Wednesday, 30 July 2014

BTCC 2014: Oulton Park & Croft Catchup...

So, its been a full six weeks since the last BTCC encounter at Croft and its been longer since I posted about my favourite Tintop series (Add to that I've changed phones to write this on...) So heres a catchup of the six races from Oulton Park and Croft, with an added debate on the FWD/RWD debate...

Oh yeah, I've been waiting to put in my pennies worth on that.

I recommend a good cup of tea with this one...

First... Oulton Park...

Colin Turkington took his third British Touring Car Championship victory of the season in the opening race at Oulton Park, beating home teammate Rob Collard and Jason Plato.

The result means that Turkington and Gordon Shedden – who finished fourth – now sit at the top of the championship standings, after previous leader Andrew Jordan endured a frustrating opening race.

In an unusually quiet affair for the series, the majority of finishing positions were determined after the opening lap as Turkington and Collard romped away at the front, the latter utilising a fast-start to jump Plato and Shedden, while Rob Austin was also able to move up into fifth in his Audi.

There was some drama on the opening tour, as Warren Scott and Hunter Abbott collided at Hislops and spun, while Chris Stockton slowed in his Chevrolet Cruze on track and was forced to retire. Aiden Moffat also retired his Cruze on the first lap after his best qualifying performance, with Ollie Jackson exiting the race on the second lap.

Although Collard briefly applied pressure to his teammate at the front, the gaps slowly increased from the middle of the race, as the West Surrey Racing pair were able to control their pace, with Jason Plato relegated to a watching brief in third.

WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan did his best to keep the Oulton Park crowd entertained, first passing Jack Clarke on the run to Old Hall, before getting by James Cole into Lodge, as he progressed to 18th after his qualifying off.

Having set the fastest lap of the race, Turkington eventually cantered to the flag, coming home 2.692s ahead of Collard, with a further six seconds covering Plato, Shedden and Austin.

MG’s Sam Tordoff and Airwaves Racing’s Mat Jackson had lonely but useful runs to sixth and seventh, with eBay Motors’ Nick Foster, Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram and Quantel BiFold’s Marc Hynes completing the top ten, the latter taking his best result in the series so far.

But for Andrew Jordan and Matt Neal, the opening race served a blow to their title ambitions as they languished in the lower reaches of the points. Neal retained his 14th place gridslot, overtaking Jordan off the line but relinquishing a place to Alain Menu. Neal looked increasingly frustrated with his standing, and after two looks into Shell Oils at getting past, he made his move on the final lap into Old Hall to salvage a further point for 13th, with Jordan taking the final points spot.

Colin Turkington won his second race of the day ahead of eBay Motors team-mate Rob Collard in the second British Touring Car Championship race at Oulton Park.

The WSR driver led from lights-to-flag and was relatively unchallenged during the race, despite a strong start from team-mate Collard. The duo dominated the race and were able to pull away from the chasing pack, thanks largely to third-placed Rob Austin.

Austin got the jump on Jason Plato and Gordon Shedden at the start of the race, using his rear-wheel drive advantage to maximum effect. Thereafter he drove a defensive race to score his first podium of the season, with the former champions unable to find a way past on the Oulton Park International circuit. Austin was later promoted to second, after Collard was handed a time penalty.

Plato and Shedden finished fourth and fifth after losing out at the start, thereafter unable to do anything about passing Austin in front.

Sixth went to Airwaves Racing’s Mat Jackson, ahead of Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram in seventh.

Árón Smith finished in eighth for Team BMR, benefitting when MG’s Sam Tordoff dropped three places on the final lap of the race. Tordoff held on to finish in ninth.

Alain Menu completed the top ten, making it two Team BMR Volkswagen’s inside the top ten. However Menu made contact with Airwaves Racing’s Fabrizio Giovanardi on lap five whilst battling for tenth, causing the Italian to drop to 25th. The incident meant that Menu was given a post-race penalty dropping him to 11th.

Reigning champion Andrew Jordan therefore finished 10th and in the process loses the lead in the points standings, with Turkington and Shedden now tied at the top.

The third eBay Motors BMW of Nick Foster had been running in eighth when his car slowed dramatically on the penultimate lap, forcing him into retirement with throttle linkage problems. Adam Morgan also slowed on the same lap and retired from the race when “something broke” and prevented him from being able to turn right.

AmD Tuning’s Dave Newsham and Pirtek Racing’s Martin Depper both met the barriers during the race, with Newsham causing the safety car to come out for two laps when he crashed heavily on the run down to Cascades.

Ollie Jackson, Chris Stockton and Aiden Moffat all endured mechanical problems in the race, with the latter failing to take the start.

Race Three from Oulton Park is my favourite of the year with Team BMR taking their first win. Being a fan of Tony Gilham and co, knowing that Warren Scott and Tony are working together, there were tears in the house for ghis one...

Team BMR’s Árón Smith scored his second win in the British Touring Car Championship, and the first for his team, in a damp final race at Oulton Park, ahead of Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato.

Smith led the entire race from pole position, having been selected by team-mate Alain Menu after race two in the random reverse grid draw.

Shedden made his way up to second on lap three with a pass on Rob Collard at the chicane after the eBay Motors driver went straight on at the chicane. The duo had earlier in the lap benefitted when Airwaves Racing’s Mat Jackson slid out of second at Cascades on the damp circuit.

Plato initially secured the final podium position, with the move coming on lap 11 when the MG driver nudged Colin Turkington out of the position at the Shell Oils hairpin. Turkington went on to finish fourth, despite looking like a possible contender for victory two thirds into the race. However after the race the positions were reversed, with Plato receiving a 1.1 second time penalty after the move was adjudged to have been unfair.

Rob Austin enjoyed his strongest weekend in the BTCC so far in 2014 by finishing in fifth to add to his earlier fifth and third in the opening two races of the day.

MG’s Sam Tordoff finished in sixth, his third top ten of the day, ahead of Team BMR’s Alain Menu in seventh.

Reigning champion Andrew Jordan was eighth in his Pirtek Honda, taking his best finish of the day in a difficult weekend for the 25-year-old.

Airwaves Racing duo Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi completed the top ten, with Jackson recovering from his earlier slide to pass Giovanardi on the penultimate lap of the race.

After his earlier off at the chicane, Collard was turned around by Plato at Lodge Corner on lap six and consequently could only finish in 11th position.

There were retirements for Jack Goff, Matt Neal and Tom Ingram on the opening lap of the race, with the first two making contact at Old Hall corner. Ingram stopped further around the lap with mechanical problems on his Toyota.

Robb Holland also failed to finish the race, slowing with problems on his Rotek Racing Audi after three laps whilst running in a strong 12th position.

Next... Croft...

Colin Turkington eased his way to a fifth win of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season at Croft, ahead of nearest championship challenger Gordon Shedden and MG’s Jason Plato.

The result means that Turkington now has nine series wins to his name at the Yorkshire circuit, and has won four of the last five races in 2014.

An initial delay on the grid meant that the race distance was shortened by one lap from the scheduled fifteen, after the starting lights were held for too long.

When the race eventually got underway, it was Plato who initially looked to have got the better start, but Turkington powered away in the second phase of the getaway with the former relinquishing his second place grid slot to Honda’s Shedden.

There was plenty of action throughout the order as the cars filed into Clervaux, with two separate incidents between Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan, and Adam Morgan and Rob Austin resulting in three-times champion Neal being tapped sideways, collecting Exocet Racing driver Austin who was turned around.

Jack Goff and Nick Foster also collided slightly further back, with the latter losing his bearings and cutting across the infield, before returning to the pits and retiring with suspected suspension issues.

As the frontrunners settled into a rhythm, it quickly became clear that Plato was struggling for pace, with the leading duo staggered ahead of him and Rob Collard hounding the MG driver for the final podium spot, after a traditionally good getaway.

Morgan had looked set to be the best of the rest amongst six cars but he pulled off on the main straight, as Neal closed back in on Plato, Collard and Jordan after his turn one incident after passing Sam Tordoff in the second MG.

Turkington set a new lap record – a 1:24.815 – early on in the encounter as he began to pull well clear of Shedden, the Northern Irishman extending his lead to a comfortable 7.478s by the end of the race, despite carrying 45 kilograms of ballast.

With the top two positions nailed on, the real battle was for the final podium spot as Plato continued to fend off Collard. The eBay Motors driver was relentless in his application of pressure to the two-time champion, drawing alongside his MG on the main straight and running wide at Tower in a bid to close in, but Plato’s calm driving and Stout defending won him a deserved third place ahead of the frustrated Collard, with Jordan and Neal next up.

Tordoff was in a similar position to his teammate as he was left to defend seventh place, but pressure from Alain Menu eventually told as the Swiss passed him into the Esses on lap ten, with Mat Jackson following the BMR Restart driver through.

Tordoff then retained his ninth place to the flag, but the spate of incidents at the start and sensible driving meant that Hunter Abbott was able to claim his maiden top-ten finish in the series, the AlcoSense driver claiming only his second points finish having elected to run the soft tyre.

Dave Newsham also made good progress to finish in 11th, with Fabrizio Giovanardi in 12th ahead of the recovering Austin. Martin Depper scored his first points of the season as he pipped Tom Ingram to 14th on the line by just 0.041s

Colin Turkington also won the second British Touring Car Championship race at Croft, with Gordon Shedden second once more and Matt Neal in third.

Turkington’s victory looked just as comprehensive on paper as his first earlier in the day, but in truth Shedden kept him honest for much of the race before falling away in the final four laps.

After problems on the grid in race one, polesitter Turkington made a superb getaway in the second encounter as his teammate Rob Collard moved into third, while there was once again mayhem at the start as Fabrizio Giovanardi – who had appealed a decision to be moved to the back of the grid – moved across on Rob Austin as he looked to bolt between the Italian and Dave Newsham. The Audi driver was propelled into retirement as he spun onto the infield. Newsham eventually had to back out with suspension issues, bringing his 100th BTCC race to a disappointing end.

32-year-old Turkington once again flew away as the race settled down, beating the lap record he had managed earlier in the day, but Shedden stayed with the eBay Motors driver as the pair dropped Collard.

Behind the front three, Neal found himself in the same position as Collard had a race earlier with Jason Plato again struggling for pace, but he was able to fight past the MG as he made a staunch move into Sunny In on lap five stick. Neal was later excluded from the results for failing the ride-height check.

Plato’s struggles became more apparent thereafter, as two laps later Andrew Jordan forced his way through with Alain Menu, Mat Jackson, Sam Tordoff, Tom Ingram and Giovanardi all joining a train behind the MG.

The race wasn’t quite as eventful as the first encounter, but there was still plenty to enjoy as Marc Hynes, Jack Goff, Adam Morgan, Aron Smith, Jack Clarke, Martin Depper and Nick Foster all spent time in the lower reaches of the points, squabbling amongst each other and swapping paint in a bid to hunt down a top ten finish.

After passing Plato, Neal had plenty of clear air ahead of him and used it to catch Collard, making his move for the final podium spot on lap 11 at Sunny In once again. That was the furthest he was able to recover to, but it did at least mark his return to the rostrum after an absence of six races.

With Jordan lonely in fifth behind Collard, the battle between Plato and Menu made for the most interesting, the Swiss having waited patiently for an opportunity to overtake. Once it was presented to him, he dived up the inside of Plato into Clervaux but had his right-rear corner clipped, sending him off into the gravel, with Plato racing home from there.

Plato currently retains his sixth-placed finish, having finished ahead of Jackson, Tordoff and Giovanardi while a move from Jack Goff on Marc Hynes on the penultimate lap gave him 11th, with Hynes plummeting down the order to eventually finish in 16th.

Andrew Jordan grabbed a fourth victory of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season in an incident-packed third race, with Rob Collard in second and Gordon Shedden third.

The Pirtek driver’s victory was made all the more significant by the fact that championship leader Colin Turkington failed to score, after retiring with clutch issues while in fifth.

The cars at the front of the grid all got similar starts, but the tone for the race was set almost immediately as the cars headed into Clervaux, where Tom Ingram managed to sneak ahead of Fabrizio Giovanardi into second, behind Jack Goff.

Having held position off the line, Goff took a normal line on the exit of the corner but got a small tap from Ingram and was sent off onto the grass before rejoining. That left Ingram in the lead, but he last no longer at the front as he went off himself, handing first place to Giovanardi.

There was yet more drama though, as Jordan closed on the Airwaves driver at a rapid rate of knots, cruising into the back of the Italian before sending him off into the barrier, ripping the front end off his car.

Ingram’s Speedworks Toyota had given up the ghost by this point, and having been left in a dangerous area, the decision was taken to deploy the safety car – a decision made easier by the amount of debris on track.

That left Jordan in the lead as the dust settled, with Goff somehow recovering to second ahead of Collard in his BMW. Glynn Geddie was also forced to pit with a left-rear puncture, while Giovanardi continued despite quite evident superficial and aerodynamic damage to his car.

With the distance extended to 18 laps to make up for the safety car period, the race resumed with five laps on the board but there was chaos almost immediately again, when a lap later Matt Neal, Rob Austin and Warren Scott tried to go three-wide and ended up collecting each other in turn two, although the call for a second safety car was abated after Neal dug himself out of the gravel and recovered to the pitlane.

The next tour saw just as much drama as Shedden made his way past Adam Morgan for sixth, which became fifth when Turkington pulled into the pits to retire his car.

A brief period of calm took over for a couple of laps, but that was only until the group behind Jordan – who had pulled himself clear of any further trouble – bunched up. A push from Collard forced Goff wide and the West Surrey Racing driver moved into second while Mat Jackson followed him through.

Two laps later it was Shedden’s turn to make a pass, with Goff running wide after pressure from the Scotsman who pounced on the exit of Sunny Out. The Honda driver’s intentions then turned to Jackson in third, who himself began backing cars into one another.

Shedden made an ill-fated attempt to pass the Airwaves car on the exit of the hairpin, but with the outside line disappearing he suffered damage to the front end of his Civic, with debris flailing from its wheelarch. The 2012 champion relented however, stealing through into third on the penultimate lap. However the positions were later reversed and Shedden handed a four-second time penalty for the move.

Jordan eventually won the race by three-and-a-half seconds from Collard, with Shedden and Jackson next up. The battle for fifth was equally as intense as the rest of the action, however, as Morgan pipped Goff for the place by 0.001s on the line, ahead of Nick Foster and Alain Menu, who had a magnificent recovery run. Aron Smith had been set to challenge for fifth, but he was over-zealous on the final lap and ran into the gravel after clouting Morgan, being overtaken by Foster and his teammate.

Jason Plato completed the top ten, ahead of Martin Depper and Hunter Abbott.

Now, between Oulton Park and Croft, the debate of parity between FWD and RWD kicked off after comments from Triple Eight boss Ian Harrison and Jason Plato about the start advantage of the BMW and the Audi, along with Airwaves boss Dave Bartrum talking about running an NGTC RWD BMW Series 3 in 2015.

Suddenly (although if your a follower of the BTCC) but not unexpectedly, West Surrey Racing & Rob Austin Racing were ordered to run a longer first gear from Croft onwards.

The last time this was implemented was back in 2010 and it nullified the S2000 BMW's of WSR and Motorbase, leaving them as midfield runners at best.

Now Turkington and Collard have shown at Croft its not an issue as they both made places of the line still, but it still remains that after comments made by leading BTCC bosses, TOCA suddenly acts...The cynics amongst you will immediately say that Jason Plato has Alan Gow in his pocket and jumps at the sound of Plato voicing his opinion, but Alan has made a move that will, and did, keep the BTCC racing close.

Now my view is this. Throughout Tintop history, any RWD car will make places at the race start and they will benefit on tracks with hairpins and fast flowing corners...just like Croft, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Knockhill...

You can see my point.

Which is this. Formula One recently stepped back from punishing drivers for incidents on track and I think TOCA should do the same in its parity thinking. Turbo boost adjustment, performance parity, racing boundaries and success ballast is great, but its also getting annoying for the fans with all the arguments from drivers and teams.

So do what the FIA do with the World Touring Car Championship. Set the boost at one level, keep the success ballast and let the guys race. Let them run over the white lines, let them race hard and fair and put on a better show than they do now.

My fear is the series will lose its star drivers its created or regained. Menu would probably return to the WTCC next year given the oppurtunity, he hasnt been happy with the lack of testing and the amount of contact that takes place. Giovanardi might stay but he needs a car tailored to his style and he's still getting to grips with NGTC. Its been said by many that Andrew Jordan could succeed in WTCC, but he's hoping that something may open up in the World Rallycross Championship.

We'll have to see, but its a debate that will roar on.

But we'll enjoy the racing all the same.


Phil aka The Guru!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment