BTCC kicks off 2019 season in style at Brands Hatch

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship kicked off its 2019 season in entertaining style at Brands Hatch this past weekend (April 6/7) as Josh Cook, Andrew Jordan and Rory Butcher shared the spoils to take a win apiece.

In front of a bumper trackside crowds amid challenging and changeable conditions, Britainā€™s premier race series underlined why it remans the biggest and best tin top category with a pulsating three encounters.

Adrian Flux Subaru Racingā€™s Ashley Sutton was the man to beat in qualifying as he got the best out of his rear-wheel-drive Levorg in the damp conditions to clinch pole position ahead of former team-mate and double champion Jason Plato.

Sutton would be unable to convert his front row start into victory however as the conditions once again played their part, with drivers opting for different tyre tactics. As others switched to the wet Dunlop BluResponse compound, BTC Racingā€™s Josh Cook elected to gamble on dry tyres starting from tenth.

Dropping down the order in the early stages, the Honda driver soon became the man to watch as he set the fastest lap on lap five. Scything through the order, and bringing a number of other dry tyre runners with him, Cook was soon on the back of race leader Sutton and duly made his move with ease.

As Cook made his escape out front and onto a third career victory, the final podium places were also occupied with those that had stuck their neck out and opted to go against the grain. Jake Hill and Tom Chilton enjoyed similar charging drives to finish second and third respectively.

Changeable conditions once again played their part in the second race of the day, however unlike the first, all drivers opted for to run the dry compound. BMW Pirtek Racingā€™s Andrew Jordan ensured it was a debut to remember for the all-new BMW 330i M Sport as he opened his account for the new season in emphatic fashion.

The early running saw a host of overtaking take place, with Jordan and Sutton making the most progress towards the front. Soon a three-way battle for the lead began as a ballast-laden Cook valiantly fended off the charging duo, although 2017 champion Sutton soon made a move stick with a daring late lunge under brakes heading into Graham Hill Bend.

Jordan followed Sutton through and was soon hounding the back of the Levorg, dispatching him to take the lead on the start-finish line. From there the West Surrey Racing driver was unchallenged as he pulled away to take victory, whilst Sutton withstood a barraging attack at the end to fend off Adam Morgan, Hill and Stephen Jelley.

Cobra Sport AmD Autoaid/RCIB Insuranceā€™s Butcher clinched a maiden BTCC victory in the reverse grid encounter after Chilton was handed a post-race penalty.

Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagherā€™s Chilton had taken the lead on lap 13 after contact with Matt Neal, and it would be that subsequent contact that led to Chilton being penalised by the stewards.

Having looked after his tyres in the early stages, Butcher became a man on a mission in the latter part of the race as he caught and passed the scrapping pair of Neal and Jelley. Contact between those two would lead to Neal suffering left-rear suspension damage on the final lap, which allowed Jelley to jump into third and take his first BTCC podium in nearly ten years.

For the full classification of results from all six BTCC sessions, click here.

Leaving Brands Hatch Cook and BTC Racing find themselves sitting atop of the BTCC Driversā€™, Teamsā€™, Independent Driversā€™ and Independent Teamsā€™ Championship standings.

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship nows descends on Thruxton on April 17 for the customary TOCA test before the Rounds 4, 5 and 6 at Donington Park on April 27/28.