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.
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.
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.
No prizes for guessing who’s on top, of the leaderboard.
Championship Standings after Round 6 of 30: (more…)