THE RUN­NERS WHO KEPT THE LEAD­ERS HON­EST

Motor Sport News - - Review: British Touring Cars - POINTS Bri­tish F4

Adam Mor­gan fin­ished in ninth place in the stand­ings and was the first dou­ble win­ner of the cam­paign when he backed up his tri­umph at the open­ing meet­ing at Brands Hatch with an­other suc­cess at Thrux­ton.

His real low point came at the same time as Shedden’s, when he was twice forced to re­tire the Cice­ley Rac­ing Mercedes-benz with sus­pen­sion dam­age at Croft. He’d strug­gled at Oul­ton Park too, where the rear-wheel-drive cars come to the fore.

Engineering changes be­hind the scenes at Cice­ley worked very well, and Mor­gan was driv­ing as well as at any time in his tin-top ca­reer.

His Laser Tools Rac­ing-backed team-mate Ai­den Moffat con­tin­ued his up­ward ca­reer tra­jec­tory. He started on the front row at Thrux­ton but was soon in the wars as the cars con­certi­naed up into the com­plex. He would have to wait un­til the very end of the sea­son for his next shot at a top re­sult, which came in the fi­nal meet­ing of the sea­son at Brands, where he landed a ca­reer-best sec­ond place to sign off the year with 14th in the points.

There was very lit­tle to sep­a­rate Triple Eight Rac­ing MG6 part­ners Josh Cook and Ash­ley Sut­ton in terms of pace in the cars which were a mix­ture of the new RML parts and the older GPRM kit. The 2015 Re­nault UK Clio Cup cham­pion Sut­ton was a race win­ner in his maiden sea­son and lifted the Jack Sears Tro­phy for top rookie. Sut­ton took to the BTCC with ease, and there is a fu­ture cham­pion here. Cook was un­lucky not to win but in ev­ery other as­pect, he was a match for Sut­ton and fin­ished one po­si­tion ahead of his part­ner with 12th in the stand­ings.

Just in front of that was Jack Goff, who was one of the dis­ap­point­ments of the year in the WSR BMW 125i M Sport. The switch to rear-wheel-drive was al­ways go­ing to be a big ask, but de­spite some early prom­ise with a podium at Brands, he seemed to strug­gle to get on top of the car. He was re­sound­ingly beaten by both of his team-mates.

The open­ing win of the year went to Tom In­gram, who con­trolled the pace beau­ti­fully in the Speed­works Toy­ota to fend off cham­pion Gordon Shedden in the Honda. He strug­gled to string to­gether a meet­ing with three strong re­sults af­ter get­ting caught up in some un­nec­es­sary in­ci­dents. He had ironed those out by the mid-point and went on to take a sec­ond vic­tory at Sil­ver­stone, but only af­ter both MGS ahead of him had been pe­nalised for a rear wing is­sue. He was 10th in the points.

The 12th dif­fer­ent race win­ner of 2016 was Aron Smith in the Team BKR VW CC. He was using the chas­sis raced by Colin Turk­ing­ton in 2015, but the out­fit only got the green light to join the com­pe­ti­tion just a cou­ple of weeks be­fore the of­fi­cial me­dia day. Fran­tic work by the squad got the cars, which were still fit­ted with GPRM parts, to the grid and Smith used it well. The team made a strong im­pact too.

Bri­tish F4 was an­other series where the ti­tle bat­tle went down to the fi­nal race. Un­like 2015 when Lando Nor­ris had al­ready sealed the crown in the penul­ti­mate con­test, this was a nail-bit­ing af­fair with six driv­ers head­ing into the Brands Hatch week­end still with a shot of the ti­tle.

It had cer­tainly been a topsy-turvy sea­son. To be­gin with, Car­lin’s Ro­ma­nian driver Petru Florescu was the man to beat. Then came a mo­ment of mad­ness at Knock­hill. He col­lided with team-mate Devlin De­francesco in race two be­fore brawl­ing with the Cana­dian, earn­ing him an ex­clu­sion from the week­end and ef­fec­tively end­ing his ti­tle hopes.

An­other Car­lin driver then came on strong with Max Fewtrell as­sum­ing the points lead thanks to an in­cred­i­bly con­sis­tent sea­son. But the vastly more ex­pe­ri­enced Sen­nan Field­ing stole the ad­van­tage head­ing into Brands af­ter a strong Sil­ver­stone week­end.

That set up an in­trigu­ing fi­nale, but Fewtrell held the up­per hand thanks to his bet­ter qual­i­fy­ing per­for­mance. He started the last race from pole, while Field­ing was down in sixth. The JHR racer set about climb­ing up the or­der, pulling bril­liant moves to rise to third. But then he got stuck be­hind rookie Ayr­ton Sim­mons while Fewtrell took an im­pres­sive win up front, seal­ing the ti­tle by just seven points.

While Fewtrell scored com­fort­ably more podi­ums than any other driver, that Brands vic­tory was only his third of the year. But while his ri­vals all en­joyed vary­ing for­tunes through­out the sea­son it was his con­sis­tent per­for­mances – save for a col­li­sion with fel­low Car­lin racer James Pull at Thrux­ton that rolled him onto the bar­ri­ers – that net­ted him the ti­tle.

As for Field­ing, he was dev­as­tated to miss out in that fi­nal race. “I gave it my all but I was just re­ally gut­ted for my team and fam­ily,” he says. “It was heart break­ing. I’ve just got to take the pos­i­tives – we did well to com­pete against Car­lin and there were times that the car was the quick­est on the grid.

“I think peo­ple recog­nised the job we did with the car we had and it’s taught me how to de­velop the car, which is im­por­tant to be­come a pro­fes­sional rac­ing driver.”

Be­sides Field­ing and the Car­lin quar­tet, there were a host of other driv­ers to take vic­to­ries in what was a very com­pet­i­tive sea­son. Dou­ble R’s Zane God­dard had a bril­liant sec­ond half of the year with four wins, while Fortec’s Alex Quinn and Jamie Caro­line and Ar­den’s Luis Leeds and Rafa Martins were all vic­to­ri­ous too. JHR’S Billy Monger should also have joined the win­ners’ cir­cle but was cru­elly de­nied a maiden vic­tory in the fi­nal race at Rock­ing­ham when oil pres­sure trou­bles dropped him to third.

That was just one of a num­ber of mo­ments that will linger in the mem­ory from an ex­cit­ing sec­ond year of the FIA F4-spec for­mula.

Con­sis­tency is very dif­fi­cult to achieve in a cat­e­gory as un­pre­dictable as Ginetta Ju­nior. The races are often dra­matic and it’s very easy for the top driv­ers to get caught up in scrapes. But one racer man­aged to avoid this and con­sis­tently de­liver strong re­sults.

It’s there­fore no sur­prise that Will Tre­gurtha ended the year as cham­pion. The 16-year-old HHC Mo­tor­sport driver demon­strated re­mark­able con­sis­tency this sea­son. Only once did he fin­ish out­side of the top six and those metro­nomic per­for­mances en­sured he sealed the crown early at Sil­ver­stone, mean­ing he could sit out the Brands Hatch fi­nale.

Tre­gurtha ( right) is quick to point out how key his con­sis­tency was. “The one time something did go wrong I still fin­ished in­side the top 10 [af­ter con­tact at the first cor­ner in race one at Croft],” he says. “It was be­ing able to do fast laps ev­ery­where and be as con­sis­tent as pos­si­ble.

“At the start of the year it was very hard be­cause every­one was still very close and try­ing to find their feet. Once I got go­ing prop­erly, for ex­am­ple at Oul­ton Park, that was when we started to pull ahead. Once that started hap­pen­ing I didn’t have to push as hard and take as many risks and that made it a lit­tle bit eas­ier.”

Af­ter that dou­ble win at Oul­ton ended a six-race barren spell, Tre­gurtha picked up fur­ther vic­to­ries at Croft, Knock­hill and Rock­ing­ham to then seal the ti­tle in Northamp­ton­shire.

“It means every­thing to me be­cause I worked re­ally hard to get that and it took a lot of ef­fort and com­mit­ment,” he says.

A lack of con­sis­tency proved key for Tre­gurtha’s clos­est ri­val Stu­art Mid­dle­ton. The Douglas Mo­tor­sport driver ac­tu­ally took more wins – seven to Tre­gurtha’s six – but a dif­fi­cult sec­ond half of the sea­son left him on the back foot, de­spite top­ping the stand­ings mid-year.

He en­dured brake trou­bles at Snet­ter­ton, was pe­nalised for a jumped start at Knock­hill, had a scruffy Rock­ing­ham week­end and then had more caliper is­sues at Sil­ver­stone. These prob­lems dropped him out of ti­tle con­tention but he at least ended his year on a high with a win in the penul­ti­mate race at Brands af­ter dra­mat­i­cally pass­ing Lewis Brown ex­it­ing the fi­nal cor­ner.

Brown and Dave Wooder ended up third and fourth in the points but also lacked con­sis­tency, while a num­ber of rook­ies put in strong per­for­mances, with Daniel Harper, Harry King and Se­bas­tian Pri­aulx all tak­ing wins. ■

Two shunts de­railed Rob Col­lard’s points charge Matt Neal scored early on ROUND Ja­son Plato won at Knock­hill Mat Jackson sealed third spot MATT NEAL GORDON SHEDDEN AN­DREW JORDAN SAM TORD­OFF ROB COL­LARD MAT JACKSON COLINTURKINGTON JA­SON PLATO Champ Shedden

Aron Smith was the 12th dif­fer­ent win­ner of the 2016 Bri­tish tour­ing car sea­son

Adam Mor­gan was a two-time win­ner in the Cice­ley Rac­ing Mercedes-benz

Fewtrell

Dou­ble Snet­ter­ton win aided Field­ing’s ti­tle bid

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