The second meeting of this year’s BTCC campaign provided WSR’s Tom Oliphant with his first ever British Touring Car win and saw drivers using Cobra seats top the podium in all three races.
It was at Brands Hatch on the final laps of the final race of last season that Dan Cammish suffered a brake failure which saw him lose the BTCC Championship. In a strange twist of fate, the motor racing gods redressed the balance in the first race this year with Dan’s Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R taking a dramatic win after a late puncture hit long-time leader Rory Butcher.
Butcher led for the first 12 laps of race 1 and seemingly had the race in his pocket. Scorching temperatures meant that each time Cammish brought his Honda up to the rear bumper of the leading Ford then the Civic would overheat and Cammish would have to back off a little. Behind Dan, Championship leader Colin Turkington was having similar problems – so the 1-2-3 seemed to be decided.
Then, quite inadvertently, Cammish's Honda team-mate Matt Neal made an impact on the result when he hit the barriers on the outside of Hawthorns after a collision as he tried to pass Aiden Moffat. The resulting safety car gave the drivers time to cool their engines (even though the temperatures inside the cockpits soared to almost unbearable levels).
The interlude set up a three-lap dash to the finish, but the cars had hardly got going again before Cammish took the lead at Druids as plumes of smoke belched from the left-front of Butcher’s car to herald a puncture that would end his race and leave him as deflated as his nearside Goodyear.
This gave Cammish, who was carrying 54kg of success ballast in his Honda, his second win of the season over Turkington, whose West Surrey Racing BMW 330i M Sport got a “comfortable” second despite carrying maximum ballast.
Race 1 set a good precedent for the day, with drivers on the top two steps of the podium both choosing Cobra seats.
On to race 2 and it was Colin Turkington’s turn to step on to the top of the podium.
Cammish had a sluggish start from pole position allowing Turkington and Tom Ingram’s Gazoo Racing UK Toyota to rush in to the top two spots.
Initially Ingram put Turkington under intense pressure but then a charging Cammish meant that the Toyota driver had to spend as much time looking in his mirrors to defend second as did trying to take the lead.
The battle ended prematurely, however, when Cammish’s car cut out whilst running through Surtees leaving the Honda man standing by the circuit wondering what might have been.
Turkington eventually pulled away to take a comfortable win from Ingram with Ash Sutton completing the podium.
So once again, drivers using Cobra seats grabbed the top two steps on the podium.
For the second week running, however, Turkington showed that his skill behind the wheel doesn’t transfer to pulling balls out of a hat when he again drew P.12 for the reverse grid.
However, Colin’s own bad luck gave his BMW teammate Tom Oliphant the opportunity to claim a spectacular maiden Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship victory in a frenetic final race of the day.
Oliphant made one of the passes of the season rocketing around the outside of Aiden Moffat and Stephen Jelley on the run down to Paddock Hill Bend early in the race to take the lead.
Despite being hard pressed by some of the BTCC heavyweights for most of the race Oliphant drove sublimely to hold them at bay, crossing the line for a popular win – and in doing so, scoring the 300th podium in the BTCC for BMW.
Second place went to Sutton but third changed late on as punctures hit first one podium chaser and then the next. At the chequered flag it was yet another “Cobra driver” Stephen Jelley in his Team Parker Racing BMW who claimed third.
Behind the top three, Colin Turkington drove an impressive race to improve on his “self-imposed” twelfth place start and eventually finish fifth – extending his Championship lead in the process.
Matt Neal, too, drove an impressive race: An overheating Honda in race 2 resulted in a DNF which posted him at the back of the grid for race 3, but Matt used all his race craft to grab a top six place for Halfords Yuasa Racing.
So, two weeks – and six races - in to the delayed season and there is an air of familiarity in the rankings, with drivers and teams who use Cobra seats blocking out the top spots: In the Drivers Championship Colin Turkington heads the field, with teammate Tom Oliphant in third, Tom Ingram in fourth, Dan Cammish in fifth, Rory Butcher sixth and Stephen Jelley seventh. In the Manufacturers table it is BMW heading the field from Honda and Toyota, while WSR are pulling ahead of Halfords Yuasa Racing in the team’s standings.