TRUCK AND TREAT: BIG RIGS ROCK BRANDS HATCH
Coming into the season finale Ryan Smith only needed a single point to claim his second British Truck Racing Championship title in as many years.
Rival Stuart Oliver was mathematically in contention but his chances were extremely slim as he needed to win all four races, with Smith failing to score at all, to claim the title. Come race one Smith made it clear that he was not going to play it safe and, starting from second on the grid, he went around the outside of polesitter Shane Brereton as the pack stormed through Paddock Hill Bend and began to open up the gap in an effort to secure the title as early as possible. His strategy worked out perfectly and a win in the first of four races scheduled for the weekend allowed the Mansfield-based driver to celebrate the title on Saturday.
Despite being crowned champion, Smith’s take-noprisoners’ attitude didn’t change on Sunday and the 36-year-old produced a stellar drive from the back of the grid to second with a late coming together with Mat Summerfield resulting in the latter burying his truck in the gravel on the outside of Druids, with race win going to Luke Taylor. Oliver claimed a win in race three of the weekend, with Smith claiming the last race of the meeting as well as of the BTRC season – the Grand Final featuring a grid comprised of trucks belonging to both divisions.
“Two-time champion now, it feels great,” said the delighted Smith. “I have all my sponsors, all my family and friends here. The spectators have been brilliant. Brands Hatch put on a good event. I’m very, very happy – it’s fantastic.”
In Division 2 Mika Makinen secured his title prior to the season finale, but put his Sisu truck on pole adding to his dominance this season. The Finn was in control in the race that was red-flagged twice but ultimately lost out on the second restart and came third, behind race winner Luke Garrett and Tony Smith. Makinen however won in the second of the Division 2 races held on Sunday with the remaining two wins going to Paul Mccumisky and Luke Garrett (winner in the combined class race).
Three races a day and grid sizes exceeding 30 cars is a recipe for a thrilling spectacle and such was the case with the Legends Championship. Stephen Whitelegg won twice while Guy Fastres, Will Gibson, Sebastien Kluyskens and Connor Mills all took a win each, but it was John Mickel who, thanks to a streak of consistent results over the course of the weekend (10th, 11th, 10th, fourth, sixth, eighth respectively), secured the title.
Mills’ drive in the third final of Saturday’s races caught the most attention. The former Formula Ford racer was the class of the field in damp conditions and, following a start from the back end of the grid, made it all the way up to seventh by lap four and had a sniff of a victory until a trip through the gravel at Clearways put him on the back foot. The 20-year-old ultimately finished fourth.
The one-off appearance of British Touring Car Championship regular Andrew Jordan was the big talking point of the Pickup Truck Racing Championship and indeed the 2013 BTCC champion stole the show. In race one Jordan came home second following a start from the very back, pressurising his former BTCC rival Lea Wood for the win in the closing stages. In race two Jordan took a lightsto-flag victory producing a brilliant display of defensive driving, keeping his rivals at bay while dealing with engine issues. “It was really hard, I had a misfire from lap two,” said Jordan, who didn’t put a wheel wrong in all weekend, despite never raced a pickup before. “I was very vulnerable, I was having a misfire in the corners so I was just trying to get off the corners well and defend where I needed to. It was some good, hard racing. I loved it.”
It was a bitter weekend for Rod Birley who came into the weekend with a prospect of beating or at least equalling the record of 625 race wins in club racing. It started not too bad with a third place and win in Tin Tops.
In Modified Saloons, Birley won race one but then had a coming together with Graham Crowhurst after the chequered flag and was kept overnight in hospital for observation. Andy Banham took the glory in race two. A second place and a win in was enough for Malcolm Blackman to secure the Intermarque title.
Blackman (l) scored two podiums to clinch Intermarque glory Mark Willis suffered this spin during Brands Pickup Truck race
Fisher leads the hotly-contested Tin Tops field
Whitelegg won twice,but Mickel still claimed title