The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship moved to Donington Park for Rounds 4, 5 & 6 of this years season and followed on from Brands Hatch by closing up the title chase and showing what so far is a very close and competitive field...
And wow did they go hammer and tongs at this one! Better go and grab that cuppa...
Team BMR stepped up in practice on Saturday morning with Aron Smith setting the fastest time in FP1 and showing that the Passat is getting better round by round. Tordoff showed an improvement in fortune by going quicker still in FP2 in his MG after a less than spectacular weekend at Brands Hatch.
In Qualifying, the promised speed from improvements to the MG came true with Plato securing Pole Position for race one. Shedden managed to get the Honda Civic Tourer in 2nd with Tordoff qualifying a fine 3rd. Turkington secured 4th in the eBay BMW whilst Aron Smith qualified 5th in the dying minutes ahead of team-mate Menu. Andy Jordan took 7th in his Honda with 45kg on board whilst Goff, Neal and Marc Hynes completed the top 10. With Giovanardi in 11th, all 7 champions were in the top 11...
Dan Welch competed in the new built 2nd Proton, qualifying last but looking to improve during the races whilst Morgan again was fast in the WIX Racing Mercedes, however he would lose his fastest times when failing the ride height and would wind up 17th.
Race Day brought wet conditions and race one would prove to be survival of the fittest as the track began to try but not enough for slicks. From the Start Plato led away as Tordoff got ahead of Shedden. Turkington took third as he made one of his trademark getaways from the grid.
Jordan made good progress from 7th on the grid, passing Smith, Shedden and Turkington in the space of four laps, overtaking each driver at Regate each time. Menu suffered in the conditions and fell back through the field, eventually finishing 13th, not happy with the VW in the conditions at all. On the other hand though Rob Collard revelled in the conditions, starting from 13th he moved up to 4th in the end.
Rob Austin took a risk pitted for dry tyres mid race going on to set the fastest lap but would finish a lap down. His team mate Hunter Abbott faired worse in the race retiring after contact with the Insignia of Warren Scott.
Plato won the race ahead of Tordoff with Jordan in 3rd. Collard finished 4th ahead of Turkington and Shedden. Giovanardi finished 7th with Neal, Smith and Tom Ingram taking 10th.
Race two saw Tordoff take the lead ahead of Plato off the line and passing his team mate into Redgate. But the race would involve two safety car periods. The first triggered by Lea Wood who ran wide at Coppice on lap one as Unoted Autosports James Cole took out one of the corner marker boards, before Menu had a huge spin exiting the Old Hairpin in the VW. It was a tense moment as the VW came back across the track in the slide, but somehow the rest of the field managed to avoid the Swiss drivers spinning car.
With Tordoff leading from Plato and Shedden, Jordan moved past Turkington for 4th just before Collard spun off the track and digging the BMW into the gravel at the Craner Curves. Safety Car No.2 was triggered by Rob Austin as he went to pass Chris Stockton, who had Jack Clarke on his outside at Coppice. The three made contact, causing both Austin and Stockton to spin. Behind them, James Cole was on the outside of the Rotek Racing Audi S3 of Robb Holland. The two made contact, and both hit the wall hard on the outside of Hollywood.
The Toyota was written off with a twisted chassis and losing both the right hand doors whilst Hollands Audi S3 suffered front end damage. Both teams withdrew their drivers from race three. The Race began again with spins from Hynes and Depper later on but none of this would stop or distract Tordoff from taking his second career BTCC win ahead of Plato and Shedden. Jordan, Neal and Turkington came home in 4th, 5th and 6th with Mat Jackson, Smith, Newsham and Ingram completing the top ten.
Race three saw for the first time ever the whole field start on soft tyres since their introduction in 2013. This was due to the ruling that if a driver cannot use his dry tyres due to a wet race, then his soft tyres nust be used in the next dry race.
Race Three was finally dry...
Hold on this one is a cracker...
With Turkington on Pole with Neal alongside it was looking to be a exciting race. Turkington shot off the line as the rest got away with Neal in 2nd. Jordan slid wide at Redgate losing places whilst further down Aiden Moffat spun off to the infield causing Warren Scott to take avoiding action, but unable to avoid tapping off Marc Hynes. With the safety car called out, on the run to the last chicane Gio locked up and this caused him to hit Smith, in turn sending Smith into Ingram. Gio would later be penalised for this.
As the race began again on lap 4, Turkington led from Neal who was immediately passed by Plato. Jackson was 4th ahead of Tordoff, Shedden. Newsham and Morgan were next but contact between the two led to Newsham going off.
This is only lap 4 for crying out loud!! Only 14 more to go!!!
Goff slid down the order after an off at the Old Hairpin whilst further ahead Plato, Neal, Jackson, Tordoff and Shedden disputed 2nd position whilst Turkington extended his lead further. Tordoff was passed by Shedden on lap 6 as his tyres went off and Shedden began his move to towards the front with a better setup. He passed Jackson on lap 7 into 4th.
With Jordan hassling Smith for 9th, further back an exciting scrap for 10th ensued between Foster, Austin, Ingram, Menu, Collard, Gio and Wood. Menu had started 29th after his race two spin and was all elbows in the scrap. As Tordoff fell back he was passed by Jordan and Smith whilst Jordan passed Morgan on lap 11 for 6th.
Shedden then began his charge. He passed Neal on lap 12 and Plato waved him past on lap 13. Shedden had 5 laps to close the gap to Turkington at 5.3 seconds... Whilst this was on, Plato fell behind both Neal and Jackson with fading soft tyres. Jordan tried to battle with Jason, but with the title already in mind, Plato held him back until lap 16 when the Honda went past.
Now take a breath... We're almost there!!!
However Shedden had his head down and he closed Turkington down to fight for the lead on the last lap, 0.6 behind the BMW. He hassled the 2009 Champion on the last lap and they wete side by side out of Coppice. Out of Mcleans Turkington defended causing Shedden to be on the outside for the Chicane. At the Chicane, Turkington was on the inside and the two cars touched with Shedden just ahead. This caused them both to go through the gravel with Shedden ahead and taking the first ever win for an Estate Touring Car!
Behind them both came Neal, Jackson, Jordan, Plato, Collard, Foster, Menu and Morgan. Despite an appeal from WSR, the results stood and it left a very tight championship. Jordan and Plato are tied on 87 points, meaning both will carry 36kgs at Thruxton, with Shedden a point behind on 86 and Turkington a further two points behind on 84.
The super fast Thruxton Circuit is next up on Bank Holiday weekend, the scene of two podiums for Tom Onslow-Cole in the then Team HARD. VW Passat. With Aron Smith and Alain Menu showing good pace in the cars so far expect them in the mix along with the improved Honda's, MG's and BMW's. Thruxton will also be hard on tyres so expect close, very fast racing on the highly abrasive track.