Colin Turkington stamped his authority on raceday and his intent to win the 2013 version of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill by taking two dominant wins whilst Rob Austin showed much improved form in his popular Audi A4 "Sherman"
Better go and put that kettle on...
Matt Neal said at the start of the season that along with Plato, Shedden, Jordan and himself, that Turkington was not to be ruled out of the title race and the 2009 BTCC Champion proved that at Knockhill making sure that the 2013 title fight would continue to remain close.
MG, however, had a weekend to forget at the scottish venue with both MG6's showing to be uncompetitive in the days three races and putting Plato on the backfoot in the championship. Both the Honda and BMW teams would make gains and show that since the mid-season break they are the cars to beat.
There were some new and old faces that joined/returned to the BTCC at Knockhill. Fan favourite and ITV4 Pundit Paul O'Neill signed a deal with Team HARD to take part in all three races in a Vauxhall Insignia. He was joined by scottish driver Kieran Gallagher who would drive the 2nd Team HARD Vauxhall Insignia. It is hoped that in 2014, O'Neill will be a full time driver in the ever expanding Team HARD roster.
16 year old racer Aiden Moffat would join Finesse Motorsport in the S2000 Chevrolet Cruze that Joe Girling piloted earlier in the season and would also take Tom Chilton's record for being the youngest diver to take part in the BTCC. Renault Clio Cup racer Mike Bushell replaced Andy Neate in the IP Tech NGTC Chevrolet Cruze after a positive test at Snetterton.
As is the way when the championship makes its annual trek north of the border, there are a few who can't or don't make the trip for budget or other reasons. James Kaye and Shaun Hollamby's AmD team didn't make the trip, neither did Andy Jordan's Pirtek Racing team mate Jeff Smith.
In qualifying for race one, Rob Austin took a surprise Pole Position by 47 thousandths of a second from Colin Turkington, ensuring an all RWD front row for race one. Andrew Jordan would show his awesome qualifying pace that has become the norm this season by taking 3rd place. However due to his third visit with the stewards at Snetterton, Jordan had a 6 place penalty and this left him 9th after adjusted times.
There was a break during qualifying as Warren Scott went off at Scotsman corner in his NGTC VW Passat and both O'Neill and Gallagher made a good start to their partnership as Paul ran into the back of Kieran during the session. Paul would start 17th in race one in what turned out to be a difficult race day for the fan's favourite.
So the top ten for race one was Austin on Pole, Turkington, Shedden, Plato, Neal, Morgan, Wrathall, Tordoff, Jordan and an excellent 10th place for Dan Welch in "Optimus" the Proton. Lea Wood took Pole Position for the Jack Sears Trophy from Liam Griffin.
I am so loving the fact of the names that some of these NGTC Touring Cars have... "Sherman"..."Optimus" Naming your BTCC car for the season or for good should be mandatory.
Race one would see Austin get a great start off the line with Turkington and Shedden in pursuit all fighting for the lead. On lap 2, all three drivers would arrive at the hairpin side by side and thats where Turkington pounced, taking the lead from Austin with Shedden pouncing later to take 2nd from the Audi driver. However whilst Turkington disappeared into a lead he would not lose, Austin would chase the Honda Civic driver all the way but with no way past on the tight scottish circuit to regain his position.
Toyota driver Adam Morgan showed that once again he was not afraid of fighting with the big guns of the championship by passing Matt Neal and Jason Plato on his way to 4th position. Jordan would only move up one spot to 8th by the end shedding his success ballast for the 2nd race. Rob Collard in the 2nd Ebay BMW 125i would prove a revelation during the race, starting 12th and finally finishing 6th, showing that he has lost none of his talent in the team. Team mate Nick Foster however would have a run in with Paul O'Neill during the race, resulting in contact with the Team HARD driver, sending him into the barriers. Paul would not take part in race two due to the damage and would suffer further issues in race three.
Lets hope he gets a full season with the team next year in one of their NGTC cars.
After a brief safety car period, the racing resumed with Turkington taking the win from Shedden and Austin joining him on the podium. Morgan would finish 4th ahead of Plato, Collard, Neal, Jordan and Tordoff with Aron Smith taking 10th place in the Airwaves Ford. Liam Griffin took the JST win ahead of Lea Wood.
Race two offered more of the same excitement. Turkington motored into a lead he would never lose and this time with 45kgs of success ballast also added to the BMW. 4 laps in he had a 5 second lead! Austin make another great start in the Audi and managed to pass Shedden into the first turn, using the RWD start to his advantage. Shedden had no answer to the Audi this time around and they would finish in that order.
Rob Collard showed that he was definitely a man on form by moving his way from 6th on the grid in race two to 4th by the end. This was helped when Morgan pulled off with technical issues with the Toyota whilst the handling problems that plagued Plato in race one got worse with the MG driver falling back down the order.
Matt Neal found the lighter Honda more to his liking and with Plato falling back made his way up to 5th, but he had to fend off the attentions of his title rival Andy Jordan in the Pirtek Honda who, with no weight either, was on a mission to try and force the 3 time BTCC champion into a mistake. Neal held off the Pirtek Charger til the end, but whilst Turkington gained on points in the title race, Jordan was reducing the gap between himself and Neal.
Something that has bugged me is Andrew Jordan's ability to end up with Neal one place ahead or behind him in the races this year. Andy needs a break with either Neal retiring or with several cars scoring points between them.
Plato and Tordoff suffered handling issues whilst the Airwaves Focus was making an impact again. That Focus in 2012 was a revelation but this year it has been a work in progress. Whilst Aron Smith retired, Mat Jackson would have an entertaining fight with Speedworks driver Dave Newsham until the end also. Griffin took his 2nd JST Trophy during the race.
Who says short tight tracks make racing boring...
Race Three offered its usual action packed excitement as it does at all the BTCC venues. Andy Jordan was chosen for race three pole and duly led away from the start, repeating the same show that Turkington had dislayed earlier in the day by building a gap. Even a delayed safety car period to remove Warren Scotts stricken VW didnt worry the Pirtek driver.
Behind, Matt Neal and Rob Collard renewed thier old rivalry as they fought for 2nd place. Neal eventually managed to pass the BMW driver for 2nd and would try to catch Jordan but he was too far gone by the finish. Collard fell into the clutches of title chasing team mate Turkington and for a while it seems that the Ebay BMW team may employ team orders. But this didn't happen and after the race Turkington confirmed that it was still too early for team orders to be employed...
Rob Austin would take 5th place by the end after a great battle with Shedden, however this ended on lap 17 when the scottish Honda driver retired the Civic at turn one with flames belching from the car. Gordon escaped the car unhurt and the race carried on. Austin was followed by Plato and a hard charging Dan Welch in the Proton. Mat Jackson improved during the race whilst there were 10 retirements including O'Neill, Scott, Tom Onslow-Cole, Sam Tordoff, Newsham and Wrathall.
This allowed some of the other drivers to score points, with Adam Morgan making his way back into the points from the back of the grid, chasing the BMW of Nick Foster all the way to the end. Lea Wood would take the JST win in the 3rd race of the day.
After race three, it ws revealed that Colin Turkingtons BMW had overboosted during the race and this showed during telemetry that wilt the problem cured itself, he did enjoy a "boost" and was thus disqualified from the results.
Now my thoughts on this are echoed by fans of the BTCC. It was made clear that this was an issue set by a TOCA supplied part that malfunctioned and was not Colin's fault nor the teams fault. In fact this is what comes of TOCA adjusting the boosts on the cars for their balance of performance.
Of course if the boost was left at the same damn level on every car...
Anyway, race three finished with Jordan winning from Neal and Collard, followed by Austin, Plato, Welch, Jackson, Foster, Morgan and Will Bratt in the 2nd Rob Austin Racing Audi.
This left the championship still being led by Matt Neal as the championship headed off to Rockingham but with Andy Jordan only 6 points behind him. Shedden was in third on 266 points whilst Turkington was close behind on 263 points. Plato fell to 5th in the table on 239 points and soon declared afterwards that he was out of the title fight and that he was gunning for wins from now on.
That means that from now on, Jason is on a mission and in the right conditions that MG is bloody fast... Silverstone will be interesting...
After the Knockhill BTCC race weekend, Tom Onslow-Cole announced that due to performance issues with the VW Passat, he would not be racing in the last three weekends of the season and that these issues negated his 3 year contract with Team HARD. This led to Howard Fuller being signed for the last three race weekends at Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch of the season in the Vauhall Insignia as team mate to the returning Jack Goff.
But on the eve of the Rockingham BTCC weekend, TOC then announced that he had been snapped up by the Airwaves Ford squad to race the 3rd NGTC Ford Focus that Michael Caine drove at Croft earlier in the year. With a team like Airwaves taking on TOC, this is sure to up the game of its regular drivers Mat Jackson and Aron Smith, who incurred a six place grid penalty for Rockingham due to some robust driving at Knockhill.
This move also allowed Team HARD regular driver Andy Wilmot to realise his dream by signing up to drive the Passat at Rockingham only....
And so the game of musical chairs in the BTCC continues...
However I praise Team HARD as it is fast recognising good talent in the series and offering those drivers a chance to race in competitive NGTC Machinery, be it the Vauxhall Insignia or the VW Passat that has taken podiums this year considering the lack of development its had. I often refer to the team as the "Sauber" of the BTCC, offering the new and young talents that want to take part in the UK's top domestic motorsport series each season a chance to.
So, i'll leave you all with this late blog entry and my apologies, well aware that just 4 days ago we watched the action from all three BTCC races at Rockingham. Fear not, that blogs a-coming too...
To be honest I am behind as I am still currently looking for work. I completed a 2 week course which should open up some possibilities soon. But, fear not fellow TinTop fans!!! My enthusiasm has not dimmed!!
I'll leave you to your evening and let you enjoy that cup of tea thats due.