The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship marked its 60th Anniversary in fine style at Snetterton this past weekend (July 28/29) as Jack Goff, Ashley Sutton and Matt Neal all took race wins – the latter in the Diamond Double.
In-keeping with the series’ Diamond Jubilee, the second half of the season kicked off in Norfolk with two blockbuster races and a longer milestone encounter – all of which helped write the latest chapter in the illustrious history of the BTCC.
Saturday’s two qualifying sessions belonged to the WIX Racing with Eurotech Honda Civic Type R of Jack Goff. Having set the pace in the day’s earlier practice session, Goff came out of the blocks flying in the first battle for pole position, storming to the top of the times at the mid-point of qualifying and to a new lap record.
Following a short break, the BTCC contingent were back out on track for 15 minutes to decide the grid for the longer 60-mile race three encounter. As he had done previously, Goff produced a scintillating lap to break his own lap record and take the all-important pole position for the weekend’s marque event.
In contrast to the dry conditions of Saturday, drivers were greeted with heavy rain on Sunday morning as they lined up for the first race of the day – one that would ultimately go on to be an all-time classic.
Launching from pole position, Goff launched his Civic off the line and into an early lead. Further back, all eyes were on reigning champion as he jumped from ninth on the grid into second place by turn three.
As others struggled to master the treacherous conditions, Goff and Sutton got their heads down and began to build a gap to Dan Cammish in third. Further back, Tom Ingram joined the ever-growing list of retirements as he crawled to a stop having suffered an alternator failure on his Toyota Avensis.
With the laps ticking by, Sutton soon began eating into Goff’s lead – his Subaru Levorg working well in the pouring rain. Setting fastest lap after fastest lap, the 23-year-old soon began to fill the mirrors of Goff as they went onto the final tour.
Showing his nose at Agostini, Sutton made a bold and quite staggering move around the outside of the sweeping Coram corner, placing him on the inside for Murrays. Leading out of the final corner, the pair had a drag race to the line where Goff narrowly pipped Sutton to the chequered by just 0.152. Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Cammish rounded off the podium in third.
Riding high on the success of race one, Goff’s world came crashing down before the start of race two after missing the window to leave the pit lane and head to the grid. Forced to start from the back of the grid, Goff’s pole position spot was vacant and it gave Sutton clear road ahead.
With the track having predominantly dried out, all cars started on slick tyres and it was Sutton that made the best start. Resisting early pressure from Cammish, the Subaru driver began to stretch his legs out front whilst the chasing pack squabbled.
Whilst Sutton led, Speedworks Motorsport’s Ingram proved to be the star of the show as he scythed his way through the field from P27. Picking off drivers one-by-one, the Independents champion eventually finished on the podium, clawing third away from Cammish at the line.
Back at the front, a safety car period with just a handful of laps to go eroded Sutton’s gap and despite a strong restart he was to come under pressure from the charging Josh Cook, who ran him close as they took the chequered flag covered by less than a second.
Having started from the back of the grid, race one winner Goff struggled with the additional 75kgs of success ballast and crossed the line in P17.
As the dust settled on races one and two, all eyes were firmly focused on the Diamond Double; the 60-mile, 20 lap, double championship point extravaganza race to cap off the weekend.
Back on the front row of the grid, Goff made another lightening start and immediately began to build a gap over the Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda of Neal. Sutton’s chances of scoring big ended on the opening laps he was forced to serve a 30-second stop-go penalty for an infringement on the grid before the warm-up lap. Due to serving it incorrectly, he made a second visit to the pits a lap later to do the same thing.
At the front, the battle for the lead ignited after a brief safety car period. On lap nine, a sprinkling of rain hit the circuit, catching several drivers out. Heading into the Wilson hairpin, Neal showed his nose on Goff, who out-braked himself – thus giving the lead to the three-time champion.
From there Neal, Goff and Ingram were inseparable as they built up a substantial gap over Andrew Jordan and Tom Chilton in fourth and fifth. Despite Goff or Ingram being able to make a move on Neal, the three-way fight for the lead kept fans on the edge-of-their-seats until the final lap.
Further down the order was an almighty scrap for sixth, with Chris Smiley leading a train of more than 10 cars at one point. Fending off the likes of Colin Turkington, Cook and more, Smiley looked on course to maintain the position before damage late on put pay to those aspirations.
The chequered flag saw Neal write the latest chapter in what is becoming a storied career as he took victory in the winner Diamond Double, finishing ahead of Goff and Ingram.
At the end of the weekend it is now Ingram that sits at the top of the points standings, six markers ahead of Turkington whilst Neal is a further ten behind.
For the full classification of results and standings from all of the weekend’s sessions, click here.
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship continues in under two weeks time for rounds 19, 20 & 21 at Rockingham on August 11/12.