Cole scores three top ten hits at Oulton
MOTOR racing champion James Cole (29), from Southport, returned to his home circuit Oulton Park last weekend and came away with a series of excellent results - a 5th, a 7th and a 9th - from his fourth round series of races in the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
His performances at the wheel of the No 20 Motorbase Performance/Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher Ford Focus RS not only fulfilled his determination to get back “into the top six and staying there” after failing to add to his points tally at his “bogey” circuit Thruxton in May, but has lifted him into ninth place in the BTCC Independent Drivers standings.
His points haul also helped Motorbase/Team Shredded Wheat with Gallagher to move up to fourth in the Team Championship and to third in the Independent Team Championship rankings.
Now after the first four rounds, out of ten, in Britain’s leading motor racing series Cole has finished in the top ten, with two best placed fifth placings at Donington Park in April and Oulton Park last Sunday, on six occasions so far this season.
After qualifying eighth on Saturday the former British Formula Ford champion made a storming start to race one on Sunday to make up two positions and into sixth place on the opening lap of 15 on the tight and tricky to overtake 2.226 mile Island Circuit layout,.
It was a reminder of the race craft and determination that brought him the 2009 Formula Ford title after a tense season-long struggle against American star Joseph Newgarden, the current Indycar champion.
Cole continued to show that he now rapidly gaining confidence as he moves up the tin top ratings and for several laps harried triple BTCC champion Matt Neal in the Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic for fifth place.
He eventually faced a penultimate lap attack from another former BTCC champion Colin Turkington (Team BMW) and crossed the line in seventh place after a successful return to his “home” track, finishing just five seconds behind first time BTCC race victor Matt Simpson in the Simpson Racing Honda Civic.
With his Team Shredded Wheat with Gallagher team-mate Tom Chilton and Sam Tordoff in the GardX supported RS completing the race in second and fourth, it had been a superb start to the day for Motorbase Performance.
Just before race two the Motorbase boys were gifted a bonus when first race winner was forced to miss the race after his team discovered an engine problem, and so Chilton inherited a start from pole, and Tordoff and Cole moved up one place each on the grid to third and sixth respectively.
From the start Cole managed to retain his position and went on to put in one of his strongest drives to date on the picturesque Cheshire track where back in 2007 he was the winner of both BRSCC NW Formula Ford Post 89 and Class A Championships and the “Star of Anglesey” Championship in his early single-seater career.
After seven laps the Southport race ace managed to make a move by team- mate Tordoff and into fifth place. For the remaining eight laps he kept a howling pack of cars at bay until the chequered flag came out after another high speed 15 laps of nose to tail racing.
It was a fine all round performance from Cole who was only beaten to the flag by three former BTCC champions, Turkington (first), Neal (second) and Andrew Jordan (Team BMW/Pirtek Racing) (4th) and his own Shredded Wheat with Gallagher team-mate Tom Chilton who gave Motorbase another podium result in third.
With another good haul of points for the Kent-based outfit it was tinged with disappointment when Tordoff was forced to retire at a fire marshall’s point when smoke started to billow from his car on the tenth lap.
Come the final race of the day Cole was on track for a podium and the possibility of adding to his BTCC race win tally, that began with his maiden tin-top victory at Rockingham last season, when the reverse grid draw saw him starting from third on the grid.
After a red flag stoppage, caused by a start line series of shunts, he dropped one position at the shortened re-started 12 lap race but continued to battle hard and was looking set to finish another race in the top six before being bumped and muscled down the order on the penultimate lap and eventually being classified ninth. Cole told the Visiter: “It’s been a good weekend, all credit to the No 20 crew. I’d have like to have given them a podium but it wasn’t to be. “Race 3 was a frustrating end to the day, going from 6th with a lap to go to 9th, but I can’t complain with qualifying in the top ten and then following that up with three top ten finishes.” He added: “We’ve come away with a good points haul from the weekend and moved up in the standings.” Looking ahead to the next round at Croft on the weekend of June 23-24 Cole declared: “We bounced back from our horror weekend at Thruxton which is what we planned and we can carry this into Croft. “If we can finish every weekend in the top five or six then eventually we’ll get our podiums and wins.”
Southport racer James Cole at Oulton Park