TOCA test offers BTCC teaser as Thruxton prepares for top-line touring car action

Thruxton welcomed the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship to Hampshire yesterday as the majority of the grid took the opportunity to rack up the miles ahead of their competitive return to the UK’s fastest race circuit, 19-20 May.

The BTCC celebrates its 60th, Diamond Jubilee, anniversary this year and the country’s premier motor racing series has already shown signs that it will be another vintage, and fiercely competitive campaign after a storming opening race weekend at Brands Hatch – with nine different drivers making the podium, three different winners and 10 marques represented in the standings’ top ten.

Thruxton itself celebrates its 50thAnniversary, and the beloved circuit, affectionately referred to as the Hampshire Speedbowl, always yields an unparalleled weekend’s action. Its flat-out characteristics are so unique that TOCA runs an annual test-day for the BTCC and its support series – Renault UK Clio Cup, the Ginetta championships and the F4 British Championship – ensuring all involved are up to speed ahead of their return in five weeks’ time.

Twenty-five of the BTCC’s finest drivers jumped at the chance to rack up the laps (over 1,100 in all on the day), among those, incumbent champion Ashley Sutton (Adrian Flux Subaru Racing) and his team-mate – BTCC legend Jason Plato, Halfords Yuasa Racing’s triple title-winner Matt Neal and Dan Cammish, plus past champs Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan in the West Surrey Racing BMWs.

At the end of the day it was Sutton atop the timesheets, commenting later that evening that his heart rate had finally returned to normal levels after the high-speed Hampshire test!

“That was unexpected, I’ll be honest,” said Sutton. “It’s been a fast day in general and everyone’s been quick. We’ve come here looking for track time and I think we’ve found a few key things. It’s been a general test, not just a Thruxton test.

“We hadn’t done mileage prior to Season Launch at Donington Park, then Brands Hatch later that week but that was rained off. We’ve come to make up time on the others and we’ve achieved some key things and we hope some of those will carry over to Donington.”

Between the two sessions, eight drivers ran inside 2017’s BTCC qualifying lap record time set by the Honda Civic Type R of Matt Neal, so all signs are pointing to a fastest-ever race weekend come May.

Parts of Thruxton’s stunning new £2 million state-of-the-art hospitality facility, The Thruxton Centre, will be open for business by the time the BTCC makes its entry ahead of an official opening at 12:00 midday on Sunday 3 June amid a weekend of 50thAnniversary celebrations. Highlights there include 15 special races as well as high-speed demonstrations from Williams’ 1983 FW08C and other iconic racing cars and bikes. There will be appearances, too, from a number of high-profile guests including Murray Walker and Nigel Mansell.

“It’s always a delight to welcome Britain’s biggest championship on four wheels back to Thruxton,” said Thruxton Group Managing Director, Bill Coombs. “It’s a series that continually produces a fantastic weekend’s racing, with 32 cars and some of the best tin-top protagonists around throwing up a real treat. The test yesterday gave us a little glimpse of what’s to come – it’s going to be a quick one this year, that’s for sure.

“Having had a keen eye on its opening race weekend a fortnight ago, it looks like it’ll be an even more fascinating prospect around the quick stuff here come May. I wouldn’t dare try and pick a winner!

“The track itself is a favourite of many of the drivers, it’s a fast and flowing test of balance, bravery and poise plus a healthy dollop of slipstreaming!

“For 2018, in our 50thAnniversary year, we’re extremely proud to be able to open The Thruxton Centre – our brand-new, top-of-the-line facility comprises a restaurant and bar, exhibition spaces, function rooms, hosting and hospitality suites and a spectacular viewing terrace.

“Parts of the centre will be open for use at the BTCC race weekend but its official opening takes place over the weekend of 2/3 June – as part of a special meeting commemorating our golden anniversary.”

Advance tickets for the BTCC’s visit, 19-20 May, are available from £12, with weekend passes with paddock access running to just £40. Saturday grandstand seats are an additional £5. Accompanied children aged 15 and under will be admitted free of charge.

BTCC delivers memorable season-opener at Brands Hatch

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship kicked off the 2018 season with three high-octane, edge-of-the-seat races at Brands Hatch this past weekend (April 7/8).

Months of anticipation, hype and pre-season testing came to a head at the Kent circuit as the series’ 60th anniversary year roared into life.

Boasting a capacity entry list, the first qualifying session of the year brought with it its own drama as Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Dan Cammish dipped under the lap record to score provisional pole, before then losing his best time due to failing to stop for a red flag upon entering the pit lane.

That promoted Jack Goff to the top of the times and the WIX Racing with Eurotech driver was unchallenged at the summit, going on to record his third consecutive pole position.

Race day saw wet conditions greet teams and spectators alike, further adding to the opening round spectacle. Blasting off the line from the front row, Goff converted pole position into a lead that he would ultimately never lose in the tricky conditions.

Fellow front row start Sam Tordoff saw his return to the series cut short as he struggled with wheel spin off the line and was then caught up in a collision at the end of the lap, ending his charge.

At the front, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan settled into second and third, the latter dispatching Cammish early on. Turkington soon began to hunt down Goff’s Civic Type R but the Independent driver drove a near-perfect race, defending where he need to and ultimately going on to take victory.

With conditions becoming ever-more difficult to judge, race two turned out to be one of the classic BTCC races. A majority of the front runners elected to stick with the Dunlop wet tyres whilst several further back decided to gamble and run the Dunlop soft option compound.

Turkington’s chances of glory ended before the race even started as his BMW went into limp mode, forcing him to pit and dropping a lap down. Team-mate Jordan launched his 1-Series into the lead from third with Goff and Ingram following.

The trio enjoyed a stellar scrap with Ingram leapfrogging the 2013 champion; further back reigning champion Ashley Sutton slotted into fourth and soon began closing on the top three.

Whilst conditions continued to improve and lap times dropped, it became apparent that the race was only just beginning as those on slicks began to carve their way through. Senna Proctor and Aiden Moffat were the big movers, lapping more than three seconds quicker than everyone else at one stage.

On lap 22 of 27, Proctor and Moffat were on the back of the leaders and took no time in dispatching them. Jake Hill, Ollie Jackson and Tom Boardman pounced just a few corners later and it was soon a five-car battle for the lead.

For Moffat, his aspirations of topping the rostrum came to an end after contact with Proctor sent him into the barrier, however he was able to continue. Proctor meanwhile held his nerve to score his and Power Maxed Racing’s maiden victory in the BTCC, with Hill and Jackson scoring their first podiums too.

Race three didn’t hold the same drama but it did produce another three different podium finishers as Ingram continued his Brands Hatch love affair with a seventh career victory. Adam Morgan and Rob Austin rounded off the podium, scoring an emotional podium in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Following the opening weekend of the season, Ingram holds a slender three point championship lead heading to Donington Park with Goff and Morgan hot on his heels.

For the full classification of results, click here.

Rounds four, five and six of 2018 take place at the Leicestershire circuit on April 28/29.

Croft braced for more magic moments as BTCC speeds into town

Fans will have ‘plenty to get excited about’ when the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races into North Yorkshire this weekend (23/24 June). That’s the prediction of Tim Harvey, as the 1992 title-winner forecasts more magic moments in the Croft Circuit story.

Croft first hosted the UK’s premier motor sport series all the way back in 1968 – then known as the British Saloon Car Championship – making 2018 the 50th anniversary of the circuit’s relationship with the BTCC.

That initial stint lasted until 1971, and while a major Croft regeneration in the 1980s meant the championship did not return to the north-east until 1997, it has featured on the calendar every year since, becoming a hugely popular stop on the schedule for competitors and spectators alike.

Harvey was on the grid for the 1997 event – one that very nearly didn’t go ahead due to rain flooding the circuit – and he has fond memories of the track.

“Croft always generates great action, with plenty of opportunities for overtaking and, dare I say it, incidents!” reflected the 16-time race-winner turned ITV4 commentator. “It’s a difficult circuit to master; the first half of the lap is a high-speed challenge, before you get to the Complex, where you need to slow it all down. There’s a bit of everything, which is what the drivers really appreciate.

“I always enjoyed racing at Croft, whether in the BTCC, Porsche Carrera Cup GB or my one-off outing in the Ginetta GT SuperCup a few years ago. The first year – 1997 – was certainly an interesting one. The one thing no venue can control is the weather, and Croft didn’t drain well back in those days – it’s much, much better now – but it’s testament to the circuit’s strength-of-character that the race meeting went ahead and went well, and Croft has remained a favourite on the BTCC calendar ever since.”

Fast forward 19 years to 2016, and Croft provided the platform for Ashley Sutton to scythe through the spray in changeable conditions to claim his breakthrough BTCC victory. Barely a year later, the Subaru star clinched the coveted drivers’ crown at the end of only his second season, but it was Yorkshire where he first made his mark.

“That was a really significant moment – the point at which people properly sat up and said, ‘boy, this kid has got something special’,” acknowledged Harvey. “He made the most of his opportunity in tricky conditions, so I’d say Croft was where he really announced his arrival – and in some style. And then obviously he went on to fulfil that potential by winning the championship last year…”

Results might be proving hard to come by for Sutton at present, but the man currently leading the charge – BMW’s Colin Turkington – has earned the sobriquet ‘King of Croft’ for his stellar success at the track over the years, tallying 12 race wins, 19 podium finishes and eight fastest laps. Harvey, however, suggests the Ulsterman won’t have it all his own way this weekend, with a quartet of local heroes all eager to steal the spotlight for themselves.

“Colin’s results can be attributed to consistently putting the standout rear wheel-drive driver in the best rear wheel-drive car,” he opined. “That said, things have now evened out a bit in terms of the front wheel-drive / rear wheel-drive difference at Croft, and while I still expect him to have a slight edge, running with maximum ballast in qualifying and race one as championship leader certainly won’t make life easy for him.

“The BTCC is proving absolutely impossible to predict this year, with ten or 15 drivers that can realistically win races – including the four Yorkshiremen in the field. None of them will be carrying any extra weight, and Sam Tordoff in particular has been quick everywhere while Dan Cammish is due a good weekend and the Honda he drives has traditionally gone well around Croft – so there should be plenty for the home crowd to get excited about.”

Tickets to the BTCC’s only north-eastern event of the year can be purchased on the gate, priced at just £15 for Saturday, 23 June (BTCC Qualifying), £30 for Sunday, 24 June (BTCC Race Day) or £38 for the full weekend. Accompanied children aged 15 and under are admitted free of charge.

More information on all of Croft’s driving experiences and racing events can be found at www.croftcircuit.co.uk

‘King of Croft’ leads BTCC battle into Yorkshire

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reaches the half-way point of the 2018 season this weekend (June 23/24) at Croft Circuit, with Team BMW’s Colin Turkington leading the charge as the series heads to North Yorkshire.

Marking its 60th Anniversary this year, the BTCC has once again hit new heights with the usual mix of wheel-to-wheel thrills being produced and nine different drivers picking up race wins along the way.

Celebrating 50 years since first hosting a BTCC event also, Croft has become a popular fixture on the calendar and one that is favourite amongst drivers and spectators alike.

Nobody undoubtedly has a greater love for the North Yorkshire-based venue than series leader Turkington, who enters the weekend with a 12-point advantage. Well-suited to rear-wheel-drive cars, Croft has become a happy hunting ground for the West Surrey Racing driver down the years.

Scoring 12 wins, 19 podiums, five pole positions and eight fastest laps, Turkington has earned himself the moniker of being called the ‘King of Croft’ and many expect him to be on top form once again. Winning last time out at Oulton Park, the Northern Irishman could well add to his impressive strike rate, despite carrying 75kgs of success ballast into qualifying and race one.

Hot on the heels of the BMW driver are a quartet of young guns, all of which are leading the fight against the established guard. Adam Morgan and Jack Goff sit tied on points in second place whilst two-time race winners Tom Ingram and Josh Cook are also in the mix.

Matt Neal, a winner at Thruxton, sits on the fringe of the top five and should go well in the Honda Civic Type R, as will Andrew Jordan and Rob Collard. Both sit behind the wheel of a BMW 1-Series and both will be highly confident of scoring big around a circuit which has delivered success for WSR in the past.

Tom Chilton edged closer to a taking his maiden Motorbase Performance race win at Oulton Park, bagging two podium finishes and he too will have his tail in the air.

Four of the 32 drivers on the BTCC grid are proud Yorkshiremen and each would count themselves as potential race winners heading into next weekend as they look to leave their mark in front of their home crowd.

Daniel Cammish, Sam Tordoff, Senna Proctor and Daniel Lloyd have all at some stage underlined their credentials in the BTCC and all four will be keen to sign off the first half of their campaigns with silverware in front of what is expected to be a bumper turnout of fans.

Matt Simpson scored a popular breakthrough pole position and race win in Cheshire a few weeks ago and the Type R racer will be eyeing further success too.

One team that will be looking for a change in fortunes is Adrian Flux Subaru Racing. Enduring performance issues that have hampered their chances of fighting towards the front, the trio of reigning champion Ashley Sutton, Jason Plato and Josh Price will all be hoping to take a step in the right direction at a circuit that has treated them well in recent seasons.

With rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship marking the half-way point of the season, expect to see everyone fighting to head into the annual summer break on a high.

Tickets will be available to purchase on the gate on Saturday and Sunday this weekend, priced at £15 for Saturday, £30 for Sunday and £38 for the full weekend. Children 15 and under go free when accompanied by an adult whilst gates open at 08:00 both days.

Britain’s premier motor racing championship poised for high-speed thriller at Thruxton

Thruxton will be the next port of call for what is already proving to be a Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship campaign to remember, with 32 of the best tin-top stars set to take on the UK’s fastest race circuit, 19-20 May.

The BTCC is celebrating its 60th, Diamond Jubilee, anniversary in some style so far this year, with typically fierce competition evidenced at two storming weekends at Brands Hatch and Donington Park – producing five different winners from the opening six rounds. There have been a host of new faces take to the podium, and somewhat of a changing of the guard in the Drivers’ standings with the top eight’s drivers harbouring an average age of just a little over 25.

Thruxton is set to celebrate what is all set to be a special weekend’s racing by offering one lucky winner the chance to wave the chequered flag on the opening BTCC race – with anyone who has purchased or is set to purchase advance race day or weekend tickets for the meeting entered into the prize draw.

Last year at the Hampshire Speedbowl, as Thruxton is affectionately known, BMW secured a landmark 100th victory in the BTCC at the hands of Rob Collard and Colin Turkington, who took a round apiece, while Matt Neal sealed a win on home turf for Honda.

This year, though, the form-book certainly looks to have swung the way of the young-guns – headed at the top of the table by Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram in the Toyota, who secured a pair of rostrum finishes at Thruxton last time around, and is also the only double winner so far this season.

Incumbent champ Ash Sutton was quickest back at the annual TOCA test-day a month ago and, currently fifth in the standings, he’ll be looking to fire his Subaru Levorg to a maiden top-step appearance of 2018 and the start of his title defence proper. Judging by his pace back at that test, he’ll be one to look out for.

The WIX Racing with Eurotech-run FK2-generation Honda Civic Type Rs have historically gone well around Thruxton’s high-speed sweepers and if the outfit’s start to the season is anything to go by, it would take a fool to doubt their race-winning credentials, especially given Jack Goff has already notched a victory this year and is sitting pretty in fourth in the overall standings.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Classes are perfectly suited to the balance and poise required around the Hampshire racetrack. Adam Morgan is hot on the heels of standings leader Ingram in second spot after his victory at Donington Park and the Lancashireman is twice a winner at Thruxton – it’s shaping up nicely for Ciceley Motorsport. Aiden Moffat, in one of the sister Mercedes’, is a man on a charge, too, after a podium double back in Leicestershire.

A host of other names are vying for top honours, with the intense competition of Britain’s biggest motor racing spectacle making predicting the outcome of any one race, let alone the three that take place over a race weekend, an impossible task. Whatever the outcome, it’s sure to be a day of unmissable action.

Thruxton itself celebrates its 50th Anniversary, and the beloved circuit, a favourite of many a driver, always yields unparalleled racing. In addition to the three touring car races, there are nine more top-tier encounters on the TOCA package – the Renault UK Clio Cup, the Ginetta championships and the F4 British Championship.

Visitors will also get their first proper look at the circuit’s brand-new, industry-leading £2 million hospitality facility – The Thruxton Centre – ahead of an official opening on Sunday 3 June amid a weekend of 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Highlights there include 15 special races as well as high-speed demonstrations from Williams’ 1983 FW08C, wielded by ex-F1 star Karun Chandhok, and a number of other iconic racing cars and bikes. There will be appearances, too, from a number of high-profile guests including Murray Walker and Nigel Mansell.

“We’re always thrilled to host what is undoubtedly the premier four-wheeled series in the country,” said Thruxton Group Managing Director, Bill Coombs. The BTCC has storied history – spanning 60 years – and the championship never fails to come up with the goods over a race weekend.

“As we’ve seen this season, it’s entirely unpredictable. You don’t head into a BTCC race weekend knowing who will be coming out on top – it’s just too close to call, and that makes for some of the best doorhandle-to-doorhandle racing around with 32 cars all racing within a second or so.

“The test day a month ago gave us an insight into just how competitive it’ll be come race day. Some of the times were quicker than we’ve ever seen before here from BTCC machinery – it really whetted the appetite.

“The beauty of the TOCA package means that not only do you get the three headline BTCC races, but nine further races of the highest quality across a number of leading championships.”

Advance tickets for the BTCC’s visit, 19-20 May, are available from £12, with weekend passes with paddock access running to just £40. Saturday grandstand seats are an additional £5. Accompanied children aged 15 and under will be admitted free of charge.

Ultra-competitive BTCC set for Brands Hatch curtain-raiser

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns this weekend (April 7/8) at Brands Hatch with arguably one of the most competitive grids in the modern era set to do battle.

In what is a milestone year for the series as it celebrates its 60th anniversary, another capacity 32-car grid will duke it out for the most coveted prize in British motorsport, starting at the Kent venue where three races will be run.

An unparalleled five champions, four manufacturer entrants and 17 race winners make up the bumper line-up, which will hit the track in anger for the first time.

Heading up this year’s entry list is reigning champion Ashley Sutton, who will adorn the prestigious number one on the side of his Subaru Levorg. Remaining with Adrian Flux Subaru Racing for a second successive season, the 24-year-old will look to make it back-to-back triumphs with BMR Racing and is joined once again by double champion Jason Plato.

The manufacturer-backed team are down to three entrants this year with Josh Price filling the final seat, running under the Autoglym Racing Academy banner.

West Surrey Racing are back with the BMW 1-Series and a unchanged line-up with Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan flying the flag for the Sunbury-based squad.

Elsewhere it is all change at Halfords Yuasa Racing as the brand new Honda Civic Type R makes its debut in the BTCC. Triple champion Matt Neal remains at the helm of the championship-winning outfit but has a new team-mate in the shape of Daniel Cammish, who replaces three-time title winner Gordon Shedden.

The final Manufacturer/Constructor entrant for the forthcoming season is Power Maxed Racing, who once again fields a pair of Vauxhall Astra’s for reigning Jack Sears Trophy holder Senna Proctor and the returning Josh Cook.

A number of Independent entries will run Honda Civic Type R’s this year too with Jack Goff and Brett Smith locked in at Eurotech Racing, now with WIX sponsorship. Matt Simpson will join them both after switching from Team Dynamics.

BTC Norlin Racing have swapped their Chevrolet Cruze’s for Type R’s and have secured the services of the former Independents champion James Nash, who returns to the series for the first time since 2011. Northern Irishman Chris Smiley remains with the squad for a second full season.

Motorbase Performance will once again run three cars, albeit slightly different to last year. The iconic RS badge has returned to the BTCC on the Ford Focus’ with Tom Chilton and James Cole running under the Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher banner. After a one year sabbatical, 2016 runner-up Sam Tordoff is back and will pilot the third car for Team GardX Racing.

Finishing third overall and wrapping up both Independent titles for Speedworks Motorsport last year, Tom Ingram is set to be one to watch as he bids for outright glory in his Toyota Avensis. Ingram will be the only Toyota on the grid as Rob Austin and HMS Racing switch to the eagerly anticipated Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

AMD Tuning have expanded to four cars this year having acquired the two MG6 GT’s formerly run by Triple Eight Racing. Rory Butcher and the returning Tom Boardman will drive the race-winning machines whilst Ollie Jackson and rookie Sam Smelt will drive the teams Audi s3’s.

Another outfit that expands to four cars this year is Team HARD with their quartet of Volkswagen CC’s. Renault UK Clio Cup champion Mike Bushell, Jake Hill, Bobby Thompson and Michael Caine will spearhead Tony Gilham’s quest for silverware.

Podiums will be expected from Ciceley Motorsport this year too as Adam Morgan returns in his Mercedes Benz A-Class, and the former race winner has a team-mate in the shape of Tom Oliphant. Aiden Moffat will also be back in his Mercedes with Laser Tools Racing.

Rounding out the capacity entry list for this year is Stephen Jelley, who has remained with Team Parker Racing. Embarking on his second season with the Independent squad, Jelley will return to his BTCC roots and drive a BMW – a former West Surrey Racing 1-Series.