The British Touring Car Championship returned to Thruxton for the second visit of the season to the circuit with the highest average speed of any circuit visited by the BTCC.
“King of Thruxton” Josh Cook in his Rich Energy BTC Racing Honda Civic Type R was inevitably the driver to beat following his two victories at the circuit earlier in the year – especially since a similar showing would see him close in on the battle for this year’s Drivers Championship.
Meanwhile current Championship leader Colin Turkington knew that a repeat of his 4th, 4th 2nd results from earlier in the season would do his chances of a 5th Drivers Championship no harm at all.
As it turned out, Saturday qualifying would dampen Colin’s hopes of a weekend to remember while Josh would post a highly competitive time only to have his hopes dashed before the end of the first lap of the first race on Sunday.
Turkington summed up his frustrations in qualifying, which saw him only 15th fastest. “It was difficult from the get-go. I had a few issues throughout the session which threw me out of my rhythm, but the bottom line is we just didn’t have the pace. I wasn’t feeling the lateral grip and therefore couldn’t carry the speed as early as I would like and the session just didn’t flow for me. I couldn’t find the groove.”
Starting on the front row for race one, Josh Cook got off to a slow start, dropping to third behind the fast-starting BMW of Jake Hill in second. However, within the space of a few chaotic first lap seconds Cook’s battle to regain second place ended in him being relegated to 14th.
A three-car squeeze with Cook the filling in an Ash Sutton/Jake Hill sandwich at Seagrave corner saw Cook forced onto the grass and out of contention and allowed Gordon Shedden’s Halfords Racing with Cataclean Honda Civic Type R to pick his way through to second having started the race from fifth on the grid. “Flash” managed to hold off the attentions of Ash Sutton and Jake Hill for the rest of the race to claim a hard-earned podium position.
That first lap also claimed another casualty with another “Cobra” driver, Tom Chilton flying across the circuit on the exit of Church, relegating the Bristol Street Motors Trade Price Cars.Com with Excelr8 Hyundai i30N runner to a 28th place finish.
Race Two was hardly any better for the “Cobra Boys”: From the front row of the grid, Gordon Shedden could do little to prevent Ash Sutton pushing his way to second and although he managed to hold on to the Ford’s tail for the first half of the truncated race his Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R simply didn’t have the pace to keep the pressure on.
Sutton went on to be gifted the race by his teammate, leaving him equal on points at the top of the Drivers’ Championship after Colin Turkington’s woes continued and he failed to make any progress from his starting position of tenth on the grid.
Shedden held on to his second podium of the day from a hard chasing Jake Hill whose two fourth positions in the opening brace of races kept him well in contention in the Drivers’ Championship.
Rory Butcher ran fifth all race long in his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla, while Tom Ingram came sixth, Dan Rowbottom seventh and Josh Cook began to salvage his weekend with an eighth place.
Race three saw Josh Cook complete his recovery and claim his tenth BTCC career victory at Thruxton.
Starting third on the reverse grid, Cook had to power his Honda Civic Type R past the Team BMW duo of Colin Turkington and Stephen Jelley to claim his emphatic victory, ahead of the BMW’s which had struggled for pace throughout the weekend.
While the weekends results probably mean that Josh Cook has too much ground to make up to make a play for the Drivers’ Championship, Turkington’s second place gives him a six-point lead ahead of Ash Sutton in the driver’s rankings with just six races to go and Tom Ingram only trails Colin by 18 points. While Jake Hill’s Championship chances were slightly dented when his ROKiT MB Motorsport BMW ran onto the grass during the opening lap of race three, leaving him to settle for 12th position, Jake is also still very much in the mix just 23 points off top spot.
It really couldn’t be much closer!