BTCC - OULTON PARK
The feel-good factor started on Saturday with Matt Simpson taking his first career pole position in the British Touring Car Championship in his Simpson Racing Honda Civic Type R.
On to a glorious, sunny Sunday in front of a packed house and Simpson showed no sign of “maiden pole” nerves as he controlled the start to reach Old Hall corner first. Matt looked in complete control, but then on lap 8 smoke started to emanate from the front nearside wheel arch whenever he turned hard right – it was a nerve jangling final eight laps as doubts crept in as to whether the engine would last, made even more nail-biting when Oulton’s reputation as a brake assassin reared its head and Simpson also had to contend with soft brakes, but Matt and his Honda held on to claim not just a lights to flag win but also his maiden British Touring Car Championship victory.
It wasn’t only Matt Simpson who had an encouraging first race of the day: On a circuit where it is notoriously difficult to overtake, Andrew Jordan finally managed to get his WSR BMW into a podium position on lap eight and was only just held off second spot by a hairs breath, while Matt Neal in his Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R, was on a charge on his prime tyres and finished fifth and Colin Turkington – with 69kg of ballast on board progressed from ninth on the grid to take sixth.
Matt Simpson missed race 2 – his engine may have held out to give him victory in Race 1, but an engine change was required before the car could see any further action.
BTCC certainly lived up to its reputation for delivering the closest of racing in Race 2: Colin Turkington made a storming start to move up to 4th (from 6th on the grid) by the end of lap 1 and was in 2nd by lap 4. Behind him, Dan Cammish in his Team Dynamics Honda Civic was involved in a spectacular melee on lap 1(before finishing 12th), while Stephen Jelly’s BMW 125i m Motorsport was having even less luck, limping around the circuit with a puncture as early as lap 2.
By lap 6, the Cobra “Old Boys”, Turkington and Neal were starting to flex their muscles: Colin moved into the lead at Lodge while Matt moved up to third. By halfway it was turning into a procession (albeit a very fast and fascinating one) and by the end of the race Turkington’s BMW had pulled out a 5.5 second lead ahead of Neal in second and “Cobra” drivers Andrew Jordan in 4th, Rob Collard in 6th, Rob Austin 7th and Tom Ingram putting in the fastest lap for 10th.
On a poignant and emotional day for Colin (who dedicated his win to his Mum who passed away last week) this was his first win of the season and the 46th of his career.
If the team at Cobra thought it couldn’t get much better for “their” drivers, they were proved wrong in the final race of the day!
Race 3 was red flagged after start line mayhem made a restart inevitable: Mike Bushell was particularly thankful for the snug fit of his Cobra seat as his great start saw him move his Passat CC in between the two cars ahead of him on the grid – only to see the space disappear as he was caught in a pincer movement: Suffice to say that the carnage that followed meant that at the restart Bushell’s aptly named Team HARD VW had two empty spaces ahead of it on the grid!
With a race curfew looming, race 3 was shortened to 12 laps. On the front row Rob Austin made a decent start in his Duo Motorsport with HMS Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta but was out dragged by Rob Collard in his WSR BMW. Eventually a broken differential forced Rob into retirement, robbing him of his second podium of the season and promoting BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan into second.
Dan Cammish’s frustrating weekend continued as he limped round on his wheel rim after just three laps and his Team Dynamic’s teammate, Matt Neal, went rallying at Clay Hill on lap 8, losing eight places and a lot of points, but for many of the “Cobra” drivers things went from better to better!
Colin Turkington, carrying 75 kg of ballast was stunningly competitive and ahead of him Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan were imperious: The chequered flag fell on a sensational 1-2-3 finish for BMW as Rob grabbed his first win of the season (and the 15th of his career) ahead of Jordan and Turkington. Behind the trio, Tom Ingram grabbed 6th, Mike Bushell 8th and a late charge from Jake Hill saw him grab 9th.
As we head to the half way stage of the season (Croft in two weeks’ time) Colin Turkington leads the standings by 12 points with Tom Ingram in fourth position just 21 points behind. With Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan just a few points further back and 6th and 7th in the standings and Rob Collard and Dan Cammish also in the top ten there’s everything to play for and a long way to go!
Team BMW heads the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ standings, while Yuasa Honda’s Dan Cammish is leading the pack in the Jack Sears Trophy and Tom Boardman is heading the Dunlop Foreverforward rankings.