Cole scores three top ten hits at Oul­ton

Southport Visiter - - Visiter Life - BY STEVE HIRST name.name@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @twit­ter­name

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.”

Jakob Ebrey

South­port racer James Cole at Oul­ton Park

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