The British Touring Car Championship returned after the summer break to the high speed Snetterton circuit in Norfolk. During the off season, the proposed Hybrid regulations for BTCC were finally confirmed, with Cosworth Electronics named as the Hybrid Powertrain supplier. The interesting news coming out of this is that success ballast will be abolished, instead the performance of the cars will be balanced using the hybrid system, the hybrid system will also be a bolt on solution, a hybrid methodology that has been evaluated by several series recently but is being put into action by BTCC.
The 2021 BTCC calendar has also been unveiled which will see 2 visits to Silverstone, one to the traditional meet at the national circuit and the first visit to the international loop(formerly as Silverstone South) for the first time since the Super Touring car era.
Saturday saw Tom Ingram claim the first overall Pole Position for a Toyota Corolla since 1982, the last time pole claimed by an AE86 Toyota Corolla.
Tyre choice would also be a significant factor over the weekend, with teams having to use Soft, Medium & Hard compound tyres, adding a significant strategic element to the race weekend. The performance gap between each tyre compound being half a second a lap, a soft tyre shod car having a 1 second a lap advantage over the hard tyre shod cars.
Race 1 on Sunday morning got off to a clean start with Dan Cammish harrying Ingram’s Toyota into Turn 1. Stephen Jelley and Carl Boardley came to grief at the tricky Brundle corner, both spinning off track. Matt Neal on lap 2 pulled off the track after contact as Ollie Jackson harpooned Neal’s Honda Civic on the infield, damaging Neal’s steering & suspension forcing him to retire. Dan Cammish continued to pressure Ingram as Tom Chilton kept pace with the top 2 in his Focus RS, however the chasing pack couldn’t live with the pace being set by the top 3 and a gap was starting to form.
Further down the grid Ash Sutton, Daniel Rowbottom and a recovering Chris Smiley were duking it out in the mid pack. Tom Chilton, in his pursuit of the Cammish came to grief as he suffered a puncture coming through the Bombhole, sending him straight on and into the tyre barrier. It was game over for Chilton. Stephen Jelley’s day went from bad to worse as he span at turn 3 on lap 8. Andrew Jordan meanwhile, who had been piling the pressure onto Jason Plato eventually snuck his way past as Jordan and Plato traded paint at Nelson’s corner and Jordan finally made the move stick at the Bombhole. Ingram meanwhile had pulled out a small gap on the Honda Civic Type R of Dan Cammish to claim victory.
Race 1 results.
- Tom Ingram
- Dan Cammish
- Sam Tordoff
- Colin Turkington
- Andrew Jordan
Race 2 would see Tom Ingram starting from the point after winning race 1, before the race even began Jack Goff’s VW Passat stalled on the grid and refused to refire, a bitter blow for the tenacious Goff.
As the race got underway Matt Neal was punted sideways and Dan Rowbottom at Turn 3 is also nerfed and sent sideways off track into the barrier, Rowbottom retires on the spot with a puncture and damage to the Mercedes A class. Colin Turkington meanwhile had made a brilliant start, using his BMW’s rear drive traction advantage to good effect; quickly pressuring Tom Ingram for the lead. Ingram, heavy with ballast was clearly the cork in the bottle as the chasing field packed up behind. Turkington bided him time as he simultaneously attacked Ingram and defended from team mate Andrew Jordan behind.
Down the order, Stephen Jelley came to grief once again as contact with another car spun him out and caused a puncture and rear bodywork damage at Turn 2. At the following corner Jelley, unware of the puncture spun out, scattering cars both sides of him onto the grass, it was another torrid race for Jelley, he was spun initially by Josh Cook’s Honda Civic and promptly collected by an unsighted Senna Proctor in his Subaru Levorg.
Back at the head of the field, drama unfolded for Ingram. Turn 2 saw Turkington sneak down the inside of Ingram who was subsequently crowded out by Andrew Jordan, Dan Cammish and 3 other chasing cars. In the melee, Dan Cammish repassed Andrew Jordan and Chris Smiley gained two positions. Tom Ingram after this point plunged down the order, an engine issue with the Toyota caused the car to drop several seconds a lap which left Ingram a sitting duck. Dan Cammish put in a stout defence to hold off Andrew Jordan who despite being quicker was unable to put a pass on Cammish. Colin Turkington meanwhile set sail at the head of the field pulling out a significant gap. Further down the order, Carl Boardley retired on the final lap, a bitter blow for Boardley who has endured bad luck for much of the 2019 season.
Colin Turkington meanwhile took WSR’s 10th victory of the season, a new record for Dick Bennett’s affable WSR squad. Turkington continued to further extend his championship lead.
Chris Smiley meanwhile would start Race 3 from Pole Position after being drawn in the traditional Reverse grid draw.
Race 2 Results:
- Colin Turkington
- Dan Cammish
- Andrew Jordan
- Ollie Jackson
- Sam Tordoff
Race 3, the traditional reverse grid race would see Chris Smiley starting from Pole Position with Ash Sutton alongside, desperate to win in what has been an uphill battle of a season for the 2017 champion. Jason Plato made a fantastic start in his Vauxhall Astra and immediately leapt past Sutton and Smiley into the lead, Sutton also got past Smiley but couldn’t fend off the charging Astra of Plato into turn 1. Stephen Jelley’s horrendous luck struck again in Race 3 as he found himself spinning off track at turn 2 on the opening lap. Michael Creese in his VW Passat got caught up in Jelley’s spin and broke the suspension on his car and it was race over for Creese. Ash Sutton meanwhile, running on soft tyres clearly had the legs on Plato who was running on hard tyres, the Subaru has lacked straight line speed all year but has sublime handling and cornering performance, good for a single lap blast but not ideal in a race situation if you get outdragged on every straight by the competition.
Jake Hill meanwhile was on soft tyres and charged through the field and was up into fourth place by the end of Lap 2. Behind Hill, Ollie Jackson, Andrew Jordan, Sam Tordoff and Rory Butcher were locked together in battle from 5th down to 8th, their cars resembling a single 16 wheel, 16 cylinder quad turbo train due to the non-existent gap between the cars. At the front Ash Sutton turned the heat up on Plato, the Subaru noticeably quicker than the Vauxhall and Sutton was all over Plato like a rash, forcing Plato to draw from 20+ years of BTCC experience to fend off Sutton. Meanwhile, the chasing pack was starting to catch up, giving Sutton the unenviable task of having to attack Plato and defend at the same time.
At Turn 3, after trying desperately for the entire race, Sutton passed Plato, but things were about to get ugly….oh so very ugly. Plato has a reputation as a robust driver and isn’t shy about trading paint, at the following corner, Plato hip checks Sutton, unsettling and almost spinning the Subaru off track and Plato retakes the lead, just a few corners later Plato runs Sutton onto the grass; At this point it’s clear to see that Plato wants to win, regardless of the cost. Sutton for a short time comes under attack from Rory butcher, who very nearly drags past the Subaru on the start/finish straight, the power of the FK2 Honda Civic’s engine clear to see, Sutton barely holds of Butcher by barrelling round the outside of Butcher at turn 1.
Ash Sutton steadily pulls back onto the rear of Plato’s Astra with Rory Butcher in tow, on lap 9 on the back straight, Ash Sutton pulls alongside Plato and Rory Butcher has grabbed a tow of both of them pulling onto the inside of Plato with Sutton on the outside. Coming into Brundle, 3 into does not go and Plato collides with Sutton, spinning him off and Plato runs wide as a result of the contact with Sutton. Rory Butcher passes both of them as well as Chris Smiley, Josh Cook & Rob Collard.
With only 3 laps remaining, Rory Butcher set sail at the front, Chris Smiley trying to give chase in the newer FK8 Civic Type R but coming under increasing pressure from team-mate Josh Cook. Cook eventually makes the pass on team-mate Smiley and is steadily closing in on Butcher but there simply isn’t enough time for Cook to close down Butcher. Chris Smiley meanwhile found himself coming under increasing pressure from Rob Collard, who nerfs Smiley at turn 2 on the final lap, though not to the extent that Plato did to Sutton.
Rory Butcher meanwhile, took the win, after a quick, conservative and intelligent drive. Josh Cook finished in second despite a valiant charge to chase down Butcher, team-mate Chris Smiley finished in third with Rob Collard in fourth and Jason Plato in fifth…..but not for long. Plato was handed a 15 second penalty, elevating Andrew Jordan in his BMW into fifth and plunging Plato down to 17th and out of the points. Tom Ingram was also handed a penalty for overtaking under yellow flag conditions, 6.7 seconds to be exact, although this didn’t affect his finishing position of eight place due to Plato’s penalty.
Post-race in the paddock, Ash Sutton certainly made his feelings felt to Jason Plato and you could certainly say it was deserved depending on your viewpoint. Since this sort of behaviour hasn’t been seen in BTCC for a few years now and reflects the change in driving standards, attitude and use of overt contact to pass another car from the old school (Plato) to the new school of BTCC (Sutton.)
Regardless, it certainly has tongues wagging from Drivers & Fans alike and it will certainly be interesting to see how Sutton & Plato’s relationship on-track and off-track changes, if indeed it does.
The next round of the championship will see the BTCC pay its second visit to Thruxton on the weekend of August 16th & 17th.
Race 3 results (Amended.)
- Rory Butcher
- Josh Cook
- Chris Smiley
- Rob Collard
- Andrew Jordan
- Colin Turkington – 235 points
- Andrew Jordan – 199 points
- Rory Butcher – 177 points
- Josh Cook – 166 points
- Dan Cammish – 165 points