The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship arrives at Thruxton this weekend (May 18/19) for the first of its 2019 appearances at the high-speed Hampshire track, with the hugely popular series returning in the summer (August 17/18) for another bite of the cherry.
Thirty top-tier drivers have battled it out in the opening six rounds, producing five different winners from the Brands Hatch Indy and Donington Park race weekends. Reigning champion Colin Turkington is the only driver to win more than a single race so far in 2019, and his victories last time out were enough to propel him to third in the overall Drivers’ standings behind BTC Racing’s Josh Cook and Subaru’s Ashley Sutton. The latter currently leads the championship having not yet taken to the top step, though he has notched three podium finishes.
Closer than ever
The 2019 BTCC is as close as ever with the top eight drivers in the standings separated by fewer than 25 points, while a total of 13 different drivers have already visited the podium. The first two meetings have been full of surprises, with Cook taking the honours in the season opener, followed by victory for BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan in the second encounter of the year – just days after the new 3 Series’ build had been completed by West Surrey Racing. Donington Park wasn’t so kind to Jordan, though, with his participation in the weekend curtailed following a spectacular collision.
Rory Butcher and Tom Ingram took popular victories in the final races at Brands Hatch and Donington Park respectively, the latter in front of 4,500 Toyota employees and their families all there to cheer on Ingram in the new Corolla with the Japanese marque making its BTCC manufacturer return this season. This fantastic result for the Cheshire-based team, coupled with consistent top-ten results in the previous five races, catapulted the reigning Independents’ champion to sixth in the overall standings, just 12 points shy of the summit.
A whole host of other drivers have shown the pace and potential to win so far this season, and as is the norm in BTCC, they are queueing up to take to the top step at Thruxton. The most noteworthy has been championship leader Ash Sutton, who is yet to win a race despite his pole position at Brands Hatch and a flurry of podium finishes. Another driver to have reached the rostrum already this year is Hampshire’s own Rob Collard. Tom Oliphant is also one to watch after his third place at Donington Park, while a win-double for Turkington highlighted the BMW’s prowess throughout that weekend.
A host of Honda Civic Type Rs showed their intent at Thruxton’s official BTCC Test Day back in April. As the grid looked to prepare for two 2019 visits to Hampshire, the top three positions were locked out by Hondas. Dan Cammish – who is yet to find himself at the sharp end so far this season – led the way for the Halfords Yuasa Racing works team, two tenths clear of anyone else. Chris Smiley (second) and Rory Butcher (third) joined Cammish at the top of timesheets closely followed by Sutton’s Subaru Levorg.
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class runners seemed to be there or thereabouts with Aiden Moffat in fifth and Adam Morgan in eighth. Turkington and Jordan in the BMWs also showed strong pace after posting the sixth and 11th fastest times respectively.
The top 11 drivers were less than a second apart, giving high hopes of some close racing and plenty of opportunities to capitalise at the Hampshire speedbowl for Rounds 7, 8 and 9.
“It’s a huge deal that we have two BTCC meetings at Thruxton this year,” enthused Thruxton Group Director, Bill Coombs. “It’s the biggest event of the year for us and to be able to have two of those over the course of the year is just fantastic.
“It’s a stunning weekend out, a real family event. There are plenty of trade shows and children’s activities to keep everyone entertained throughout the weekend. Due to the high-speed nature of Thruxton, the racing is probably the closest you will see in the UK, there’s always plenty of slipstreaming and overtaking so it’s very hard to pick a winner.”
“Thruxton is a very unique circuit, it’s not like any other on the calendar,” said Bath-based racer Josh Cook, who regards the Hampshire track as his home circuit. “We are coming here twice this season so that means it’s even more important to get the right setup during testing and practice, anything we can learn will benefit us at two race meetings.
“There’s really only two braking points on the whole circuit and then around the back section you’re at full power for the majority of the time. It is tricky – Church Corner is famed for its high-speed nature. It’s certainly a circuit that I love coming to.”
Tickets for the BTCC’s visit on 18/19 May can be purchased on the gate, starting at £17 for Saturday (qualifying) and £34 for Sunday (race day). Children aged 13-15 get in for £5 on Saturday and £10 on Sunday; accompanied children aged 12 and under will be admitted free of charge.
For further information, see https://thruxtonracing.co.uk/racing/btcc or call 01264 882222.
For more information on Thruxton’s race meetings and driving experiences, visit: www.thruxtonracing.co.uk/