TOURING CAR CHAOS AT SNETTERTON
Veteran Rob Collard has moved to the top of the title race. By Matt James TAKES COMMAND
The results during the Snetterton British Touring Car Championship weekend were such that Rob Collard in his WSR BMW left with the points lead. He was smiling after claiming a runners-up spot in race three, as was winner, Honda’s Gordon Shedden.
Colin Turkington took the first rear-wheel-drive victory at Snetterton since the switch to full NGTC regulations in 2013 in the opening race in his Subaru Levorg GT, but a huge midfield crash in race two (won by Mat Jackson’s Motorbase Performance Ford Focus) and an even more frightening start line incident in race three were worrying.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as they drove out of the gates after some reckless driving. The BTCC dodged a bullet last weekend.
The speedtraps told their own tale after qualifying – and they also pointed to what a fantastic job Shedden had done to power the Honda Civic to pole position. It was an on-the-edge lap, and enough to give him a 0.01s buffer ahead of Turkington’s Subaru.
The speed monitors showed that Shedden – admittedly only carrying 15kg of ballast – was going to be a sitting duck on the straights, especially against the rapid Levorg.
That is exactly how it proved. Shedden got the slingshot into the lead at Riches and Turkington followed – even though there was an investigation into the Northern Irishman’s getaway, which was later dismissed. Turkington hunted and hunted the Honda, but was just unable to force his way through.
Time and again Turkington tried to get the run out of the Agostini hairpin only to be rebuffed in to Hamilton – and he even tried a tight move coming out of Oggies at half distance. Both were running on the soft tyres too, so waiting for the Dunlops to wilt wasn’t an option.
“I didn’t really know what to do,” said Turkington afterwards. “We had Mat Jackson’s Focus behind, so I wasn’t sure whether to drop back from Shedden and let him get on with it and maybe he would start to struggle later on. In the end, I decided against it and tried to hammer him.”
Eventually, it worked. With two such clean drivers, it was always going to take something special. When it came, it was a tiny error from Shedden.
“He ran just a little wide at Agostini, and that gave me the chance to get my nose down the inside,” said Turkington. “That was what I needed.”
From staring at the bootlid of the Honda for seven laps, Turkington scampered away and crossed the line 2.771s clear after 12 laps.
Shedden was gutted, but it had been a well-fought battle. ‘The Subaru used its advantage which it has over us, which is its power out of the slow corners,” said Shedden. “It had been hard work. I was as defensive as I could be. Second is a good result, first would have been better, but we are going to go away now and try to rethink things for race two.”
Mat Jackson had a steady race for third, which was Motorbase’s 300th event in the category, and he managed to claim the team’s 1000th point for an Ngtc-spec car. He took that despite contact away from the line with Adam Morgan’s Merc, which damaged the bumper on the Focus. “We were lucky to get away with that,” said Jackson . “It could have ruined the race.”
Morgan was perplexed that his car was not as good as it had been in qualifying. “It wasn’t undrivable, but we were certainly missing the edge that we had 24 hours ago,” he said. He nevertheless banked fourth place.
Both of the Triple Eight Racing MGS should have been well in the mix too, but for failures on the front-left Dunlops, which were the soft option tyres. Ash Sutton had jumped Morgan initially to run fourth, but the Merc man battled back on lap three.
Sutton’s team-mate, Josh Cook, was the first to depart when he dropped out of a strong eighth with a deflation on lap eight, while Sutton only lasted two more tours before his rubber went flat.
Sutton explained: “There was no warning .The team were just about to get on the radio to me to tell me that Josh had a problem, and mine went. We weren’t running a trick set-up and there was no reason for it to happen.”
Cook agreed: “I was being careful, and there was no warning. Just as I turned in to the left hander at the Esses, it went. It is very puzzling.”
Those dramas helped Jason Plato’s Team BMR Subaru to claim fifth after he had unpicked a solid defence from Tom Ingram’s Speedworks Toyota Avensis with a masterful overtake around the outside at Agostini on lap 11, a move that was reminiscent of short oval action. Ingram had been struggling with a vibration, but it was still hats off to Plato.
“It was great,” said Plato. “I knew I had to try something different because Tom had great straight-line speed, and it worked perfectly. I had run slightly wide at Agostini in free practice, and I had grip. I stored that information and it came in useful.”
Behind Ingram in sixth, points leader Sam Tordoff had decided to take the pain in his fully ballasted WSR BMW 125i M Sport. He opted for the soft tyres allied to the 75kg of success ballast and just “got through” race one. “Even if I had finished 20th, it wouldn’t have mattered. I just wanted it out of the way,” he said. Seventh was one hell of a way to limit the pain.
Matt Neal, also in the title hunt, was also hauling a large amount of lead ballast. He had 57kg, but was able to track Tordoff for eighth spot – although Neal had used the medium rubber rather than the white-walled covers.
The second two Team BMR Subaru Levorgs of Warren Scott and James Cole rounded out the top 10, which marked a watershed for the team.
Two of the main casualties of the race were a lacklustre Rob Collard, who had dragged 66kg of success ballast to a lowly 18th on the grid after struggling for set-up on the WSR BMW 125i M Sport. He could only improve to 16th in the race.
That was two places behind the second Motorbase Ford Focus of Andrew Jordan, who had been forced to start from the back after a power steering problem in qualifying. He was spat on to the grass on the opening lap, but battled back to 14th.
Turkington hauled his 75kg to Riches first at the start of race two, but there was a battle behind. Mat Jackson ran side-by-side with Shedden going around the corner and made the move stick coming out of the turn. In to the Wilson hairpin, Mat Jackson forged an opening inside a slightly wayward Turkington to grab the lead.
It would count for nothing though. There was a huge shunt on the Bentley Straight halfway around the first lap. Ollie Jackson (AMD Tuning.com Audi S3) and Dan Welch (Welch Proton Persona) got together on the exit of Williams and mayhem ensued, with Hunter Abbott (Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet), Alex Martin (Team Parker Racing Ford Focus) and Sutton also significantly involved. There was a lot of damage, but thankfully no injuries.
It gifted Turkington another chance at nailing the start – and he would only have to carry the huge lump of lead for 10 laps this time.
The Northern Irishman’s advantage lasted only two corners further. Mat Jackson again dealt with Shedden as the cars rounded Riches, and then powered up to the rear of the Subaru at Agostini. He nipped in front on the exit, but Turkington felt there had been a little bit of contact.
A nudge was something Turkington would experience a lap later, too. As the field powered in to the Wilson hairpin, Shedden was down the inside of the Subaru and the pair made slight contact, but the hold up for the Scot was enough for Morgan to fancy his chances too. He dived for the inside of the Honda and connected with it, pushing the orange car sideways.
That delayed Shedden and Morgan was through by Agostini and it served to concertina up the queue behind as the Honda regained momentum. After argy-bargy going in to Oggies, Neal leapt up to fourth behind Morgan, with Plato fending off Collard for fifth.
Turkington (centre) won the opening event
Collard lost out in race three, but took points lead