Na­tional re­ports: Croft; Don­ing­ton Park; Snet­ter­ton; Brands Hatch

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - STEPHEN BRUNSDON

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

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