The weekend of June 29th & 30th saw the British Touring Car Championship roll up into the Cheshire parkland circuit of Oulton Park, one of the most challenging and formidable tracks on the calender. Oulton Park is an undulating rollercoaster of a track and has the added challenge of lots of little lumps, bumps and cambered corners.
Saturday saw the circuit bake in temperature of 29degrees as the European heatwave arrived in the UK. Honda & BMW paced the two free practice sessions, qualifying for Race 1 saw a mad dash as big blobs of rain started to fall, the whole grid looking to get a banker lap on the books in the event of the rain intensifying as Thunderstorms were forecast for the late afternoon. Luckily, the rain subsided quickly and didn’t affect running which saw Colin Turkington take pole position with Sam Tordoff alongside.
Sunday saw sunny conditions all day, albeit with lower temperatures than the Saturday but it was still a balmy 22degrees.
Race 1 saw Turkington start on soft tyres, something which was causing anxiety within the team. The concern being that the soft tyres would not hold up in the heat. Turkington made a strong start and was able to capitalise on the rear drive traction of his BMW 330 off the line and maintained his lead into turn 1.
Drama was not far away as on lap 5 the front nearside wheel on Matt Neal’s Honda Civic Type R popped off the hub, sending Neal into the barriers on the fast run into Druids corner. Neal was unhurt, but the ensuing safety car period was a relative god send for Turkington running on soft tyres.
Adam Morgan came to grief shortly after, retiring his Mercedes A class with suspension damage picked up on Oulton Park’s aggressive kerbs. Mark Blundell also retired with an overheating engine as his Audi S3 turned into the world’s most expensive kettle, expiring in a cloud of smoke.
Towards the lower end of the top 10 Tom Ingram, Ash Sutton & Jason Plato duked it out for seventh place, swapping positions and trading paint in true BTCC style. At the head of the field, Colin Turkington took victory; Turkington aided by the protracted safety car period, saving his soft tyres from expiring in the heat of the day. Dan Cammish finished in second, Andrew Jordan third, Rory Butcher fourth and Sam Tordoff rounded out the top five.
Race 2 would see Turkington start from first place, thanks to victory in Race 1. Although now carrying success ballast, Turkington was now running on the more favoured hard tyre which would hold up much better against the heat around Oulton Park.
Turkington once again sprinted away, the rear drive traction the BMW enjoys firing him off the line, almost immediately Turkington set sail hammering home the pace advantage of the BMW around Oulton Park. The opening lap meanwhile saw Rob Collard and Ash Sutton make contact, Sutton span which plunged him down the order in his Subaru Levorg, and it didn’t stop there. Coming down into the hairpin, Josh Cook rear ended Jack Goff under braking, firing Goff into the grass. Out of control,
Goff harpooned the Honda Civic of Chris Smiley which saw both cars retire on the spot, inevitably this brought out the safety car.
Turkington meanwhile continued to roar off into the distance, Andrew Jordan & Dan Cammish gave chase, but there was little they could do to respond to Turkington’s pace.
Excelr8 had a rotten Race 2 as both of their cars crashed out of the race, Rob Smith’s lurid crash on the way up Deer leap following side to side contact saw the MG collide with the barriers. The resultant crash saw the car very near roll over, bouncing airbourne on each of the four corners of the car; Smith’s weekend was done, his MG6 comprehensively destroyed.
Turkington by this point had clinched another win, notably, his 50th career victory in the BTCC. Andrew Jordan finished second making it a BMW one two while Dan Cammish finished in third, Tom Oliphant finished fourth and Sam Tordoff completed the top five.
Shortly after the closure of Race 2, the reverse grid draw for Race 3 was completed which saw Jake Hill selected out of the BTCC tombola to start from pole position.
The final race of the day saw Jake Hill start from pole position. Hill made a strong start and lead into the first corner, the race got off to a tidy, uneventful start, but there was soon to be high drama. Hill after just a couple of laps was coming under increasing pressure from Matt Neal who was flying in his Honda Civic Type R. Coming into turn 1, Neal put a move on Hill to jump into the lead, but over-zealous Hill trying to get the undercut on Neal tagged the rear of Neal’s Civic. This sent Neal into a lurid spin, Neal kept his foot buried into the Civics firewall to try and straighten the car up but no avail.
The spinning Neal produced a massive cloud of tyre smoke, and as a fully lit field of Touring cars barrelled into the smoke screen, some took to the grass while others hoped for the best, praying they wouldn’t T-bone a stranded car in the smoke. Jason Plato, who ran onto the grass in avoidance cracked the sump on his Vauxhall Astra, laying down a thick oil slick all the way from Cascades down to the hairpin. As the chasing pack hurtled into the braking zone for the hairpin, several cars ran off track, slithering off on the oil.
Hill meanwhile was back in the lead with approximately a 6 second advantage, Rory Butcher quickly chased down Hill in the space of several laps, but as Butcher lined up to pass Hill into the hairpin he slid off track on the oil laid down by Plato; Butcher taking the risk assuming the oil had dried up enough to give purchase back to his Honda Civic under braking.
Once again, Jake Hill set sail but now was being closed down by Stephen Jelley, but there wasn’t enough time for Jelley to chase down Hill.
Provisionally, the race winner was Jake Hill, but Neal post-race made his feelings felt and it did not take long for the stewards to hand Hill a 20 second penalty. This plunged Jake Hill down the order and out of the top 5 in the final result.
The final race winner was Stephen Jelley who claimed his first win since 2009, despite it being an inherited victory.
The next round of the championship will take place on the weekend of August 3rd & 4th on the flatlands of Snetterton race circuit.
1. Colin Turkington
2. Dan Cammish
3. Andrew Jordan
4. Rory Butcher
5. Sam Tordoff
1. Colin Turkington
2. Andrew Jordan
3. Dan Cammish
4. Tom Oliphant
5. Sam Tordoff
1. Stephen Jelley
2. Tom Oliphant
3. Sam Tordoff
4. Andrew Jordan
5. Rory Butcher
1. Colin Turkington – 195 points
2. Andrew Jordan -162 points
3. Josh Cook – 148 points
4. Rory Butcher – 147 points
5. Ash Sutton – 147 points