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BTCC 2014 Review: Unpredictable Weather and Titanic Battles at Donington Park

Following a volcanic return to form, the monumental BTCC machine thundered on to Donington Park. The first three rounds at Brands Hatch were filled with truly top class touring car action. Some of the biggest talking points included the surprising pace of the Honda Yuasa team, who were challenging for the top 3 places having claimed they would struggle. There was of course the stellar drive by reigning champion Andrew Jordan, taking two race wins, alongside Jason Plato who proved the MG was as competitive as ever. Further down the grid, Rob Austin had a legendary drive from the back of the grid, while also after a string of bad luck, returning legend Alain Menu charged from 16th to 5th in the final race of the day. On the other hand, Giovanardi and the rest of the Ford team lacked pace, while Marc ‘the man who beat Button’ Hynes failed to impress after a pre-season filled with hype and seemingly empty anticipation.

The championship moved on Donington…

  • Were we going to see the Honda domination continue?
  • Can Rob Austin finally shake off his bad luck and score some consistent results?
  • Can ‘The Man Who Beat Button’ finally live up to his name?
  • Will the Fords find pace and performance?
  • And those pesky eBay BMWs, will they sneak the top spot again?
And its go go go for Donington Park!

And its go go go for Donington Park! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Qualifying

It must be said that qualifying revealed similar results to that of Brands Hatch; the MG and Honda team were colelctively the fastest teams, followed closely by the ever improving Team BMR cars. I was however surprised by ‘The Man Who Beat Button’; Marc Hynes bagged himself a 10th place in front of the developing Ford of Giovanardi. The best Rob Austin could manage was a lowly 16th place, nearly a whole second off the pace.

It would seem the field was shaping up for the year. Was the result going to be as predictable?

Race Day

As race day rolled around, the drivers were greeted with one of the most exciting things about British motorsport; unpredictable weather conditions. The forecast predicted heavy rain to dampen proceedings, and in some ways this was an accurate statement. With the first race drawing closer, the track was indeed wet but it was showing signs of getting considerably more dry. Having planted his MG on pole position, Plato shot off into a lead that he was destined to keep throughout the race. Considering his worries regarding reliability after the first round at Brands Hatch, it would seem those demons have long since been vanquished. To describe the MG outfit as dominant in the first race would be an understatement.

This processional display was merely repeated in the second race of the day, although this time it was Sam Tordoff who took the first place honours. In both of the first two races it was very much a Honda, BMW and MG party as it usually is. But, considering this involves 8 different cars essentially, it still provides some close racing. The first two races most definitely proved that the Honda team has little to worry about regarding the performance of its new estate racer; the Civic Tourers were easily able to keep up with the leaders and challenge for the top places.

The reverse grid system usually makes for an interesting final race of the day. Sadly, the grid for the third race merely reversed the BMWs, MGs and Hondas, not really changing anything from the norm. But that most definitely did not mean that the race was in any way boring. The track had finally dried out as the cars took to the grid for the third race, and just like at Brands Hatch, Colin Turkington in his BMW shot off into a lead that many thought he would keep throughout. Alas, what actually happened was a race with one of THE most thrilling conclusions you could ever ask for. Gordon Shedden was on an absolute flyer having started 4th on the grid; he had got past his team mate Matt Neal and MG driver Jason Plato and as the race began to enter its final few moments he went all hell for leather.

Usually, gaps between drivers are measured by fractions of seconds, but in the case of Shedden you could visibly see his power burst up behind Turkington on the last lap. As they exited coppice onto the final main straight, Shedden caught Turkington’s eBay shaped slipstream and, living up to his name, Flash went for it. He pulled out of the slipstream and attempted a monumental move around the outside of Shedden going into the chicane. Needless to say, it wasn’t as successful as Shedden had probably imagined it would be. The pair made contact and flew off into the infield at the chicane. Taking a more rally-based route, Shedden exited the corner in front to take the first ever win for an estate car, while an annoyed Turkington was left wondering where it all went wrong.

I was less on the edge of my seat and more on the floor shouting at my monitor. It is overtaking like that that makes me love the BTCC as much as I do. Turkington thought he had the race sewn up, to only succumb to the legendary drive of ‘Flash’ Gordon on the final corner of the final lap. The magnitude of excellence shown by that final corner flourish gave me flashbacks of one of the most famous finishes to any motor race; the final round of the 1992 BTCC season. 3 drivers, 1 title. Final 3 laps. I could explain it, or you could just watch this.

Shedden and Turkington conclude their last lap skirmish with a final corner coming together. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Shedden and Turkington conclude their last lap skirmish with a final corner coming together. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Controversy Over Race 3 Result

Following the epic conclusion to the race, Turkington and the eBay team launched an appeal against the victory of Gordon Shedden. They argued that because Shedden had cut the track, he had gained an unfair advantage and by the rules set forth by the championship, had to give the place back. This is especially relevant because 2014 is seeing the harsher enforcement of track limits; if a car takes more than 2 wheels off the track at any corner, they may be given a penalty, having been deemed to have gained an advantage. I just think it is circuit organizers trying to cut costs on track management, but maybe I am but a cynic. Who knows.

The appeal was over ruled, and I believe that this was the right decision. First of all, the notion that Shedden gained an advantage by cutting the track would be valid if it wasn’t for the fact that Turkington too had to go off track as a result of the corner collision. Some would say that Shedden’s move was harsh, but technically speaking Turkington did not have to shut the door. When you watch the replays, it is clear that the overtake came as a result of nothing more than a racing incident.

Finally, this is touring cars not Formula One. It has always been a sport full of rubbing, scraping and spins, usually because of the intense nature of the championship. Minus the Giovanardi era of the BTCC where the drivers resorted to bullying tactics to get the place, incidents have never really been intentional and just the result of raw motorsport. One of the reasons I love the BTCC is the absence of politics; F1 in recent years has been crippled with accusations, investigations and stewards inquiries, resulting in post race penalties. The BTCC is about the driver, the team and the car coming together in the ultimate theatre of competition, and nothing more. Politics has taken over the rest of our lives, so can we not just have one politics free haven in the BTCC?

The final race was a historic first victory for an Estate in the BTCC. Volvo would be proud. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The final race was a historic first victory for an Estate in the BTCC. Volvo would be proud. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Donington Drama Explained

The Cost of all that Carnage

As is often the case with those Touring Car terrors, Donington Park was not without incident. I would not want to be the accountant of United Autosport or Rotek Racing after seeing the state of James Cole’s and Robb Holland’s cars in race two. After a coming together with Audi’s Robb Holland, the pair went shooting off the soaking track at Redgate and Cole’s car was absolutely ruined. It says a great deal about the safety of these modern machines that he managed to climb out the car without injury. Neither could place the blame on each other; both were attempting to avoid a coming together involving Austin, Stockton and Clarke.

Speaking of Austin, the great and wonderful Rob had another weekend filled with bad luck. In the first race, he made a gamble to change onto intermediate tyres on the drying track, but after a lengthy pit stop and too little of an advantage all he could manage was a solitary point for fastest lap. Race two saw poor Austin spin thanks to a coming together by Stockton and Clarke, and then finally the third race he was rather rear ended by Tom Ingram which led him to retire. Speaking to Touring Car Times, Austin feels that once again he has lost out in a car that should be competitive; he remarked,

There has been some moronic driving out there from some people which has affected both me and Hunter.

It seems that some remnants of the Giovanardi era remain after all…

And then there was Alain Menu, who had mixed fortunes across the weekend. He qualified an amazing 6th, only to finish 13th in race one. In race two, after minor contact with another driver his car went onto the grass and shot down the hill and across the track; the wet grass provided little traction for the Swiss spinner. His out of control car shot into the path of the rest of the field, who all did a phenomenal job avoiding him. Of all these people, my admiration goes out to Chris Stockton who managed to avoid the flying Menu by mere inches without really lifting off. That takes the kind of balls that only a racing driver possesses. In the case of both of Menu and Stockton, I would imagine they were very much needing a change of underwear after that, and rightly so!

Both Cole and Holland walked away from this high speed wreckage with nothing more than some bumps and bruises. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Both Cole and Holland walked away from this high speed wreckage with nothing more than some bumps and bruises. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Drives of the Day

After an inspired qualifying drive by ‘The Man Who Beat Button’, Mr Hynes was looking good to finally prove his pre-season hype and put in some stellar performances. In the first race he got himself a strong 11th place finish, which in a field of 31 cars is no easy feat. Perhaps I was wrong after all. As it turns out, his success was short lived. He finished the second race in 23rd, only to then not finish the third race at all. I am still seeing the mistakes usually associated with inexperienced drivers. But he will get there I’m sure. Eventually!

On the other hand, after a quiet first race weekend at Brands Hatch in the BTCC, Glynn Geddie in the United Autosport Avensis forced himself into the spotlight at Donington. Gaining significant finishes of 17th then a 13th, he is showing the growing potential of his new BTCC team. Similarly, Matt Jackson and even Giovanardi are starting to find pace in their Airwaves Fords. Jackson managed a 4th place in the final race of the day. Are we finally seeing the return of Ford to former glories?

Remember after Brands Hatch where Jason Plato said it was impossible to drive from the back of the grid to a top 10 finish? Well if anyone was going to prove him wrong it was going to be his former Williams Renault team mate Alain Menu. After his horrifying moment in race two, Menu drove up to a storming 9th by the end of the final race of the day. This man deserves a race win soon. If only he can sort out his first two race performances he will be on for a high championship finish this year. This is why Menu is the ultimate driver.

Finally, there was my favourite Squelch (Dan Welch), who finally returned to the championship after missing the first round at Brands Hatch. He is definitely showing promise with a 19th and two 21st finishes. His car is still very much in development so it shows exciting potential for the rest of the year. I would love nothing more than to see Squelch on the podium. He definitely deserves it!

After narrowly missing vehicular chaos with Menu, Chris Stockton drove like a true superstar and was fighting for high places. Image Credit: BTCC.net

After narrowly missing vehicular chaos with Menu, Chris Stockton drove like a true superstar and was fighting for high places. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Power to the Max: Chris has been Stocking up on Talent

Of all the drives over the weekend, I must say I was most impressed with Chris Stockton in his Chevrolet. At Brands Hatch, it is fair to say that I didn’t really have much of an opinion of him at all. He was just one of the drivers battling for position at the bottom end of the field. Well, needless to say he must want my attention because since the races at Donington, he fast became one of my drivers of the weekend. Looking at the results alone (24th, DNF and 19th) you would not have thought he was anything too impressive, but when you watch him in the races over the weekend you will see the transformation that has taken place.

The Power Maxxed Chevrolet and Stockton put in a truly inspired charge through the field, and throwing caution to the wind when it came to passing the out of control Menu. Stockton was sadly plagued by the fierce competition of the other drivers which did drop him back, but he pushed none the less. He is definitely climbing his way up the ranks, and at this rate he will be hitting top 10s in the next few race weekends.

Championship positions after Donington Park:

1

Andrew Jordan

Pirtek Racing

87

2

Jason Plato

MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save

87

3

Gordon Shedden

Honda Yuasa Racing

86

4

Colin Turkington

eBay Motors

84

5

Matt Neal

Honda Yuasa Racing

79

6

Sam Tordoff

MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save

57

7

Rob Collard

eBay Motors

56

8

Mat Jackson

Airwaves Racing

38

9

Aron Smith

Chrome Edition Restart Racing

32

10

Tom Ingram

Speedworks Motorsport

27

 

After his god-like drive through the field in the final race, Alain Menu now leads the Jack Sears trophy (which is worked out based on number of overtakes throughout the season) with 42 points, with the two Robs (Austin and Collard) tied on second with 34.

It may have only been two rounds but its needless to say that the 2014 BTCC championship is shaping up to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent years. And with the BTCC menace moving onto Thruxton this weekend, who knows what will happen..

Donington was one of the best weekends of racing I have seen in a long time, in any series. It had everything from unpredictability, to champion drives to all or nothing moves for ultimate victory. What more could you ask for?

Both returning champions, Menu and Giovanardi have said of all tracks on the calendar they are most excited to return to Thruxton. Fast. Flat Out. Fearless.

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69 for live updates across the weekend!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love! http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/joymoney-srochnye-online-zaymi.html

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