BTCC re­port: Thrux­ton

Adam Mor­gan stood firm amid chaos in Hamp­shire.

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Matt James

There were once again three dif­fer­ent vic­tors in Bri­tish Tour­ing Car rounds at Thrux­ton last week­end but one of them – Adam Mor­gan in the Cice­ley Rac­ing Mercedes-benz A-class – stood out as the big win­ner.

He led them all home in a trou­bled open­ing round af­ter sev­eral cars struck tyre trou­ble, while Mor­gan then went on to fol­low An­drew Jor­dan’s Mo­tor­base Per­for­mance Ford Fo­cus and Rob Collard’s WSR BMW 125i M Sport over the line in race two.

Mat Jack­son ce­mented the smiles at Mo­tor­base with a dom­i­nant race three win. But, that rapid Merc had picked its way through the pack to come home third and se­cure Mor­gan’s best week­end yet in Bri­tish tour­ing cars.

Leav­ing the cir­cuit, Matt Neal (Team Dy­nam­ics Honda Civic Type R) and Collard head the standings, but Mor­gan is only three points adrift now af­ter his se­cond race-win­ning week­end of the year. He is turn­ing into a real cham­pi­onship player.

Race one

The bat­tle for pole position around the coun­try’s fastest cir­cuit had been ab­sorb­ing. Neal and Speed­works Toy­ota man Tom In­gram fought a great fight. On In­gram’s first runs, he topped the times but lost his two best laps to track lim­its in­fringe­ments. Neal looked to have put it be­yond reach de­spite the max­i­mum 75kg on Honda – but In­gram re­turned to com­bat with nine min­utes to go to bank his se­cond ca­reer pole. Ai­den Mof­fat put his Cice­ley Rac­ing Mercedes-benz A-class ahead of Neal too, but the points leader was still thrilled to have per­formed so well with the weight hand­i­cap.

But the races would all be about tyre us­age, and that meant that the bal­last-free front row pair­ing were lick­ing their lips at the prospect of 16 laps around the siz­zling hot 2.36-mile speed­bowl.

Go­ing on to the open­ing lap, it all kicked off. Firstly, In­gram de­fended the in­side as Neal sliced in­side Mof­fat at Al­lard and then the top trio tried to go in to Camp­bell as one. Pre­dictably, there was con­tact. Neal fired in to Mof­fat and In­gram was also de­layed. On the exit of the Com­plex, Neal pre­served his lead from Josh Cook (Triple Eight Rac­ing MG6) and In­gram with Mor­gan and Ashley Sut­ton (Triple Eight Rac­ing MG6) fight­ing over fourth.

Neal, car­ry­ing the full hand­i­cap, was al­ways go­ing to be slug­gish.

Af­ter a skir­mish com­ing out of the Com­plex on lap two, Sut­ton, who had made progress, can­noned in to In­gram and de­layed them both – half a lap later Sut­ton ended up dumped in to the tyres on the en­try to Noble. Mor­gan glee­fully grabbed third and set off af­ter the top two: it wouldn’t take him long.

The Ger­man hatch­back went in­side Cook go­ing in to the chi­cane at the end of lap three and then pow­ered past Neal and into first place at the be­gin­ning of lap five. From there on in, he just pulled clear.

Mor­gan said: “It was car­nage ahead and be­hind. We knew the tyres would be crit­i­cal and it was a job to look af­ter them, but there was all sorts kick­ing off be­hind so that made my job eas­ier.

“I had my dad Rus­sell on the ra­dio telling me to look af­ter the tyres, but even so my left-front was get­ting close [to the edge] to­wards the end.”

In­deed it was kick­ing off be­hind. Firstly, Mof­fat re­cov­ered his way to third place as Cook was shuf­fled down the order af­ter be­ing pushed wide. The Scots­man then sliced ahead of Neal for se­cond place at Al­lard at the start of lap six.

It looked like a good day for Mercedes, with its first ever one-two in the BTCC on the cards. Un­til lap 10. Mof­fat’s rub­ber was the first to suf­fer. His front-left tyre de­flated on lap 10 and put him off, but worse was to fol­low fur­ther back.

“I had con­tact early on, which dam­aged the car,” said Mof­fat. “Then I had more con­tact later on, which knocked the steer­ing out. Once I got back into se­cond place I was try­ing to take it easy, but the tyres were tak­ing too much pun­ish­ment.”

Run­ning in the lower half of the top 10, Mat Jack­son (Mo­tor­base Ford Fo­cus) was an­other to suf­fer a fail­ure. There was a theme com­ing.

Neal’s front left also de­flated on his way in to the chi­cane at the end of lap 11, and as he straight-lined the mid­dle part of the chi­cane, he then darted for the pit en­trance on the exit of the switch­back with­out re­al­is­ing that Cook was up his in­side. They col­lided and cars in the fol­low­ing queue scat­tered. The ma­jor ca­su­alty, apart from the two in­sti­ga­tors, was cham­pion Gor­don Shedden. His Team Dy­nam­ics Honda Civic Type R was clipped and fired in to the pit­wall. It brought out the red flags.

With the re­sults taken back a lap but with­out the non-fin­ish­ers in the clas­si­fi­ca­tion, Mor­gan had won from the sur­vivors: In­gram, Jor­dan and Jeff Smith (Eurotech Rac­ing Honda Civic Type R).

Martin Dep­per took a ca­reer best to date of fifth place in the Eurotech Rac­ing Honda Civic Type R from WSR trio Collard, Sam Tord­off and Jack Goff in the BMW 125i M Sports.

Omi­nously, the only front-wheel-drive car car­ry­ing se­ri­ous bal­last to have fin­ished the race with­out woes was Mor­gan and he would have 75kg for race two. Se­ries bosses knew that the ex­treme weather – 33 de­grees track tem­per­a­ture and ris­ing – was hav­ing a detri­men­tal ef­fect on the rub­ber. There­fore, shortly af­ter race one was com­pleted, they is­sued a bul­letin declar­ing that the re­main­ing races of the day would be 12 laps, in­stead of the sched­uled 16.

Race two

So there was less time to get the job done in race two. But In­gram, from the front row, tried to strike just a bit too early. He jumped the start just frac­tion­ally but it wasn’t to his ad­van­tage – he ac­tu­ally lost out to se­cond row man Jor­dan. It would earn In­gram a driv­ethrough, which ru­ined his charge. “It was only a mar­ginal move­ment,” said In­gram. “But I will ad­mit it was my fault.”

Jor­dan was in the wake of Mor­gan, who reached Al­lard first and set about a tyre preser­va­tion race.

Even though it was now only 12 laps, he had the dreaded 75kg on the car.

Jor­dan knew it too. “I could see that Adam was us­ing his front tyres a lit­tle bit too hard and I had to bide my time,” said Jor­dan. “I was just think­ing that I would wait for him to drop off, but I got a call on the ra­dio to say that the race was half­way through – be­cause of the shorter dis­tance that had gone pretty quickly.”

So Jor­dan got on with the job. He out­dragged Mor­gan com­ing out of the chi­cane at the end of lap 10 to chop ahead at Al­lard and into a lead he was never to lose.

“I love rac­ing with peo­ple like Adam,” en­thused Jor­dan af­ter­wards. “He is the sort of guy who gives you just about enough room to make the move stick.”

Mor­gan, on the other hand, had con­cerns of his own. “I could feel a vi­bra­tion on the front left-hand tyre, so I was be­ing cau­tious,” ex­plained the Merc man. “An­drew was strong and I couldn’t re­sist him.”

Nor could Mor­gan re­sist Collard, who used a su­perb start to leap from sixth to fourth, which be­came third when In­gram had his driv­ethrough penalty. As Mor­gan tried to wrest the lead back from Jor­dan go­ing in to the Com­plex by look­ing down the in­side on lap 11, Collard pounced around the out­side. He was the last of the late brak­ers to round the Mercedes and take se­cond place. It was worth it too, be­cause that re­sult gave him the cham­pi­onship lead.

While all of the front-wheel-drive cars were concerned af­ter the open­ing race, the rear-wheel-drive BMWS were mak­ing hay while the sun shone. The drivetrain for­mat steers with the front and pow­ers with the back, which gives it an in­her­ent ad­van­tage when it comes to tyre wear. Collard had ini­tially led team-mates Goff and Tord­off run­ning in third, fourth and fifth.

But the fly in their oint­ment was Shedden, up from an in­cred­i­ble 23rd on the grid af­ter his race one line up. He was into the top 10 af­ter only five laps and picked them off one by one un­til he was up to Goff ’s bootlid for fourth on the fi­nal tour. He forged ahead go­ing into Church cor­ner.

“It was just a case of ev­ery­thing go­ing for me, as op­posed to race one, where it went against me,” said the cham­pion.

“It was a great race and we have man­aged to sal­vage some­thing. It is a real credit to the guys who put the car back to­gether again in such a short time. It was all I could have asked for.”

Be­hind Goff and Tord­off, re­turnee Dan Lloyd was the sole re­main­ing Eurotech Honda Civic in­side the top 10 in sev­enth place. All three had been com­pet­i­tive and run with the lead­ers, but Jeff Smith spun off early on and Dep­per suf­fered a heart­break­ing punc­ture on lap 11.

Jor­dan’s team-mate Jack­son was eighth, while a se­cond ninth place of the week­end for Dan Welch’s Pro­ton was a boon – es­pe­cially as he was pulled on pole for the fi­nal race of the week­end.

Neal re­cov­ered to 11th place be­hind Rob Austin’s Handy Mo­tor­sport Toy­ota Aven­sis, while Cook claimed 12th. Neal was par­tic­u­larly pleased, and echoed Shedden’s com­ments. “That was all I could man­age,” said Neal. “The car was a bit loose but, given the dam­age that the car sus­tained, it was re­mark­able that we were there at all.”

Race three

The tem­per­a­tures were slightly cooler in the lat­ter part of the day, and that was a re­lief for all of the drivers – and, more im­por­tantly, the Dun­lop tech­ni­cians. For Welch, it was his first pole position in his BTCC ca­reer, the first for Pro­ton and the first time he had been on the front row since Oul­ton Park in 2013.

The joy for Welch was short­lived. He lost out to Jack­son on the run to Al­lard, but was com­fort­ably es­tab­lished in se­cond position. Even he was start­ing to be­lieve: “I was even gain­ing a bit on Jack­son, I thought. For four laps, I was there. Then, I went in to the Se­grave cor­ner and it just wouldn’t steer. I think I must have had a break­age.”

That served to give Jack­son a mam­moth ad­van­tage of 1.7s. He was vir­tu­ally home and hosed, and could even af­ford to back right off on the last lap.

“To get the se­cond win of the day for Mo­tor­base felt great, the hard work every­one puts in is pay­ing off and we’re in a good place,” said Jack­son. “The car’s per­form­ing well and we just need to keep clock­ing up the points and we’re all look­ing for­ward to go­ing into Oul­ton Park in the cham­pi­onship fight.”

The man stalk­ing him to the fin­ish line was Neal, who had ben­e­fited mas­sively from the fight­ing ahead. Goff and Shedden had been at it for se­cond position. Shedden looked like he would be able to gain the place, but there was trou­ble headed his way. Again.

Goff ex­plained that he was los­ing grip in his rear tyres af­ter about five laps and that was hold­ing Shedden up.

Collard, who was fol­low­ing in fourth, takes up the story: “Around the fast bits, I could see Jack was strug­gling and that was back­ing things up. Strangely, on lap seven, Shedden went to the out­side of Goff in to Vil­lage. I went for the in­side, be­cause there was a big gap there, and then Shedden came back across – I can only think I caught him un­awares.

“I hit the brakes and went down a gear to stop him hav­ing a big ac­ci­dent, but that is how Neal got ahead of me.”

An­other lap later and Neal was up to se­cond ahead of the strug­gling Goff, which put Goff and Shedden back to­gether again. It came to a head be­tween them at the end of lap 10.

Goff ex­plained: “I went in to the chi­cane on the in­side line, but I was strug­gling for grip un­der brak­ing. As I hit the brakes with Gor­don on my out­side, the rear got away from me and I slid in to him. It is rac­ing, but there is only one line into that chi­cane and you have to ques­tion Gor­don’s po­si­tion­ing.”

The Scots­man, who was un­der­stand­ably up­set af­ter­wards, re­fused to talk to the press.

Shedden was out with dam­age and Goff plum­meted to 18th. Watch­ing it all un­fold in front of him was a grate­ful Mor­gan, who pow­ered ahead to col­lect his third podium of the week­end and move into third in the standings – just three points be­hind Collard and Neal.

Collard him­self would have had a fourth, but he was at­tacked by the MG duo of Cook and Sut­ton (in that order) with two laps to go and de­cided that col­lect­ing points was more im­por­tant than col­lect­ing the bar­rier. He came home in sixth.

Race two win­ner Jor­dan’s good luck only lasted one race – he was ruled out while run­ning in sixth when he sus­tained a gen­uine punc­ture.

While he had mixed for­tunes, his team didn’t. Two wins for Mo­tor­base – and three over­all this sea­son – has put a smile back on the faces of the peo­ple from Kent. “And both our drivers are win­ning,” said team boss David Bartrum. “You can’t ask for more than that.” ■

Adam Mor­gan was

Neal was ruled out of the open­ing race af­ter a punc­ture and a crash

was the week­end’s big­gest win­ner Mor­gan made his mark at Thrux­ton

Tom In­gram was once again on the podium

An­drew Jor­dan took his first ’16 vic­tory

Mat Jack­son heads race three as Gor­don Shedden and Jack Goff clash

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