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Let’s Rock n Roll: BTCC Young Guns Lead the Charge at Rockingham

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Whenever the British Touring Car Championship heads to Rockingham, you can guarantee a fascinating days’ racing. The title fight has been set ablaze with 5 drivers all within 30 points of each other, following a truly knightly Knockhill for hometown hero Shedden. As Motorbase man Mat Jackson plants his titanic Ford on pole during qualifying and BMR appear to be rediscovering their mojo, who will come out on top when the fat lady sings?

One of the biggest news stories to come from Saturday was the announcement that Shedden had been demoted from 3rd place down to 7th due to a pit infringement during the qualifying session. It was clear that Flash was somewhat annoyed yet understanding about his penalty; with John Cleland also racing at Rockingham, I wonder if tips on controlling the descent of the Scottish red mist were given:

“We’ve got to race to the rules, and it would appear that we’ve broken the rule and we’ve been punished – it is what it is and there’s nothing I can do to change it.”

From the second the lights were out, Gordon Shedden made clear his intentions for vengeance upon the rest of the field. As Mat Jackson powered off into a lead he would never lose, in typical Flash-ion, Shedden made light work of those in his way and was soon not only up to his original 3rd place, but charging up behind the Ford. Despite securing pole position for race two with a blistering time, Shedden was never able to catch the flying Ford of Jackson, who was able to manage both the gap and his tyres to an eventual 1.8 second lead as proceedings came to a close.

It was not the lead battle that captured the imagination of the fans; it was however the scrap for all the top 10 positions. After making an excellent start from the 6th row of the grid, Cook made his way up to 6th and was even fighting to get past the Honda of Neal. But the demands of the Rockingham circuit do take their toll on the soft tyre, meaning he would fall back to an eventual 13th. All eyes fell on the epic struggles between Moffat, Cook, Ingram, Jordan and Turkington.

All action in race 1 as drivers jostled for positions! Photo Credit: BTCC.net

All action in race 1 as drivers jostled for positions. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The BMR Volkswagen did not have the same dominance I was expecting; after a collision and broken suspension, Plato would return to the track to qualify only 12th. While Smith achieved a well earned podium, he was struggling to keep pace with the haunting Honda. My hero of race one however had to be the Mercedes of Adam Morgan who fought back not only from 19th to 9th at the flag, but also secured 2nd on the grid for race two. It was very nearly an 8th for Morgan, following a catastrophic rubber failure (read: puncture) for Neal on the last lap who plummeted down the order. Credit also should go to Jeff Smith in the Eurotech Honda who placed his machine 5th for the second race.

As the field charged into the first corner for race 2, Shedden led Jackson from Morgan. What was happening behind was anyone’s guess. Star of race two fast became Josh Cook who Power Maxed back up to 4th position (couldn’t resist). In fact, Cook was lapping at the same place as Flash Gordon himself! While Jackson attempted to fend off Morgan, Josh approached from the rear. With two laps to go, Cook in the Chevrolet became the fastest driver on track, and set upon Adam Morgan. Unfortunately for Cook, Morgan is one of the hardest drivers to pass in the BTCC grid. As everyone thought it was over, Cook made his move into the final chicane, passing the Mercedes and getting the first ever podium for both himself and Power Maxed Racing! Josh Cook has made a solid entry for move of the season with that delectable beauty.

“The car has performed really well. It’s really special to get our first podium, and to do it in race two, on true pace, is fantastic.”

Cooking with Gas: Josh was on fire at Rockingham thriller. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Cooking with Gas: Josh was on fire at Rockingham thriller. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

To paraphrase the hilarious musical wordsmith Tim Minchin, ‘only a ginger, can overtaking another ginger driver!’

In the meantime, while the soft tyres began to fade, Goff was spearheading a pain train consisting of Turkington, Tordoff and the recovering Plato. As the flag dropped, Shedden brought home another victory ahead of Jackson and the sensational Cook. Great result also for Rob Austin who brought Sherman home 6th ahead of Plato, Turkington and Goff.

The final race of the day is anything but boring or predictable; with Tingram gaining reverse grid pole from his 10th in race two, it moved the BMR boys of Turkington and Plato into a potentially race winning position. With the flying Cook starting in 8th for the final race, once again on the medium tyre, can he gain his first ever win while the carnage ensues around him? Will the battle of the gingers rage once more? There was only one way to find out!

Race three would not last long for Goff who was spun out at the first corner, while Ingram shot off into an early lead, pursued by the daunting BMR twins of Plato and Turkington. A great defense by Tom Ingram held off Plato despite his best efforts early on, which meant that Tom could back Plato up into the grips of Turkington and the ever approaching Neal. In a flashback to Donington, a great battle between Cook and Smith ensued, luckily without any collision this time.

The eternal gods of the BTCC struck once again when a collision between Abbott and Bushell brought out the safety car. In the final race of the day, all the cars are bunched up. Let the pressure build up once again, a little more than those of Lewis Hamilton’s tyres in Monza! As the safety car pulls in, Plato appeared to return to old form by knocking Ingram around the first part of the track. Alas his efforts were not successful as Tom presents a stout defense. Even when Plato finds his way past, Tingram gives him a taste of his own medicine and muscles his way back into the lead.

Inevitable race three contact between Morgan, Moffat, Tordoff and Cook helped shoot Morgan further down the order; a shame after his great effort in race one and two. To add to his woes, Morgan would discover the joys of playing in the sand pit himself, ruining what was a great race weekend for him until that point.

Despite his epic defensive drive, Plato would eventually find a way past at the first hairpin, but due to Welch retiring on track the safety car once again came forth. The BTCC scriptwriters clearly made their decision that one more caution period would be enough for one final bout of action. Indeed, Plato’s restart was not enough to pull him away from the ever present Tingram who was on his case once more.

As the cars hit the final lap, as Plato takes the chequered flag Moffat and Abbott have a huge coming together into the first corner. An astonishing drive and an astonishing result for Tom Ingram, who brought his Avensis home in 2nd ahead of reigning champion Colin Turkington. Many people seemed to give Jack Goff the ‘next big thing’ tag, but after that performance, I am willing to strip him of said title and give it to Ingram. It takes significant level of bravery to take on Plato and come out alive. And Tingram managed it.

“I was crying all the way around my in lap! I’m absolutely speechless, I’m such a small cog in a very big machine. I tried all I could to hold onto the win, when I managed to get back alongside Jason I couldn’t believe what I was doing! It was the best race of my career without a doubt, this is what it’s all about.”

No one could deny how much that podium meant to Tingram. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

No one could deny how much that podium meant to Tingram. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

BTCC Series Standings after Rockingham:

1. Gordon Shedden – 286

2. Jason Plato – 280

3. Matt Neal – 259

4. Colin Turkington – 253

5. Andrew Jordan – 240

As we look forward to the final two race weekends of the year, it really is anybody’s race. The top 5 have utterly dominated the championship over the last 6 years, and are now covered only by 46 points. Based on the season so far, literally anything could happen over the next 6 rounds. Could Andrew Jordan become the first driver to win a title having not actually won a race throughout the year? Will the Plato v Shedden battle be their ultimate downfall?

What is clear, is that the younger generation have shown their hand, and what a hand it is. Adam Morgan, Josh Cook and especially Tom Ingram have shown that the titans may soon be toppled. As the series moves onto Silverstone, the only way to find out what will happen is to be there.

I’ll see you there!

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Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

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