Friday, 17 October 2014

BTCC 2014: Turkington wins the Title at Brands Finale...

The 2014 season of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reached its conclusion at Brands Hatch on the Grand Prix layout on 12th of October and what a season it has been.

By the way, this one is a bit of a read so you might wanna stock up on the tea/coffee and biscuits...

I remember going to Media Day back in March this year and thinking what an epic season this would be. Seven former Champions competing, Thirty-One NGTC cars entered in the series first full season of NGTC entries only and the excitement of new cars, teams and drivers in this years championship.

Fast forward through the year and we've seen sterling performances from Andrew Jordan, Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden and Colin Turkington as they fought out the honours for the title. We've seen how quick rookie driver Tom Ingram has been whilst Adam Morgan has shown how fast the new NGTC Mercedes was out of the box.

We've witnessed Matt Neal suffering a difficult season with the Honda Civic Tourer whilst Airwaves Racing turned their Ford Focus from midfield runners into race winners in the hands of Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi. We've watched as Team BMR proved they have the pace to win races and take podiums with the super sleek VW CC whilst Rob Austin and Sherman have shown they can mix it with the best by taking race wins and pole positions to shake up the order.

But it all came down to the final weekend of racing at Brands Hatch in what was a typically miserable Finals Day for the series, as it now seems traditional to have at least one wet race take place. After Silverstone the situation was clear: Colin Turkington needed to finishon the podium in race one to seal the title and win his second BTCC Championship after a season where the rear wheel drive BMW 125i was the match of the front wheel drive MG6, Honda Civic Hatchback/Tourer, Ford Focus and VW CC cars out there, even with max ballast on board and a longer first gear...

Anyone could be forgiven to think it would be wrong for a RWD car to win a Touring Car Championship...

So lets see how Finals day panned out...

Jason Plato grabbed pole position for the opening British Touring Car Championship race at Brands Hatch with a stonking final lap, ending the session ahead of teammate Sam Tordoff and Honda’s Gordon Shedden as a red flag ended the action early.

The result was just what Plato would have been hoping to take into Sunday's races and with Tordoff between himself and championship rival Colin Turkington – who was fastest in the day’s two practice sessions but would start race one from fourth – the double champion can at least hope to extend his challenge into the penultimate round of the season.

The session got going 15 minutes later than its 15:35 scheduled start time in glorious sunshine, but with the circuit still damp as a result of rain between the end of second practice and qualifying, cevery driver opted to start on wet tyres.

The two MGs were the first two drivers over the line, with Plato setting the initial pace with a tentative effort of 1:41.239s, as drivers weighed up their tyre options. Alain Menu switched to slicks, but waited in the pitlane as those who continued to circulate dried the circuit.

Matt Neal took the opposite approach to the Swiss, and pitted for a fresh set of wet tyres. That choice appeared to have paid off, at least in the short term, as he went third fastest with his first flying lap before taking provisional pole with a 1:41.177s.

The Honda driver’s time at the top of the standings was short lived however, as Marc Hynes went fastest – albeit only briefly before his effort was disallowed for exceeding track limits – before Menu, now on dries, set a time of 1:40.072s. Not content with that, the Team BMR Restart driver continued to better his time, with an effort of 1:38.806s.

Shedden then took his chance to get in on the action with an effort of 1:37.795s, but Menu came back with a 1:37.015s. It was then that Plato – who had earlier spent some time at the top – split the pair with a time of 1:37.627s, as the times at the front continued to tumble.

It then looked for some time as though 2012 champion Shedden had pole position in the bag as a lap of 1:34.908s put him well clear of his rivals, but in the last three minutes of the session the times were rapidly improving with every lap, and Tordoff first jumped into second on a 1:34.844s, while Plato usurped his teammate with a 1:33.949s.

With drivers then gearing up for one final attempt, a frantic and enticing end to the season as brought to a premature end as Dave Newsham beached his AmD Tuning Ford Focus in the gravel, which brought the red flag out and saw the session ended with two minutes to spare.

Turkington had looked set to make a late dash for the top spots, and although fourth was still a strong position for him to start from, a win for Plato in the first race tomorrow would mean that no matter where the eBay Motors driver finishes, the title fight will go into the second event.

Behind the front four, the weather conditions certainly played their part in mixing up the order. Adam Morgan ended up an excellent fifth in his WIX Racing Mercedes, while Fabrizio Giovanardi claimed a sixth place grid slot in the final qualifying session of his comeback campaign. James Cole was an outstanding seventh in his United Autosports Toyota Avensis, taking full advantage of the conditions to score his and his team’s best qualifying result in the series to date, ahead of Mat Jackson, Nick Foster and Newsham, who still claimed a first top ten qualifying result of the season despite ending his day in the gravel trap.

Jason Plato won the opening British Touring Car Championship race of the weekend at Brands Hatch ahead of his teammate Sam Tordoff, but third place for Colin Turkington meant that he secured the 2014 drivers’ title.

In an enthralling encounter befitting the importance of the occasion, third place and a fastest lap was enough for Turkington to maintain a 44-point advantage which Plato would not be able to usurp.

There was drama immediately as the race got underway, as Plato made a sluggish start and was passed by Tordoff and Turkington who took a look at the lead around the outside into Paddock Hill.

Behind the front three, Gordon Shedden squeezed Fabrizio Giovanardi as the cars started to turn into Paddock Hill, but the Scot came off by far the worst as he was then spun sideways as the Italian kept his foot in the door, with the unfortunate Audi of Rob Austin plowing into the back of the Honda, as a traffic jam occurred. Dave Newsham was forced to slow on the inside of the corner to avoid Shedden, but as he did so Jack Goff had nowhere to go but the rear of his Ford Focus, and the pair joined Shedden, Austin and his teammate Hunter Abbott in the gravel on the exit of the corner, with all five as well as Shedden’s teammate Matt Neal, forced into retirement.

While the mayhem ensued in the lower order, Tordoff was able to hold onto the inside line heading into Druids, and forced Turkington wide through the hairpin, allowing Plato to regain second, before the safety car was deployed to retrieve the stricken cars.

With a considerable amount of damage to recover, the safety car was on track until the start of lap five, by which time the race distance had been extended to 18 laps. Turkington immediately found himself on the back foot as Tordoff got the race back underway, with Adam Morgan taking half a look at the inside line into Paddock Hill, and Mat Jackson joining in on the action. Those two then squabbled for fourth behind the eBay Motors man, which gave him the opportunity to catch back up to the MGs.

Turkignton’s teammate Rob Collard had started the encounter in 23rd after a disappointing qualifying session yesterday, but having avoided the incident at the start, found himself in eighth place which soon became seventh, as he forced a way passed the United Autosports car of James Cole.

But instead of looking forward, championship leader Turkington was forced to go on the defensive as Jackson took a look up the inside as the cars ended lap seven, with the eBay Motors driver squeezing his competitor close to the pit wall to ensure he could not pass.

Only three laps of racing had occurred before the safety car was deployed for a second time, after Warren Scott, who had been battling with Nick Foster for a place in the top ten, appeared to lose the rear of his car and had a huge front-end crash.

Just before that had happened, however, Plato had taken first place after his teammate Tordoff moved over to allow him through.

The race restarted on lap 12 and this time round Turkington looked much racier, immediately applying pressure to Tordoff ahead of him. Simon Belcher survived a trip through the gravel, while Collard continued his charge through the field as he passed Giovanardi for sixth after the pair rubbed bodywork.

Plato was able to build a comfortable margin at the front over the closing laps, so the question remained whether or not Turkington – who had the fastest lap to his name – would be able to maintain his third place, as he continued to press Tordoff.

There was a brief scare that there might be a third safety car towards the end of the race as the United Autosports team’s weekend unraveled as Luke Hines was collected by his teammate Cole, after the former was sent into a spin by Marc Hynes on the way down to Graham Hill bend.

The pair were however able to move their cars into a safe position, and with things finally stable, Plato crossed the line to clinch a sixth win of the season ahead of his teammate, with Turkington completing the podium to land a second series title with two rounds to spare.

“Just relief and pure happiness,” said Turkington, when asked to describe his emotions. “This is what you work for from the start of the year.

“It was winter 2012 when we decided we wanted to do this so to actually get it all over the line is a great relief for everybody – there’s never any guarantees that you’re going to win it, even with a 50-point lead, you don’t allow yourself to think that it’s going to be an easy task.”

Behind Turkington, Jackson survived a late scare on fading tyres to hold onto fourth ahead of Morgan and the rampant Collard. Giovanardi ultimately had a quiet run to seventh despite two moments of contact, while Tom Ingram drove maturely to claim eighth ahead of outgoing champion Andrew Jordan and Nick Foster in the third eBay Motors BMW.

Jason Plato made it two wins from two races at Brands Hatch, as he won the penultimate race of the 2014 British Touring Car Championshp season ahead of WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan and Sam Tordoff.

In a classic touring car encounter, Plato was one of a number of drivers who looked as though they could take the win, but his victory was marred by an incident between himself and new champion Colin Turkington, who was eliminated from the race at Paddock Hill bend on lap four as the pair vied for the lead.

It was Turkington who jumped into the lead when the race started, holding a clear first place through turn one. There looked as though there might be a similar incident to the one that occurred in race one as a charging Mat Jackson found himself sandwiched between the two MGs of Plato and Tordoff in the battle for second, before the latter yielded the position with Jackson slotting into third.

The safety car was nevertheless deployed when moments later Alain Menu appeared to lose his Team BMR Restart Volkswagen CC through the corner, sliding uncontrollably backwards into the infield tyre wall and subsequent retirement.

With the incident able to be cleared relatively quickly, however, the race resumed at the start of lap three as Turkington attempted to break away at the front. Unable to do so, the action came to a head one lap further round as Plato made an optimistic lunge for the lead into Paddock Hill, only to punt the rear of the BMW, sending Turkington into the gravel trap for his third retirement of the season. The MG driver was later penalised for the crash, and as it was his third offence, will start race three from the rear of the field.

To be honest, it was reminiscent of the same move that Plato pulled on Dave Newsham at the same corner in 2012, when Newsham was leading in the Black and Yellow Team ES Racing S2000 Vauxhall Vectra, where Dave ended up in the gravel trap whilst Jason was given a reprimand for the move...

Its interesting how Jason seems to be the only driver in the BTCC that tries to overtake into Paddock Hill Bend using the pitlane exit and the grass...

Anyway where were we...

As Plato recovered from the incident, Jackson stole into the lead and looked to immediately build a gap, only to run wide on the exit of Westfield before spinning down the order. That meant that Rob Collard – who had started the first race of the day in 23rd – inherited the lead of the race, having himself found a way past Plato, before the safety car was deployed once more.

One lap was once again the only break needed, with Collard leading the field away for a second restart. There was yet more action lower in the order though, as Fabrizio Giovanardi looked to follow Andrew Jordan through past Tom Ingram, only for the Italian to receive a tap from the Speedworks driver through Westfield, performing a half spin before a further 360 degree rotation, with those cars following through taking avoiding action with only Jack Clarke making minor contact with the Ford Focus.

The race was yet to reach it’s halfway course at this stage, but the excitement continued as Morgan muscled his way into the podium positions with a forceful pass on Tordoff into Druids. A third place would have marked Morgan’s first podium of the season and a first for him in his Mercedes A-Class, be he had no intentions to settle for the final spot on the podium as he set his sights on Plato – who looked increasingly frustrated behind Collard – climbing onto two wheels through Paddock Hill.

And wow did that Mercedes have some pace in her, something Wix Racing and Morgan have threatened all season...

As Collard appeared to find it harder and harder to keep the three cars behind him, Plato made a slight error as they crossed the line to start lap 14, which allowed Morgan, who had backed off into the entry of Paddock Hill, to carry his momentum up the inside of the MG into Druids and into second place.

And that second became first less than a lap later, when a slow and wide exit from Clearways for Collard allowed the WIX Racing driver to sail into the lead across the line, while Plato followed him through to claim second.

Morgan’s stint in the lead was shortlived, however, as he ran wide in similar fashion to Jackson earlier, and although he was able to hold onto his car, relinquished the lead to allow Plato into first. With a comfortable distance between himself and Morgan – who rejoined ahead of Collard and Tordoff who continued to argue over third – Plato was finally able to relax, and cruised to the finish to claim a seventh win of the season.

Second place nevertheless marked Morgan’s best result in the series to date, while a move at the start of the final lap gave Tordoff third place. Jordan also squeaked past Collard on the line, clinching fourth with Ingram a lonely but season’s-best sixth. A great recovery drive from Gordon Shedden saw the Scot finish seventh, just 0.001s ahead of Aron Smith, while Jack Goff and Nick Foster completed the top ten, with the latter on pole for the day’s reverse-grid race. There was also a second points finish for Aiden Moffat in 13th, who improved one place from his 14th place in race one.

But it didnt finish there...

Plato was later given a post-race twenty second penalty for the incident with Turkington, dropping him to 13th position and handing Morgan his first-ever win in the BTCC. The first of what will be many I forsee for Morgan and the NGTC Mercedes A-Class.

With the rain hammering down in what is now traditional for the final race of the year, Gordon Shedden went on to win that final race of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season at Brands Hatch, with Jack Clarke securing a landmark second place finish and Mat Jackson completing the podium in soaking conditions.

The Honda Yuasa Racing driver’s third win of the season brought the season to a typically exciting conclusion, as visibility faded with heavy rain taking hold just before the start of the race, to create similar conditions to his victory at the circuit 12 months ago.

Nick Foster leapt into the lead at the start of the race, overtaking pole-sitter Clarke – who had the grid slot after a post-race penalty for Jason Plato in race two – well before the field reached Paddock Hill, with Clarke tentatively holding station in second place.

Plato had opted to start the race from the pitlane with a view to avoiding any contact at the start, but the majority of the field made it through safely, with only Simon Belcher taking a trip through the gravel after he received a tap.

It didn’t take long for the safety car to be deployed though, after James Cole looked to have beached himself in the gravel, before digging himself out whilst Rob Collard slowed on circuit.

But with both issues quickly resolved, the racing resumed on lap three and Clarke immediately went on the attack, as he harried Foster into Druids before lining up a pass at Graham Hill, grabbing the lead on the run into Surtees.

Shedden, who had made a good start, was keen to keep the Crabbie’s Racing driver in his sights and swiftly overtook Foster, immediately turned his attention to Clarke’s lead.

The pair had an enticing scrap at the end of the lap, when Shedden forced a gap from nowhere to have a run up the inside of the Ford Focus driver heading into Paddock Hill at the start of lap four. Clarke, however, held on around the outside, and with the assist of a slide for Shedden, held onto his lead with a dogged piece of driving.

Despite that move, Shedden would quickly make the move stick when he swept around the outside of Clarke through Westfields on the next lap, to gain a lead that he would not relinquish for the remainder of the race.

Shedden was flying at the front, but with only Colin Turkington and Plato making progress through the field, the next incident of note came on lap nine when Martin Depper got stuck in the gravel at the bottom of Paddock Hill. The safety car was swiftly deployed to recover the stricken Honda Civic.

The delay behind the safety car meant that when the racing resumed on lap 12, the race distance had been extended to 18 laps. Shedden bolted away once more, but there was action at Druids in the battle for third, as Jackson tapped his ex-teammate Aron Smith into a half-spin, allowing himself and Sam Tordoff through.

With Shedden now well clear at the front, attention turned to Clarke’s second place, and whether or not he could hold onto a maiden podium position. After a few hairy moments, the 26-year-old put in a stellar last couple of laps to keep Jackson and Tordoff at bay, to follow Shedden home – the Scot having salvaged something from the day for his Honda Yuasa Racing team, who had suffered a horrendous first two races which included a trip to hospital for his teammate Matt Neal.

Smith had a quiet run to fifth after Jackson’s contact, ahead of outgoing champion Andrew Jordan and Plato, who made great progress. Early leader Foster was the only eBay Motors driver to bring his car home in the points in eighth, with Tom Ingram and Marc Hynes completing their rookie years in the championship in ninth and tenth respectively.

The Final Championship positions ended with Turkington as Champion on433 points ahead of Jason Plato on 401 with Gordon Shedden in third on349. Mat Jackson secured fourth place on 234 points whilstAndrew Jordanwas fifth with 309 points.

Rob Collardwas in sixth place in the end of season standings on 275 points whilst Sam Tordofffinished his year off on 255. Matt Neal finished a poor year by his standards on 207 points in eighth whilst Team BMR's double race winner Aron Smithwas ninth on 201 points. Adam Morgan's first BTCC win was enough to secure him tenth in the drivrrs championship183 pts.

In the Manufacturers Championship, MG/888 secured the title in their third year of the BTCC, finally beating Honda/Team Dynamics who have won it for the previous two years in NGTC Machinery.

And so endeth the 2014 British Touring Car Championship. Its been a roller coaster ride with door to door racing, exciting race finishes, amazing moves and stellar driving from the Class of 2014.

For the Guru, well its been a year of exciting tintop action from Britains best and long with Nik and Aaron, my long suffering partner and my son, we've watched through the year as the racing has taken place on TV as the home filled with shouts of "YOU CAN'T HAVE THREE INTO ONE CORNER!!!" from me followed by "WELL THEY JUST DID!" from Nik. Or "HOW DID HE PASS THERE???!" from me followed by "HE DROVE ROUND HIM DIDN'T HE!" from Aaron.

We've sat on the edge of the sofa as we've witnessed some amazing racing and some very questionable moves and contact and penalties given of which we've questioned and argued about for hours afterwards and we can't wait for next season.

In the meantime, whilst the Guru enjoys the final race weekends of the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the FIA World Rallycross Championship which will soon appear on the blog, I'm also preparing to spread my wings a little...

Not only will I continue to write my blogs on here but from 1st of November, I will be writing WTCC and WorldRX articles and race reports on a new website called so keep an eye out for me there. I can happily say that we will all be at BTCC Media Day on 24th March 2015 as we've booked the time off work already (its the earliest we've managed to do it in 4 years of trying...) and in January, my latest dream will be realised as I will be attending the 2015 Autosport International Show as an official Blogger for the event...

Anyone would think that Im too busy to work you know? Trust me, I'm not. DHL Northampton will attest to that one. But apart from all of that I'll be putting up articles on here as news over the winter is released about next years BTCC season, drivers and teams whereabouts and any developments that appear

All the best!!


WTCC 2014: Citroen rules in China as Bennani wins...

The FIA World Touring Car Championship made its second visit to China at the Shanghai International Grand Prix circuit, one week after the series saw race wins for Tom Chilton and for Rob Huff and Lada take place in Beijing.

With the traction advantage of the Citroens this year, Shanghai was a circuit where they were expected to shine with its long corners and high speed back straight and it provided the first oppurtunity for Citroen to seal the Manufacturers Title before the season finale in Macau.

Lets see how things panned out shall we...

In Qualifying, It was Jose Maria Lopez who took his fifth pole position of the season in the Citroen C-Elysee ahead of his Chinese team-mate Qing Hua Ma. Title challenger Yvan Muller secured third ahead of the Zengo Motorsport Honda Civic of Norbert Michelisz with Sebastian Loeb completing the top five, despite hitting a tyre stack on his fast lap.

Completing the Top Ten for the race one grid were the works Honda drivers of Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini in sixth and seventh respectively. Tom Chilton made it to eigth place in his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze whilst Hugo Valente qualified his Campos Racing Chevrolet in ninth place. Mehdi Bennani secured tenth place in his ProTeam Honda Civic in the dying moments of Q2, beating Tom Coronel by two tenths to take the race two Pole Position.

The big losses in Qualifying were Tom Coronel, who was called in for a weight check whilst he was in tenth place, denying him the chance to try and secure the spot leaving the popular Dutchman in Eleventh place. Dusan Borkovic hauled his repaired Campos Cruze into twelfth whilst Gianni Morbidelli was mystified by a lack of pace to put his Munnich Mototsport Cruze in Thirteenth place ahead of the Lada trio who were suffering on the high speed back straight. James Thompson led Mikhail Kozlovskiy from Rob Huff whilst Franz Engstler took Pole Position in the TC2 catergory.

Before race one had even begun, Thompson was in the pits with a broken steering arm on the Lada Granta TC1. At the start, Lopez held off Ma for the lead whilst Muller made his way back past Michelisz after a poor start. Loeb found himself with a fightback on his hands after falling behind the two works Hondas of Tarquini ahead of Monteiro. Further back, Chilton led a Chevrolet train with Valente, Coronel and Borkovic ahead of Bennani.

Loeb managed to pass Monteiro around the outside of the hairpin and the inside at the final turn for sixth place, however on lap three the right rear wheel flew off from Tom Chiltons Chevrolet, putting him into retirement. Loeb set about trying to pass Michelisz for fourth and did this on lap six into the hairpin, giving Citroen a 1-2-3-4 with Ma hasseling Lopez up front whilst Muller began to fall back.

Campos Racing's TC2 entrant William Lok retired on lap eight after hitting the tyre stack on the last corner with his SEAT Leon, causing double waved yellows. Whilst Tarquini and Monteiro chased Michelisz, further back Bennani was hounding Valente for ninth place with the Honda proving quicker than the Cruze. The Lada's suffered further with retirements for Huff and Kozlovskiy sealing a bad first race for them.

Lopez went on to secure his eighth win of the season ahead of Ma with Muller in third, being chased to the finish line. This result also secured the WTCC Manufactuers Title for Citroen in its first year. Michelisz came home in fourth ahed of Tarquini and Monteiro, with Coronel, Valente and Bennani completing the top ten. Engstler dominated the TC2 Class, winning from pole position.

Race Two saw Chilton's car fixed and starting from the pitlane after his first race retirement. At the light, Bennani launched into the lead with Tarquiniband Monteiro passing Valente into turn one after better starts. Loeb and Muller made good starts into fifth and sixth respectively ahead of Michelisz whilst Lopez, Coronel and Ma completed the top ten. 

Muller passed Loeb for fifth at the end of lap one whilst Lopez passed Michelisz for seventh on lap two. From the back, Thompson made it up to fifteenth from last on the grid whilst Chilton passed the TC2 cars after his pitlane start. As the cars streamed down the back straight on lap two Muller tried to pass Valente into the hairpin, however the Campos Racing driver defended and this left Muller open to Loeb who hit his team-mate and damaged the right rear wheel, sending Muller into retirement. Loeb would carry on but he would be awarded a thirty second penalty by the stewards after the race.

On lap four, Bennani led from Tarquini, Monteiro, Valente and Loeb in fifth with Lopez, Michelisz being chased by Ma for seventh whilst Coronel and Borkovic completed the top ten positions. But that all changed at the hairpin with Lopez passing Loeb for fifth whilst Ma went wide while trying to pass Michelisz for seventh. Tarquini suffered engine issues on lap five whilst Huff and Morbidelli both retired from contact at turn two.

With Muller out, Lopez looked to further his points advantage iver Muller in the Drivers Championship by passing Valente for third with all of this holding up Loeb and allowing Michelisz to close. Thompson and Chilton continued their way up the field to be tenth and eleventh respectively. Meanwhile Valente was now defending from Loeb, Michelisz and Ma in the fight for fourth place. Loeb passed Valente on lap seven for fourth with Michelisz passing the Campos Chevrolet on the same lap to take fifth place with Ma passing the Frenchman on lap nine as he fell back.

Bennani went on to secure his first ever WTCC win and Honda's first win of the year in the TC1 Honda Civic, also taking ProTeam's first ever WTCC in the process with Monteiro and Lopez completing the podium. Loeb finished fourth on the road but would drop out of the top ten. Michelisz was classified fourth and Ma with Coronel, Chilton, Valente, Borkovic and Thompson completing the top ten.
Engstler again dominated the TC2 Class in his BMW 320TC, winning from pole position.

The series now moves to Suzuka for the penultimate weekend in the championship where this year the cars will use the full Grand Prix circuit after three years of using the East Circuit. It is also the next chance that Jose Maria Lopez has to secure the FIA WTCC Drivers Title

This is one of the WTCC Weekends I've been waitng for, ever since the confirmation that the full Grand Prix Circuit will be used. Its a thrill watching on TV as the F1 cars take the awesome 130R corner nearly flat out. Seeing how the TC1 cars do with the new Aero package and the extra engine power should be just as good to watch!

All the best!


World RX 2014: Bakkerud Wins in Turkey as Hansen Flies again

After the excitement of from the last round in Italy that saw Petter Solberg crowned as the first FIA World Rallycross Champion and Robin Larsson crowned as the 2014 European Rallycross Champion, one major title is left to be decided: The Teams Championship.

Whilst Ford OlsbergMSE started the season with the dominant Fiesta Supercar car, they were soon caught up by the VW-Marklund Motorsport with their Mk5 Polo Supercar. Since the French round however, the Peugeot-Hansen team has been steadily improving their 208 WRX Supercar, taking their first win in Italy with Timmy Hansen and now its a three horse race to the title with two rounds left...

Lets see how this panned out...

Timmy Hansen has established an early lead at the World RX of Turkey, the penultimate round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, being staged at the Istanbul Intercity Park. The Peugeot-Hansen driver was third quickest in heat one and followed it up with a heat two victory. Volkswagen Marklund’s Topi Heikkinen was second with Ford Olsbergs MSE wildcard driver Richard Goransson third.
Hansen, who won the previous RX round in Italy, clocked the fastest time during free practice in his Peugeot 208 Supercar. The 21-year-old Swede also set the quickest heat time of the day in heat two, beating Heikkinen’s heat one victory by 1.5 seconds. “I’m feeling really comfortable in the car here - I love the dirt section, it reminds me a lot of driving on ice back in Sweden because it’s so slippery,” explained Hansen.  “The track overall is fantastic but I think the key to winning here is getting a good time in the gravel section. We made no mistakes on the dirt and that definitely helped.”
Heikkinen went quickest in heat one, but finished heat two tenth fastest after a false start saw the Finn lose time with a double Joker Lap penalty.  Heikkinen’s team-mate Anton Marklund was seventh overnight in a second Polo RX Supercar after admitting driver errors hindered him from reaching a top five position.
After what is only his second outing in a Supercar, Swedish Touring Car driver Richard Goransson was set to challenge the World RX front-runners once again.  “I’ve had a really fun day,” admitted Goransson.  “I love this track – it’s very technical with a lot of gravel.  There’s a lot to learn but thankfully I have two very talented team-mates [Reinis Nitiss and Andreas Bakkerud] that I can speak to and analyse the data with.”
Fourth overnight in another Fiesta Supercar was Bakkerud.  Fifth place was occupied by PSRX driver Petter Solberg who spoke of small issues with the car and difficulties with handling on the slippery dirt section. EKS RX’s Edward Sandstrom was eight overnight after a solid performance in the Audi S1 Quattro Supercar.  Team-mate PG Andersson did not get off to the best start after the EKS RX squad were forced to change the car’s engine after free practice which saw the Swede miss heat one.  Andersson made up for lost time, however, after posting the second quickest time in heat two.
Elsewhere Timur Timerzyanov had a troubled day after handbrake problems in heat one and tearing the left-rear wheel off his car after an impact in heat two.  Monster Energy World RX Team’s Henning Solberg was ninth overnight with team-mate Lars Oivind Enerberg 15th after the Norwegian suffered turbo failure during heat two. LD Motorsports frontman Derek Tohill finished tenth overnight in his Citroen DS3, happy with his performance through the days heats.  “We had a lot of work to do on our car after Italy and I’m pleased to say the guys have done a great job because the car is working better than it has in a long time. I really like this track, it’s very different from Italy and it suits my driving style. It’s been a good day,” concluded the Irishman.
Albatec Racing’s father and son duo Andy and Marc Scott were 11th and 12th overnight.  “I’ve been finding my feet,” explained Scott Jnr. who is made his World RX debut in Turkey for the British-based team.  “It was good to line up beside my dad in heat two but then I was fired off into the wall on turn one. I’d be really happy to make it to the semi-finals. I know it’s a tall order but that’s my aim.”

Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Andreas Bakkerud went on to win the World RX of Turkey, the penultimate round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy. Team Peugeot-Hansen driver Timmy Hansen and Volkswagen Marklund’s Topi Heikkinen finished second and third respectively. With Ford, Peugeot and Volkswagen all represented on the podium, the fight for the first ever Teams’ Championship will now be decided at the final round in Argentina next month.
Bakkerud, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on the Friday, was delighted with his win at the Intercity Istanbul Park – the former F1 venue which staged the Turkish F1 race from 2005-2011. “This has been a great birthday present!" beamed Bakkerud who also became the first driver to win a rallycross event in Asia. “We have been struggling slightly in the last couple of races but everything came together and the car has been working perfectly.  The final race was just crazy – Timmy was really close to me, it could have gone either way but I was really pushing after the semis and I was hungry for the victory.”
Arguably the most impressive drive of the weekend, however, was that of Timmy Hansen who won three heats, semi-final one and the Monster Energy Super Charge Award. “I had the pace to win the final but I made a small mistake and Andreas jumped on the opportunity.  We had some close racing with Andreas, Topi and Henning and then after I took the Joker, all I heard on the radio was that I had to push.  I didn’t quite manage it but I’m happy with how the weekend has gone.”
Heikkinen’s third place in Turkey sees the Finn remain second in the overall drivers’ standings, 50 points behind Petter Solberg who has already secured the Championship title after accruing enough points at the previous round in Italy.  “Volkswagen Marklund are now leading the Teams’ standings by four points – we’ve been tied at the top on two separate occasions this year but now we are leading it by ourselves,” explained Heikkinen whose team-mate Anton Marklund finished one place behind in fourth.  “My driving hasn’t been perfect this weekend, I made a few small mistakes but I’m happy to have got some crucial points for the team.”
Rounding off the top five in Turkey was Monster Energy World RX Team’s Henning Solberg who claimed his best finish of the season so far in the Citroen DS3 Supercar. His younger brother Petter Solberg joined him on the back row of the final, but both siblings retired before the finish.
“I’ve been really pleased with the car this weekend, the handling and power has got better and better, and the team have worked very hard,” explained Henning. “We changed some small settings with the differentials and, now the car really is so fast. It was a shame we weren’t allowed to re-fuel because of a time limit before the finals, because this cost us a podium for sure, but it has still been a great day.”
EKS RX had a weekend of mixed fortunes with former WRC star PG Andersson showing flashes of speed but unable to reach the semis due to missing heat one on Saturday following an engine change on his Audi S1 Quattro Supercar. Team-mate Edward Sandstrom consistently challenged the World RX front-runners this weekend and the GT racer was rewarded with his first semi-final place. However, Sandstrom was later disqualified after it was discovered that his car was underweight.
Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director for IMG Motorsports, concluded: “It’s been fantastic to bring rallycross to Asia for the first time.  The feedback we have received from the drivers about the track at Intercity Istanbul Park has been extremely positive, which just goes to prove that an F1 track can also be the perfect home for an RX race.  With only one round remaining, the battle for the Teams’ Championship is shaping up for a thrilling finale with Volkswagen, Ford and Peugeot all still capable of winning the title.  Having just completed our fourth RX event in five weeks, the teams and drivers will be looking forward to the six-week hiatus before they make the journey to Argentina where we will stage our first ever event in South America.”

The final round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will take place in San Luis, Argentina, at the end of November.

1. Petter Solberg (PSRX), 250
2. Topi Heikkinen (VW Marklund), 200
3. Reinis Nitiss (Ford Olsbergs MSE), 182
4. Timmy Hansen (Peugeot-Hansen), 179
5. Andreas Bakkerud (Ford Olsbergs MSE), 173
6. Anton Marklund (VW Marklund), 159

1. Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport, 359 points
2. Ford Olsbergs MSE, 355 points
3. Team Peugeot-Hansen, 335 points
4. PSRX, 237 points
5. Monster Energy World RX Team, 102 points
6. Albatec Racing, 42 points

All the best!!


Sunday, 5 October 2014

WTCC 2014: Chilton and Huff star in Beijing...

After what seems like an eternity (2 months), the FIA World Touring Car Championship returned in Beijing to begin its Asian Tour and the final third of the series as we head to Macau, looking to crown the 2014 WTCC champion.

And theres been a few changes...

RML have provided updates for the TC1 Chevrolet Cruze's run by ROAL Motorsport, Munnich Motorsport and Campos Racing, who have tested these in Barcelona. Honda have been testing engine and chassis updates on the new Civic WTCC test car whilst Lada have also tested updates to the Grants TC1 as well as announcing that they will use the new Vesta TC1 from next year, whilst confirming they will retain Huff, Thompson and Kozlovskiy for 2015.

Also, this final third of the championship offers Jose Maria Lopez a good few oppurtunitiesto be crowned 2014 WTCC Champion before Macau with the huge points lead he has over teammate Yvan Muller.

So this is how it panned out...

ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton took a surprise pole position in qualifying for the World Touring Car Championship in Beijing, beating Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini to the top time in a session featuring no Citroën drivers on the front row.

Chilton was the fastest driver in the all-important Q3 session, pipping Tarquini to pole by just 0.032 seconds after the Italian admitted to making a small mistake on his single lap.

Citroën’s Yvan Muller was third fastest, also within a tenth of a second of Chilton but unable to go faster than his former team-mate. Championship leader José María López was fourth, unable to match the pace he had in Q2 which would have been good enough for pole.

Münnich Motorsport’s Gianni Morbidelli, who had on Saturday been the fastest Chevrolet driver in two of the three sessions, could only manage fifth fastest, just over half a second off the pace.

Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz was the top driver to miss out on Q3, posting the sixth fastest time in his independent Honda. Sébastien Loeb was seventh, having missed out on entry into the final qualifying segment by two tenths of a second.

It was a good qualifying session for the LADA drivers, with both James Thompson (eighth) and Rob Huff (tenth) making it into Q2. Huff therefore starts race two from pole position, with ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel alongside him after the Dutchman was ninth fastest.

It turned out to be a poor qualifying session for Saturday’s pace-setter Tiago Monteiro. The Honda driver was only 11th in Q2, missing out on both Q3 and the reverse grid for race two after being more than a second off the pace. He will be joined on row six of the grid by Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente, who failed to make an impression.

Q1 was twice red-flagged. The first came when Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Filipe Clemente de Souza went off at the final corner and beeched his BMW in the gravel. The second came after Campos Racing’s Dušan Borković lost control of his Chevrolet and spun onto the infield, dislodging his front splitter and requiring a tow back to the pits. He was thus only 16th fastest.

Franz Engstler again took class pole for TC2, with the Liqui Moly driver ahead of Campos Racing’s John Filippi and Michael Soong.

Tom Chilton went on to score his first World Touring Car Championship win of the season in the opening race in Beijing, comfortably finishing ahead of Yvan Muller and José María López.

Chilton got off to a strong start away from the line, whilst behind him Muller got past front row start Gabriele Tarquini for second.

The race was neutralised after three laps, however, when the safety car came out as a result of a collision between Dušan Borković and René Münnich, with both Chevrolets having sustained damage in the wall. Borković later explained that their coming together was a result of Münnich in front having picked up a puncture.

The race eventually resumed on lap 11 and Chilton pulled away from the chasing pack untroubled, leaving Muller to defend from Tarquini. However the Italian pulled into the pits and out of the race on lap 23 having suffered from mechanical problems with his Honda.

Tarquini’s demise promoted López to third, reducing the gain of Muller into the Argentine’s championship lead.

Morbidelli finished the race in fourth for Münnich Motorsport after a quiet race, ahead of the third Citroën of Sébastien Loeb in fifth.

Norbert Michelisz was sixth, despite having passed Loeb for fifth on lap 12, with the Frenchman getting back past the Hungarian in the final laps of the race.

LADA duo James Thompson and Rob Huff finished the race in seventh and eighth, with the former taking his best result of the season, ahead of Proteam Racing’s Mehdi Bennani in ninth. Bennani had earlier had a close race with Tiago Monteiro, but the Moroccan hit the back of Monteiro’s car and caused damage that would force the Portuguese driver out of the race.

Franz Engstler won the TC2 class once again, with the race’s high attrition rate allowing him to finish inside the top ten for only the second time this season.

Hugo Valente had been running in tenth but picked up a puncture on the final lap and thus finished in 12th position.

Ma Qing Hua made progress from his starting position of 14th and was running in eighth ahead of Thompson before the Chinese driver went off the circuit on lap 22. He would retire from the race just two laps later with a puncture.

Also failing to finish was Tom Coronel, who would start race two from the front row of the grid alongside pole sitter Rob Huff.

Rob Huff took LADA’s first-ever World Touring Car Championship victory in race two in Beijing, scoring a lights-to-flag win ahead of Tom Coronel and Sébastien Loeb.

Huff, who started the race from pole position, led the entire race and was never challenged by Coronel, with the Brit opening up a lead of over four seconds just after the halfway stage of the race.

The win is the 26th of Huff’s career, and crucially the first-ever win for LADA in the championship.

Coronel and Loeb completed the podium, having been in the top three positions since the first corner of the race.

Championship leader José María López extended his points advantage by finishing in fourth, having made up more positions than anyone else inside the top ten. López, who started seventh, was in sixth by the end of lap one and then got past James Thompson for fifth on lap 11.

Norbert Michelisz was fifth, finishing one place better than race one, having lost out to the charging López on lap 16.

Thompson completed a strong day for the Russian marque by taking his best result of the season in sixth. The Brit had started third, but lost out to Loeb and Michelisz at the start and he was then hunted down and passed by López later in the race.

Gianni Morbidelli followed up his fourth in race one with seventh in race two, unable to make any progress in his Chevrolet and losing out to López at the start of the race.

Completing the top ten were race one winner Chilton, Muller and Tarquini. Muller therefore loses more ground to López in the title fight after being unable to repass Chilton after the ROAL Motorsport driver got by early in the race.

Monteiro had another poor race on the back of a disastrous qualifying and race one, finishing down in 13th position. Monteiro had spent much of the race battling with Ma Qing Hua, who finished in 12th and thus scored no points at home in China.

Franz Engstler was again victorious in TC2 for the 15th time this season despite a spin in the race, finishing ahead of John Filippi.

The only disappointment for LADA came at the start, with Mikhail Kozlovskiy failing to get to the grid after a fire in his car.

After their crashes in race one, neither Dušan Borković nor René Münnich took the start of race two.

The WTCC Circus had little time to recover as it now heads to the Shanghai International Grand Prix circuit, using the shorter layout, where Citroen has its first chance to secure the Manufacturers Title.
Frankly, after their performance this year, that has never been in doubt. But what is good to see is that the pace of the Chevrolet's and Honda's had increased and that they were able to make life more difficult for Citroen, which is good for the championship as it moves back towards offering the close racing we know and love from the WTCC.

All the best!


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

FIA World RX 2014: Solberg wins Title as Hansen wins in Italy...

The 2014 FIA World Rallycross Championship has proven to be an exciting series to watch this year with different drivers leading intermediate stages with different drivers going on to win the event and with the Supercar entry numbers reaching around 40 in most cases, its been no disappoinment to watch and follow.

And Italy showed another exciting, unexpected and thrilling chapter to this amazing series where the World RX and Euro RX drivers titles would be decided...

Johan Kristoffersson led the World RX of Italy after finishing as top qualifier at the half-way point in the Intermediate Classification stage. Timmy Hansen took the heat one victory and also the fastest lap time of the day for Team Peugeot-Hansen. Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport’s Anton Marklund was third making it three Swedes at the head of the field.

FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy leader Petter Solberg’s title charge suffered a setback due to an engine oil leak in heat one.

“What a day, I am very relieved to be in seventh after the day I have had I can tell you,” explained Solberg who can win the World RX title in Italy if he extends his Championship lead to 60 points. “At the end of free practice, there was an oil leak as the engine block had cracked.  We didn’t have time to change it during the heats so we took off the gearbox to try and fix the crack as best we could.  During the last heat I broke the left-rear damper and then got a puncture so I was lucky to finish ninth.  We have a big job ahead – we need to change the engine and the turbo.  We need to look at the gearbox and dampers too, it will be a big night ahead but Sunday is a new day and I have an amazing team so I’m confident they will do a good job tonight.”

After a near-perfect day in a VW Polo including the heat two victory, Kristoffersson was delighted to hold second overnight in what is only his fourth World RX outing. Kristoffersson also leads the FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX), of which Italy is the final round.  The Swede explained: “I’m really enjoying myself here – the track suits me and the car very nicely.  In the second heat, I had some technical problems as I had the throttle stuck on full but I got the fastest time so maybe it wasn’t such a big problem after all!”

Fourth and fifth are occupied by Championship contenders Topi Heikkinen and Reinis Nitiss. However Nitiss’ team-mate Andreas Bakkerud was not placed so well. The Norwegian incurred a double Joker Lap penalty for a jump-start and was later excluded for exceeding track limits. 

Second in Euro RX and on track for securing the European trophy which concludes in Italy this weekend is Sweden’s Robin Larsson in the Audi A1 Supercar.

Arguably the most impressive drive of today was that of local driver Gigi Galli who excelled on his World RX debut with Ford Olsbergs MSE to lie ninth overnight. “I am really happy to be here, and also a little surprised,” admitted Galli who helped to design the RX circuit at Franciacorta. “To be racing against the likes of Petter who I know from my rallying days in WRC is amazing.  My aim here is to learn, to enjoy myself and to do my best.  The car was perfect so now I continue to learn and hope to go as far as I can in front of my home fans.”

Over 40 Supercar drivers started the tenth round of World RX, which is being staged at the all-new RX venue of Franciacorta International Circuit in Northern Italy. The event marks the first time that rallycross has been staged in Italy since 1980, when the Gropello Cairoli circuit was included as a round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship.

Petter Solberg entered the record books after becoming the first FIA World Champion in two different disciplines. He scored enough points in Italy to secure him the inaugural FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy. After a sensational performance for Team Peugeot-Hansen, Timmy Hansen was awarded the World RX of Italy event victory. Supercar debutant Richard Goransson finished runner-up. 
Solberg’s podium position at the Franciacorta International Circuit has seen the PSRX driver stretch his lead at the top of the standings to 60 points with two events still remaining. Topi Heikkinen is currently second behind Solberg in the overall standings but with Solberg having already won four events this season to Heikkinen’s one, Solberg automatically becomes World Champion based on his higher percentage of event victories. 
“This hasn’t sunk in yet, it is a dream come true,” grinned Solberg who is now a World Champion in both World RX and WRC.  “When I stopped rallying, I didn’t know what to do and then IMG took on rallycross and brought it to an amazing level so now it seemed like the right choice.  I broke the right-rear suspension in the final and my spotter was shouting on the radio that I needed to calm down because all I needed to do was get to the podium and I would win the Championship.  I just wish my family were here with me – my wife Pernilla and my son Oliver are back home because Oliver won the Norwegian Crosskart Championship on Saturday. I have to thank them and my whole team who have worked so hard to make this happen, they really do an incredible job and have worked day and night for a lot of the season. I can’t wait to celebrate this moment with everyone tonight.”
Arguably the most impressive drive of the weekend, however, was that of 21-year-old Hansen who looked virtually untouchable in his Team Peugeot-Hansen prepared 208 Supercar.  Hansen, the son of multiple European Rallycross Champion Kenneth, won the Monster Energy Super Charge Award, two heats, his semi-final and the all-important final to take his first ever World RX victory.
“This has been a brilliant weekend and it is the best feeling to win when I pushed so hard for this moment,” explained Hansen who was joined by team-mate Timur Timerzyanov on the front row of the six-car Supercar final. “During the final, I was pushing really hard but after a few laps in, I saw pieces from the other cars all over the track so I knew there had been a lot going on behind me.  Both Petter and Richard were giving me a lot of pressure but thankfully I was able to hold on and I’m so happy to finally take a win for my team.”
Joining Hansen and Solberg in the top three was multiple Swedish Touring Car Champion Richard Goransson who shone on his Supercar debut with Ford Olsbergs MSE.  Goransson, who stepped up from RX Lites to Supercar this weekend, battled against a hugely competitive field of 40 Supercars to make it through to the final where he finished second to Hansen. “I am speechless, it has been an absolutely crazy weekend,” explained Goransson. “This has been my first ever Supercar event and I would have been happy to have made the semi-finals, never mind second overall. I kept out of trouble in the final and that’s what led to this result.”
Alongside Goransson in the final driving a second Fiesta was regular Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Andreas Bakkerud who retired on lap two after a string of misfortunate events over the weekend.  He finishes the event sixth overall. Bakkerud’s team-mate Reinis Nitiss was still in the title fight with Solberg but the 18-year-old’s chances of the World RX title was shattered when Nitiss was knocked out of the semis.  Johan Kristofferson led the Intermediate Classification stage yesterday and another strong performance today saw the VW Polo driver finish fifth in World RX and second in European.
Italy also marked the final round of this year’s FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX), which Robin Larsson won after finishing seventh in the Intermediate Classification stage. Monster Energy World RX Team driver Henning Solberg finished runner-up in Euro RX after reaching the semi-finals while EKS RX driver Pontus Tidemand was awarded third.
“It feels great to be European champion. We’ve been struggling all weekend with engine problems so we didn’t have the power we wanted. We have just been safe in all four heats and managed to finish them,” said Larsson, who follows in his father Lars’ footsteps by winning the title.
Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director for IMG Motorsports, concluded: “Firstly, congratulations to Petter Solberg who has gone down in history after becoming the first person to win two different FIA World Championships. Solberg and the entire PSRX Team have worked incredibly hard since their torrid season last year and are very worthy title winners. Even though Solberg has taken the majority of the limelight today after winning the title, Timmy Hansen’s light-to-flag victory today must not go under the radar. I have witnessed the huge effort that the entire Team Peugeot-Hansen has put into this year and I’m pleased that the team have finally got the win that they truly deserve.  As well as the World RX title, we have also seen Championships won in Euro RX, Super1600, TouringCar and the supporting RX Lites Cup which was won by Kevin Eriksson today with one round still to go. It’s also incredible to have newcomers such as Richard Goransson and Gigi Galli reach the semis in what has been a hugely competitive field of entries. Even though the drivers’ title has now been decided, the Teams’ Championship is more exciting than ever before with VW Marklund and Ford Olsbergs MSE both tied with 313 points at the top of the standings.”


1. Petter Solberg (PSRX), 235 points
2. Topi Heikkinen (VW Marklund), 175 points
3. Reinis Nitiss (Ford Olsbergs MSE), 167 points
4. Timmy Hansen (Peugeot-Hansen), 152 points
5. Timur Timerzyanov (Peugeot-Hansen), 148 points
6. Andreas Bakkerud (Ford Olsbergs MSE),146 points
1. Ford Olsbergs MSE, 313 points
1= Volkswagen Marklund, 313 points
3. Team Peugeot-Hansen, 300 points
4. PSRX, 227 points
5. Monster Energy World RX Team, 85 points
6. Albatec Racing, 32 points

The penultimate round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will take place at the former F1 venue of Intercity Istanbul Park in Turkey, in just under two weeks time on the Guru's Birthday weekend of 11th -12th of October...

Add to that a very busy weekend for the Guru, consisting of: The BTCC Finale from Brands Hatch, The WTCC event from Shanghai, The first ever Russian Grand Prix, the FIA WEC 6 hours from Fuji and The V8 Supercars Bathurst 1000kms!!!!
Theres also a little something else that happening to the Guru that will be seen in a future blogpost.

All the best!


BTCC 2014: Epic Silverstone has Spills and Thrills...

The 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has been a season full of RWD vs FWD arguments, close racing, exciting overtakes and Turbo boost moans. However the penultimate weekend of the series held at the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone, reminded us of the spectacle of the BTCC and just how thrilling it can be...

And wow, we were not disappointed...

Going into the weekend, there were three drivers capable of winning the overall Drivers Championship: Colin Turkington, Jason Plato and Gordon Shedden and all three were made to work hard for their various targets.

For Turkington, he needed to score well at a track that didnt favour the BMW. For Plato, he needed to score well to close the gap to Turkington and take the fight to the finale. For Shedden, his aim was to catchup the ground lost at Rockingham at a track that didn't suit the Honda historically.

This is how it all panned out...

Jason Plato secured his third pole position of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season in a closely fought session, ahead of championship leader Colin Turkington and Sam Tordoff.

In truth, Plato always looked favourite to claim pole in the delayed half-hour-long session, but given his points deficit to Turkington in the championship, he might have hoped that the eBay Motors driver would not be the next car behind him on the grid.

There was drama before any of the drivers had had a chance to set a timed lap, as Dave Newsham dropped his AmD Tuning Ford Focus on his out-lap and was forced to sit out the remainder of the session having damaged his front-end.

In a hectic start to the session, the rear-wheel drive cars of West Surrey Racing and Rob Austin in his Audi traded spells at the top of the times as they lowered the pace below the one-minute barrier, before Plato joined in on the action and immediately started lapping quicker, posting his pole-winning time of 58.511s on his fourth lap, with the session not yet ten minutes old.

But while Plato’s pole was decided relatively early on in the session – the fact that he completed 21 laps would suggest that he had time left to chip away should anyone take his pole – there was plenty of action left in the session. Andrew Jordan had a big sideways moment at Brooklands, while shortly afterwards the remaining MGs of Tordoff and Marc Hynes had their fastest laps deleted for exceeding track limits, although both retained their respective third and tenth positions.

Aside from the MGs at the front, the Airwaves Racing team had expected something of an upturn in form ahead of the weekend, and Mat Jackson hauled his Ford Focus into second with an off-the-radar lap as the session approached its halfway point.

The BMR Restart team had also shown plenty of promise in the two preceding practice sessions and Aron Smith and Alain Menu stated their intent to get in on the action as they moved into third and fifth respectively.

But with a third of the session remaining, Turkington ensured that he goes into raceday with a good opportunity to clinch the title as he first went sixth, before falling just short of Plato’s fastest time to slot into second on a 58.575, 0.003s ahead of Tordoff.

Jackson’s effort meant that he was the third driver to qualify within a tenth of Plato at the front, while Smith and Menu’s times were eventually good enough for fifth and sixth. Tom Ingram reinforced his credentials as a star of the future with a fine seventh place, ahead of late improver Hynes, Adam Morgan and Austin.

Jack Clarke also enjoyed his most competitive qualifying session of the year in 12th, while Aiden Moffat 18th birthday will be marked by a points-paying grid slot after he hauled his Chevrolet Cruze into 15th, ahead of the ailing Hondas of Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal. United Autosports Driver Luke Hines would start his first race in the championship since 2005 from 26th, as he qualified 1.388s off the pace.

Jason Plato went on to score a fourth British Touring Car Championship win of the season in the opening encounter at Silverstone, holding off points leader Colin Turkington and Mat Jackson.

The 46-year-old was expected to convert his pole position into victory with relative ease, but he was made to work hard for the win as the front three remained line astern until the penultimate lap.

Indeed, Turkington got the jump on his MG rival off the line, with the relatively short run to Copse still giving the rear-wheel drive BMW enough time to deploy its advantage at the start. Jackson was also able to jump Sam Tordoff into third, while Alain Menu passed teammate Aron Smith for fifth.

Despite being jumped at the start, Plato looked as though he was ready to dominate the encounter and after feigning a pass into Brooklands on the second lap, he quickly regained his lead on the next tour as he passed Turkington at the same spot.

But once in front he struggled to gap the group behind – which at that stage consisted of six cars, with Menu, Smith and Morgan latching onto the back of the leaders and each attempt he made to pull away from Turkington was matched by the Northern Irishman reeling him in the next time round.

Another group had formed behind the leaders, where Hynes headed eight cars for eighth place. Hynes initially appeared to be back those behind him into one another, but soon pulled a gap on Ingram, who found himself under real pressure from Rob Austin.

At the halfway distance Morgan made a forceful move past Smith for sixth, having threatened to do so for some laps, and set his sights on catching Menu, who had begun to gap his teammate. Morgan’s chase was to be short-lived, however, as Smith re-passed the WIX Racing driver at the start of lap 14, as his Mercedes slowed and was forced to pull off at the start of the Club straight.

Andrew Jordan and Gordon Shedden had both made progress from their grid slots as they looked to move into the top ten, but as a move from Austin put Ingram on the back foot, with the youngster then shuffled back through the pack, Shedden looked to get in on the action but was forced off the track as the Speedworks driver appeared not to have seen him.

Plato was still unable to break Turkington at the front as the front three started to pull away from Tordoff, with his lead rarely bigger than half a second. Despite that, it looked unlikely that Turkington would be able to pass the MG and the one moment that might have presented him with an opportunity – when the trio came round to lap Simon Belcher – worked against him as Plato got by early and finally pulled some breathing space from the BMW, with Jackson closing up to Turkington as the pair passed the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis.

Jackson’s interest in second put pay to any hopes that Turkington had of claiming a win, as Plato crossed the line to win by a somewhat flattering 1.453s.

Behind the leading three, Tordoff, Menu and Smith retained their places in the top six, while a late charge from Rob Collard saw him pass Hynes for seventh on the final lap. Hynes nevertheless recorded his best result to date in the series, ahead of Austin in ninth and Jordan in tenth.

Shedden recovered slightly to 13th – which leaves him as the third and final driver still in the title fight – while his teammate Matt Neal was forced to take a drive-through penalty on the final lap and dropped to 21st as a result. Luke Hines, on his return to action, finished in 20th.

Jason Plato took a second win in as many races at Silverstone, but the win was overshadowed by a crash involving Rob Collard which caused the race to be red flagged.

The race followed a similar pattern to the day’s opening encounter, but the red flag was flown a lap from the end when Collard double-rolled, having attempted to avoid a spinning Jack Clarke.

Plato was again jumped by the fast-starting Turkington off the line, while  Menu got past Tordoff for fourth with Collard following suit as the field bunched up into Maggotts.

But Plato immediately looked to regain the lead and unlike in race one – where he took a look a lap early before making his move a lap later – squirmed straight up the inside of the eBay Motors man into Brooklands on lap two and into first. It was a good close but fair move from the MG driver.

For the second race in a row a train of cars lined up behind Plato, with the top nine in close company. Aron Smith utilised that situation to pass Tordoff into Copse at the start of lap six, as Turkington started to harry Plato for the lead.

After his pass on Tordoff, Smith looked keen to overtake Collard while two places further forward his teammate Menu hounded Jackson for the final podium spot. After several abortive attempts, Menu finally made the third place his with a good run through Copse and a pass into Maggotts on lap 13.

At this point, the top seven – who had dropped Marc Hynes and Andrew Jordan – were still closely bunched as they crossed the line just 2.014s apart, with Smith following his teammate’s example and passing Collard on the exit of Becketts for fifth.

The race finally appeared to have settled down a few laps later as Plato, Turkington and Menu all appeared comfortable in their positions, but a staunch defence was required by Jackson in fourth to keep the second Volkswagen of Smith at bay. The Airwaves driver was able to keep his former teammate behind him, however, and with just two laps left to run it looked as though the race would end quietly.

But that all changed on lap 21 as Clarke, who was running in tenth, spun through Becketts and as those behind him looked to avoid contact, Collard – who had fallen some way down the order – was side-swiped by the Crabbie’s Racing Ford Focus, sending the eBay Motors car off balance and over itself, taking some seconds before eventually stopping by the side of the track. Collard was taken to the medical centre for checks, where it was said he was ‘okay’.

The Safety Car was immediately deployed, but as the race had by now reached it’s penultimate lap, the decision was taken to red flag the event with the final result counted back a lap (lap 20 of 22).

That meant that Plato’s eventual winning margin was 1.013s ahead of Turkington and Menu, who scored his second podium in three races. Jackson and Smith were fourth and fifth, ahead of a quiet Tordoff.

Fabrizio Giovanardi finished in seventh and would start the final race of the day from pole, while Andrew Jordan was eighth. There was a maiden top ten finish for Warren Scott on his 43rd birthday after a stellar drive to ninth, while the count back meant that Clarke was also able to secure his first top ten finish in the series. Gordon Shedden was classified in 11th place, and as a result is out of championship contention.

Mat Jackson won the final British Touring Car Championship race of the day at Silverstone ahead of Aron Smith and Colin Turkington.

The Airwaves Racing driver made a decisive move past his teammate Fabrizio Giovanardi before a Safety Car was deployed to score his second victory of the season and the fifth of his career at Silverstone.

The start of the race was delayed when Sam Tordoff’s MG coughed out a plume of smoke as the cars headed for their formation lap, leaving a sheen of oil on the circuit, which had to be cleared before the cars were allowed to race. The delay meant that the field were forced to start a second formation lap, while the race distance was reduced to 21 laps.

When the racing did get going, Jackson took full advantage of the now vacant grid slot in front of him to jump in front of Smith, while Turkington also advanced into fourth place.

The race had been delayed by some 20 minutes but not a lap had passed before the Safety Car was called out. Hunter Abbott appeared to tap Robb Holland at Becketts, and while most of the remaining field were able to pass the incident, James Cole was unable to avoid Holland’s S3 and ploughed into the back of him, with Martin Depper also hitting the pair.

Holland ran straight over to Cole to remonstrate with him once he was out of the car, the American clearly disappointed to end his season with a first lap retirement. Holland however realised his mistake later on and publicly apologised to James Cole.

With cars able to race to the line until the first SC Board is seen, Jackson being really clued up in these situations, he attempted to overtake his teammate and was classified as the first-place man at the end of the first lap before tucking in behind Giovanardi into Copse where they joined the Safety Car. The decision was then taken to reverse the positions, given that Jackson had raced to the line, and as such he inherited the lead a lap before the Safety Car returned to the pits.

The Motorbase driver took full advantage of the clear track in front on him when the race restarted on lap six, leaving Giovanardi and the rest of the field for dust. Turkington had a similarly electric start, passing Smith before the start/finish line, before rightfully relinquishing the position on the run down to Copse.

With Jackson pulling away at the front, Smith saw it as imperative to pass Giovanardi, and duly passed the Italian on lap seven into Becketts. Turkington was then the next man to come against Giovanardi, but perhaps with the title on his mind, found it much harder to pass than Smith had.

With Jackson in a league of his own at the front, Giovanardi did, to his credit, keep Smith in his sights and put up a valiant fight against Turkington, before a lap-and-a-half of sensational racing saw him plummet down the order.

And it had me and the missus yelling at the TV as the best in the BTCC finally had some hard racing together...

At the end of lap 18, Turkington found himself on the inside of Giovanardi going into Brooklands, and despite the gap diminishing rapidly, kept his foot in to seemingly claim third. Giovanardi was having none of it though, and fought back through Luffield, forcing Turkington wide at Woodcote. Their squabbling allowed Menu to dive up the inside of the pair of them through Copse, as they started their 19th laps, but he ran wide on the exit and the pair re-passed him on the run down to Maggotts. Turkington again appeared to have a move done on Giovanardi, only for Plato to arrive behind him and push him into the side of the Italian, forcing him down to 11th, where he eventually finished the race.

Turkington moved into third as a result, with Plato fourth and Menu fifth. That was ultimately the end of the action, with Jackson cantering to victory and Smith equally comfortable in second. While Turkington did claim a third podium of the day, Plato’s performance across the weekend means that the title fight does go to the final round of the season, at Brands Hatch in two weeks’ time.

Behind, Andrew Jordan brought his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic in a solid sixth, ahead of ahead of Adam Morgan, Gordon Shedden, Warren Scott – who scored a second-consecutive top-ten finish – and Jack Goff, who completed the top ten.

All of this means now that Turkington can effectively tie up the Drivers Title in race one at Brands Hatch this weekend. If Plato were to take Pole Position, Lead the race, get fastest lap and win, Turkington needs only to finish second behind him. Considering the performances that the three eBay BMW's showed on the Indy circuit back in March...thats quite possible.

What it also means is we can expect another exciting Finals Day with everyone racing for points and pride to get the best finish to the season possible. For me, that means either Gio or Menu or both drivers getting a race win before the seasons end and looking for more stand out performances up and down the grid.

One notable change for Finals Day will be Tony Gilham returning to the BTCC in thr Rotek Racing Audi S3. Robb Holland will be on VLN duties at the Nurburgring and unable to pilot the car and has asked Gilham to step in for the event. However with the car needing repair, its doubtful Tony will get to test the car before first practice on Saturday morning.

Either way it will be and exciting end to an... Interesting season. Not a classic, but an interesting one...

All the best!