest news:

This weekend sees the next instalment from the BTCC with the parade visiting the Leicestershire circuit, Donington Park. There have been several ‘upgrades’ to Donington since the supposed change of the British Grand Prix to the circuit which, rather predictably, in the end fell flat on its face. Whether the upgrades have been a success still remains to be seen, but the circuit luckily still contains the fantastic Craner Curves and Goddards to challenge the drivers before they hit the start/finish straight. It is however, a great shame that the iconic Dunlop Bridge has been dismantled and is now under the ownership of Radio 2 DJ and BTCC fan, Chris Evans. 

I complained post-Brands about the circuit not endearing itself to good racing due to the short lap. I am highly confident that we will see better and more exciting racing this weekend, as I believe the circuit layout is much better and we should see lap times around the 1 minute 11/12 mark. 

The weekend will be special for two people in particular: Matt Neal and Jason Plato. The third race on Sunday will see Matt Neal compete in his 500th race. Matt may not be popular with everyone, but this is still an achievement for which Matt deserves a huge pat on the back for from ESM. He has so far notched up 49 race wins and 3 Drivers’ Titles and I’m sure there will be more to come. Plato, similarly, also reaches a race milestone as Sunday will see him compete in his 400th BTCC race; once again, a big pat on the back for you Jason. 

Someone who will be pleased just to be racing this weekend will be Rob Austin. His Audi A4 (Sherman) has successfully been repaired with the help of donations from fans buying his ‘I fixed Sherman’ t-shirts, following a huge smash at Brands. I’m glad to be reporting this news as I did fear the worst when I saw the smash, but luckily for us fans the only thing hurting is Rob’s wallet. 

My final piece of news comes from Team Club 44. Andy Neate has announced that the team will not be competing in the next two rounds at Donington or Thruxton due to on-going issues with the Cruze. Luckily, for all of us who like taking pictures of cars at the back of the grid, we will get the opportunity at Oulton Park on 9th June- a date for your diary, I’m sure you’ll agree! 

I’m really looking forward to Sunday, as it’ll not only be a full day of motorsport as Formula One is also on from Bahrain, but because by the end of Sunday we should have a good idea of who the serious contenders are going to be for the title following 6 races of the season. I predict this weekend will be good for the Hondas, especially if the results from last year are anything to go by. The coverage starts on ITV4 at 10:45am.