Well, “normal” may be pushing it, but at least BTCC is back … and once again it’s drivers using Cobra seats who lead the way.
It’s been more than nine long months since that dramatic conclusion to the 2019 BTCC season at Brands Hatch. In that time an awful lot has changed in the world and that has inevitably had an impact on the British Touring Car Championship – not least the fact that this year’s opening rounds took place at a Donington Park devoid of spectators. But some things haven’t changed – including the fact that over two thirds of this year’s drivers have chosen to use Cobra seats.
Despite the long wait, it didn’t take long for Dan Cammish to shake off the hangover from his dramatic brake failure on the penultimate lap of last season.
Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Cammish claimed victory in the season opener after he got the better of Colin Turkington and Ash Sutton in a fantastic battle for the lead that gave us an instant reminder of what we have been missing.
The critical moment of the contest came on lap four as Sutton got the undercut on Team BMW’s Turkington on the exit of the Old Hairpin. The pair touched on the run up to McLeans leaving room for Cammish to take the lead.
The slightest contact from Tom Ingram’s Toyota tapped Turkington’s BMW into Sutton leaving Sutton’s car stranded on the infield, with Cammish now leading from Turkington and Motorbase Performance’s Rory Butcher.
Cammish, Turkington and Butcher remained in 1 - 2- 3 for the remainder of race one, leaving TV viewers with the opportunity to watch the battle for fourth, fifth and sixth among three drivers who also put their faith in Cobra seats.
Tom Ingram’s Gazoo Racing Toyota and Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal shuffled Tom Oliphant’s Team WSR BMW down a couple of places late on to eventually finish in fourth and fifth respectively, whilst Oliphant still grabbed an encouraging top six result.
Four times BTCC Champion Colin Turkington cruised to victory in the second race of the day, with the “Cobra man” jumping in to the lead at the first corner and controlling the race from the front of the pack – despite a safety car period half way through the race.
Behind him, the minor podium positions were changing regularly: Dan Cammish was obviously struggling to cope with maximum ballast from his race one win and slipped down the field leaving Rory Butcher, Tom Ingram and Tom Oliphant to fight it out for second, third and fourth. At the chequered flag it was Butcher claiming second with Oliphant fighting back to eventually pass Ingram’s Toyota Corolla to grab third at the finish.
In race three, Ash Sutton fought his way through from eighth on the grid to take a dramatic win. Soon up in to fourth, Sutton was then part of a gripping four way scrap for the lead with Ollie Jackson, Chris Smiley and Josh Cook.
The Motorbase Performance Ford of Jackson led the opening laps but was eventually passed by Smiley’s Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai. That move gave Sutton the opportunity to leapfrog from fourth in to second with Josh Cook’s BTC Racing Honda tucked in behind.
Almost inevitably at the half way point of the race Sutton blasted past Smiley along the Dunlop Straight, leaving Smiley to fight off Cook in a battle for second which eventually saw the Hyundai crossing the finish line just 0.276s ahead of the Honda.
All of that action leaves the tables with a strangely familiar look as we head towards next weeks action at Brands Hatch: In the Driver’s standings Turkington holds a slender advantage from Cammish, Sutton and Butcher, whilst Team BMW also top the Teams’ standings.
Honda and BMW can’t be separated in the Manufacturers’ order – both having scored 89 points on the opening weekend.