National reports: Croft; Donington Park; Snetterton; Brands Hatch
CROFT BRSCC SEPTEMBER 8-9
Having been forced to switch from his regular Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR to a Honda Civic Type R on loan from a rival team, Andreas Backman turned in his best TCR UK weekend of the year as the title battle unexpectedly intensified at Croft last weekend. The Swede converted his maiden series pole position into a first career victory as Westcoast Racing team-mate Dan Lloyd missed out on a chance to clinch the championship a round early.
A broken damper meant Lloyd slumped to his first retirement of the season in race two, won by his chief title rival, Pyro Motorsport Honda driver Ollie Taylor. Taylor now lies 31 points adrift of Lloyd ahead of the final round at Donington Park, but it was Backman who stole the show in Yorkshire.
“I am really glad with this weekend: my first pole, first win and another podium – it’s great,” said Backman, who consolidated his third place in the points standings. He only found out a handful of days before Friday’s private testing that he would be driving the Honda Civic Type R FK2, taken to podiums this year by Howard
Fuller and Sean Walkinshaw.
Westcoast elected to enter both Andreas and sister Jessica in the UK series, while allowing Fredrik Ekblom to compete in the clashing Scandinavian Touring Car Championship round in Norway using Andreas’s Golf. With seemingly no available car for Backman, Westcoast requested the help of Sean Walkinshaw Racing.
“It was a very late decision [to run the Honda] and it has been a really new experience for me,” said Backman after qualifying. “I had my first run in the
Honda yesterday and it’s such a different car. It handles differently, so it took some time to get used to it.”
Backman quickly proved he had no issues getting to grips with a car that Westcoast knew well, having run the same version of Civic in the TCR International Series in 2015 and ’16. He claimed a sensational pole in Saturday’s drying qualifying session by over half a second from Taylor’s newer FK7 Civic, courtesy of being the last driver over the line.
Tactics were the order of the day for Taylor too, with the race-two grid set by the second fastest times reversed.
Taylor did just one flying lap to ensure he claimed a double front-row start.
Backman led Sunday’s opening race from start to finish, while Taylor robustly fended off the attacks of Lloyd. After six podiums prior to Croft without standing on the top step, Backman finally managed to break his duck in style.
“I’m so happy, it’s definitely something special for me,” he said. “I’ve been very close a couple of times this year. I saw Dan was catching Ollie but I just tried to do my own thing and keep the tyres alive until the end.”
Not for the first time in 2018, Lloyd had to fight his way through the field in the opening race courtesy of a five-place grid penalty – and subsequent 30-point deduction – for his contact with Stewart Lines at the previous round at Oulton Park.
As expected, Lloyd made great progress off the line and forcefully secured third place with an arms-out manoeuvre on
Lines under braking for Tower Bend. Try as he might, though, he could not find a way past a determined Taylor, who flashed his headlights in celebration as they crossed the line in second.
Lloyd arrived at Croft with a 78-point advantage over Taylor in the standings and knew that he only needed to outscore his Honda rival by a further 13 points to claim the title. But all calculations were ignored in race two, as Lloyd managed just three corners before parking up, his front-left damper falling foul of the kerbs, sending the champion-elect out of the race.
Taylor headed Finlay Crocker for a
Pyro Motorsport one-two over the line, with the Scotsman staving off a spirited attack from Backman to claim his first podium of the season. It was a crucial victory for Taylor, which keeps the championship alive heading into the finale at Donington next month.
“Lights-to-flag, that’s what we came for this weekend,” Taylor said. “The approach to qualifying, our little tactic was what we were aiming for. We gave ourselves the best chance. I got a good start and off I went.”
For a championship that seemed oneway traffic ever since its Silverstone debut in March, an enthralling final-round title decider awaits next month.
Backman claimed pole and race victory in unfamiliar Honda Civic
Taylor ensured TCR title will be decided at Donington Park