Gordon Shedden a solid start to the defence of its Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title to distance himself from the opening round of the season 2017 at Brands Hatch with a win, a second place and an advantage of six points over race-winner Tom Ingram in the championship of pilots.
The Halfords Yuasa Honda driver, who aspires to become the first person from touring car legend Andy Rouse about 32 years to win three consecutive BTCC title, emerged unscathed from a dramatic incident, and full curtain of funds.
Andrew Jordan completed the trio of winners in his debut in the West Surrey Racing in a weekend that saw three different brands of car at the top of the podium, while his team-mate Colin Turkington put in a starring role as he ran from the back of the grid to second place in the two races.
With five manufacturer-backed teams (Honda, BMW, Subaru, Vauxhall, and MG), a network of 32 cars and a new and wider Dunlop tires with that deal, Saturday’s qualifying set the tone for a spectacular weekend. The double session was interrupted by red flags to recover cars stuck from the damp and greasy track conditions. Also launched a huge shock when Jeff Smith timed it perfectly and stole the pole position from much more established opposition just before the second of stoppages.
At 51 years of age, Eurotech, owner of the team, that takes a couple of corsair Honda Civic Type r for himself and Jack Goff, gave a lap 48.367 s around Brands Hatch Indy lay-out as well as the red flags waved for a second time to recover Ash Sutton Subaru of the barriers at Paddock Hill Bend.
Impeccable timing aside, Smith’s return was impressive and only a couple of tenths below that of Tom Ingram’s free practice pace. The Speedworks Toyota Avensis driver duly took the second position on the grid.
The rain was not a problem on Sunday, but the start of the race saw more drama as Honda ace Matt Neal and Colin Turkington, in the fastest way to what is now the manufacturer admits West Surrey Racing BMW 125is crashed on the start line. The incident eliminated both of the former champions at the moment, and brought out the Safety Car.
While all this was happening in Ingram had leaked out of the line and taken the initiative of Smith. When the Safety Car returned to the pits, 23-year-old, who also won the opening round in 2016, set about building a lead as behind him, reigning champion Shedden, Adam Morgan, Rob Austin and Jordan piled up behind Smith.
The pole-sitter hung in bravely, but he could not get his option tires to turn. The queue behind him grew bigger and one by one they slipped through. By the time I had when it was too late to Shedden’s works Honda to do something about Ingram whose consummate the performance of bagging a third victory of the race. Smith eventually retired with a broken wheel nut.
Shedden, whose board flashing the oil warning lights from him in the closing stages, had to work hard for second, as Morgan Mercedes closed to the right towards the end of the race. Behind them, Goff struggled through the fourth to give Eurotech something of a consolation, while Austin Toyota and the fast BMWs of Jordan and Robert Coles chased him through the house.
There was killing again in the second race start. This time it was another former champion on the spot when Jason Plato hit the wall, hard on your Subaru Levorg, after having cut Matt Simpson Honda out-of-network. The front of the car was considerably worse than that of their pilot, which went up and shaken with the torso but otherwise ok. The impact was large enough to bend the Levorg of the chassis, the crack in the engine block and the end of Plato’s participation in the weekend.
Plato started the second race 12 after struggling through 19 on the grid in the first race. I had spent the weekend re-learning your BMR-run car following changes in the regulations, which leveled the center of gravity of the boxer engine from Subaru with the rest of the field. The Levorg had been the car to have at the end of 2016, and had won two of the final round of racing at Brands Hatch, this time spent most of the weekend near the bottom of the timesheets.
Plato misfortune saved Ingram’s career however. The Toyota had been given a drive-through penalty for causing the abortion of a start, but the red flag cancelled and that allowed him to start from pole, after all. But 75kg of success ballast was too much to resist Shedden’s Honda, who assumed the leadership of clearways on the second lap.
The realization of 66kg of their own ballast, Shedden not to break the moment, though, as Ingram focused his attention on the defense of the first of Andrew Jordan (impressing it with its rear-wheel-drive debut), and then Rob Collard, who passed his WSR team-mate on lap 10.
A brief Safety Car period to recover the remains of Ant Whorton-Eales’ was not enough to save Ingram from the clutches of the Cabbage, which forced its way past the Toyota in the period prior to the Druids with four laps to the end.
Behind them, Austin thought of leaving the top of a fierce battle with Morgan, Jackson and Jordan, who defeated Josh Cook to the sixth, on the road for a tenth of a second. But Austin was disqualified for overtaking Jordan under yellow flags. That meant Chilton took a modified version of the eighth in the brand new works by Max Power Racing’s Vauxhall Astra while Turkington, having started at the back of the grid fought his way back to ninth, ahead of Michael Epps.
Austin’s disqualification meant that Chilton, surprisingly, found himself on the pole for a humdinger of a final race – with the top eight finishers of the second race is reversed for the end of the grid.
Jordan made a blinding start in the soft-on-wheels BMW and fired at the head of a third party in the network. Chilton tucked in behind him in the quest with the Cabbage and Morgan initially behind.
But as the laps counted down, so that Turkington emerged as the real threat of the production maybe the drive of the day, of the ninth in the network. By lap eight the Northern Irishman was third and in the whole of the back of Chilton. The duo put on a great show as they twice went from side to side in the Druids before the Vauxhall finally relented to Graham Hill Bend with seven laps from the end.
The 2007 and ’14 champion, then set about tracking down the leader of Jordan in the sister 125i. The couple involved in a thrilling dice, Turkington of all, trying to legal – including a soft tap at clearways on the last lap – to be able to pass, but it was not enough to deny 2013 champion his first victory of the season.
Chilton completed a good weekend with a podium finish, his third top ten finish of the day, ahead of Matt Neal, who came to a difficult weekend with a strong fourth.
Shedden-seventh place meant he left Brands Hatch with 48 points, ahead of Ingram (42) and Jordan (41), as they head to Donington in two weeks time.
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