Driving Standards

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 | Silverstone – What did we learn?

You certainly cannot accuse the 2017 British Touring Car Championship of being anything but controversial. Silverstone ratcheted the tension up even further, but is the BTCC reaching breaking point?

BTCC 2017 SilverstoneThe latest rounds of the British Touring Car Championship certainly did not disappoint in the drama stakes. Everything is still very much to play for as we now head to Brands Hatch GP for the final rounds on the opening Sunday of October. At times, Silverstone seemed to descend into chaos, but at the end of it, the gap between the two title protagonists, Ash Sutton and Colin Turkington, hardly changed. Sutton started the day with a twelve point gap, but only conceded two points to Turkington. However, what else did we learn?

One of the main talking points from the weekend’s action proved to further focus on driving standards, or the lack of. So much so, it would appear to have hit a nerve with Series Director, Alan Gow, who felt the urge to speak out on Monday.

BTCC 2017 Silverstone

The opening race of the day saw Turkington start in eighth and Sutton tenth as the whole of the field was separated by an astonishing 0.886s during qualifying. The short lap obviously helped lower the gaps, but it also helped increase the action. Turkington battled his way through the field as Matt Neal, Mat Jackson, Dave Newsham and Ant Whorton-Eales did their best to halt his progress. Unfortunately, from Turkington’s point of view, Sutton did likewise and come the end of the much curtailed race, they were a place apart in fourth and fifth.

BTCC 2017 Silverstone

Who knows what would have happened had the race gone to full distance plus three extra safety car laps, but sense prevailed with a red flag eventually coming after the damage caused by a huge shunt involving Rob Collard. Having already seen Neal punt Jackson around in the race, the incident involving Collard appeared to be less clear cut. Aron Taylor-Smith appeared to lean on a rival amongst a group of cars, which in turn, resulted in Collard being touched and spat out on to the wet grass with an apparent lack of steering. Collard skittled across the grass and back on to the track, where he was hammered into by Will Burns and Andrew Jordan.

The damage to Collard’s BMW was massive. Luckily, the damage to Collard himself seemed to be less, but he wouldn’t compete for the rest of the day. Burns, took longer to be extricated from the car and it was because of this, the red flag came out. Jordan, although his car was damaged, managed to limp back to the pits before complaining about others’ “spatial awareness” on track. This did appear to be a racing incident with unfortunate consequences. A small lean would generally be classed as acceptable, but the trouble was this time a series of events followed that never could have been predicted. The stewards also issued no penalties for the incident, again backing up the racing incident line.

The shortened race itself saw Tom Ingram take victory from pole sitter Jack Goff, after a better start, with Adam Morgan finishing third.

In the second race, Jordan’s own “spatial awareness” caught him out as he appeared to be at fault for a collision with Stephen Jelley, but again the stewards took no further action. However, action was to be taken at the end of the race against Sutton following an incident with Turkington. (more…)