Dan Cammish and Tom Chilton made a winning start to the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season this past weekend (April 22/23) as they shared the spoils at what was a wet and wild Donington Park opener.
Lifting the curtain on the new campaign after months of excitement and anticipation, the UK’s premier motorsport series blasted back into life in spectacular style with three high-octane contests around the 1.98-mile National layout.
Boasting enhancements to hybrid deployment and the re-introduction of the Goodyear ‘Option’ tyre this year, the unpredictable nature of the BTCC was there for all to see – and it started on Saturday as the 27-car field battled it out be a part of the Top Ten Showdown in qualifying.
Following a frenetic 30-minute session, the top ten fastest drivers progressed into the Top Ten Showdown to battle for pole position and it was Dan Rowbottom that roared to the summit of the times; 0.041 of a second ahead of his Ford stablemate Ashley Sutton.
Behind, Jake Hill and Colin Turkington made it an all-BMW second row whilst Cammish and reigning champion Tom Ingram completed the top six.
Damp conditions greeted drivers on race day and the first of Sunday’s three contests would see NAPA Racing UK’s Cammish produce a superlative performance to kick-start the new campaign with a visit to the top step of the podium.
Following contact at the start between Sutton, Hill and Rowbottom – which ultimately forced Sutton to retire – Hill controlled proceedings out front for much of the race however Cammish remained a looming figure in his mirrors throughout.
Closing on the Laser Tools Racing BMW in the latter stages, the three-time Porsche Carrera Cup GB title winner made his move at the bottom of the Craner Curves with two laps to go and once in the lead, he pulled clear to take victory ahead of Hill, Ingram and impressive debutant Andrew Watson.
Race two proved to be a truly wet and wild affair as heavy rain on the formation lap saw a number of drivers dive into the pit lane for wet tyres, whilst many of the front-runners remained on slicks.
After an early safety car period, the rain only intensified and as more switched tyres, those that made the early gamble came to the fore – with Chilton leading the way.
Along with Adam Morgan, the Hyundai ace scythed his way through the field to claim what was his first win the series in four years. Morgan would finish second on his WSR debut whilst Sam Osborne claimed a first-ever podium finish after rookie Ronan Pearson was disqualified post-race.
One of the undoubted stars of the show however was Team HARD driver Nicolas Hamilton who produced the perfect drive after switching to wets early on to clinch a career-best finish of sixth place.
The weekend’s third and final contest would see Cammish cap off a memorable day with a commanding lights-to-flag victory. Starting back on pole position virtue of the reverse grid draw, the Yorkshireman pulled clear of the chasing pack to triumph comfortably.
Behind, the battle for second place had everyone on the edge of their seats as Ingram, Sutton, Hill and Turkington all jostled for position; with the quartet going on to finish in that order.
Leaving Donington Park, Cammish holds an early seven-point lead at summit of the BTCC Drivers’ Championship with Ingram and Hill hot on his heels in second and third.
EXCELR8 Motorsport/Hyundai top the BTCC Manufacturer-Constructors Championship whilst BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCLER8 have secured a slender advantage in the BTCC Teams’ Championship. In the Independents’ category, Bobby Thompson and CarStore Power Maxed Racing lead the way after three rounds.
The Jack Sears Trophy – which is once again open to drivers that haven’t scored an outright podium in the series – saw Watson edge out Dexter Patterson to claim weekend honours.
To view the results of all BTCC sessions at Donington Park, CLICK HERE.
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season continues at Brands Hatch on May 14/15; with Rounds 4, 5 & 6 playing out around the Indy layout of the famous Kent venue.