The British Touring Car Championship heads to the final round of the season with only twenty one points separating the front five cars. Sam Tordoff will go to Brands Hatch with the lead, now with an eleven point advantage to second place driver Gordon Shedden.
It was a mixed weekend at Silverstone, with the championship contenders facing a difficult weekend after a mixed qualifying. Race wins went to Tom Ingram, Andrew Jordan, and Shedden at the iconic track after three thrilling races.
Ashley Sutton took pole in qualifying on Saturday and would start on the front row of the grid alongside Ingram and just ahead of team mate Josh Cook. He couldn’t keep the lead going into the first corner, Ingram snatching that away after a fantastic start off of the line.
Behind them, Cook was knocked into fourth when Jordan moved into third. Cook stuck close to him though and spent the opening laps of the race trying desperately to find a way past the Motorbase driver.
The two drivers made contact, Cook going sideways briefly but was able to keep fourth in the order. Whilst the MG driver was battling against Jordan, Adam Morgan was catching up, putting more and more pressure on Cook. Finally, the MG driver was able to get past and didn’t stop to look back as he left Jordan to fight against Morgan.
Meanwhile, Sutton was putting pressure on Ingram, who still lead the race. A move up the inside at turn one put the rookie driver into the lead, but Ingram wasn’t about to give up without a fight. The Speedworks driver tapped the back of Sutton’s MG, trying to find a way past whilst Sutton’s team mate caught up with them. Soon, it was Ingram’s turn to be tapped, Cook weaving around behind him and trying to find a way to make an MG 1-2.
The gaps between the first three drivers grew and shrunk in sequence, with nobody able to find a clean way past. Finally, Cook broke the deadlock. A move onto the kerb lifted his MG onto two wheels and he was able to slip past Ingram and into P2.
Elsewhere on track, the championship contenders weren’t having such an amazing race.
Shedden had been trying to get past his team mate in the early stages of the race, but now found himself moving very slowly. The Honda driver slipped back through the time sheets as he headed to the pits with a completely shredded front left tyre. The Honda driver returned to the track, but his race would be pretty much over.
Neal was also bumping about further back in the field, trying to find a way past Aiden Moffat’s Mercedes. Neal did eventually get past, but Moffat would probably have preferred something a little cleaner, Matt Neal sending the Laser Tools Racing driver sideways to allow not only Neal but also Jake Hill and Rob Collard past.
Hill stuck close to Neal, trying a move around the outside to steal the position from him. The Team HARD driver got past, but there was no chance for Neal to attack back, his Honda moving very slow. He eventually pitted and ended his race there.
Back at the front, Sutton was doing a good job to defend against Cook, with Ingram keeping close behind them. Just outside the podium positions was Jordan, in a race of his own then, behind him, were Adam Morgan and Rob Austin. Austin tried a move around the outside of Morgan but couldn’t get past. A small tow wasn’t enough to get past the Mercedes but eventually he found his way up into fifth, where he would stay until the end of the race.
It would be Sutton, Cook, and Ingram on the podium, but the celebrations didn’t last much longer than the podium Champagne. Both MG drivers were disqualified due to their rear wing alignment, meaning Ingram would take the race win. Though they didn’t get a chance to take to the podium after race one, Jordan and Austin would complete the top three.
The race win put Ingram on the front row of the grid for the second race of the day, with Jordan starting alongside him.
Ingram managed to keep the lead of the race for six laps, holding off from Jordan’s attacks, but eventually had to let the Motorbase driver past when he stormed down the inside at Becketts hairpin.
Things went from bad to worse for the pole sitter as the pace of the soft tyres seemed to trail off as he dropped back behind Morgan, who started from fourth on the grid. Morgan then bought the fight to Jordan, chasing after the Ford, but would eventually finish 0.884 seconds behind the leader, unable to find a way past.
Elsewhere, Rob Austin had a disappointing race. The Handy Motorsports driver started on the second row of the grid and was running in third in the opening stages of the race before falling back behind Morgan and Hill. Near the mid point of the race, he found himself in trouble, though, a slow puncture ruining his race and slipped back through the field, eventually pitting and retiring from the race.
The only other retirement came from Matt Simpson, who brought out the safety car on lap sixteen of what would be a twenty five lap race. The safety car brought Mogran to within spitting distance of the race lead, but Jordan worked hard to build up a gap as soon as possible, eventually leaving the WIX Racing driver behind.
The championship protagonists had had a fairly anonymous weekend so far, but it was their time to shine in the final race of the weekend. Shedden – third in the championship – would line up on pole due to the reverse grid draw, with Rob Collard starting alongside him.
There was a mad dash to the first corner away from the grid, with a lightning start from Collard putting him in the lead of the race and building up a gap to Shedden and Mat Jackson, who were side by side for second. Shedden was able to keep second from the Motorbase driver.
Behind them, there was a three way battle between Colin Turkington, Ingram, and Jordan, who came three abreast to a yellow flag zone.
The yellow flags had thrown Collard, who couldn’t be sure just how far to slow down, and allowed Shedden into the lead of the race. Jackson followed the Honda through, but Collard wouldn’t let go. The pair swapped and changed places corner after corner but it was eventually Jordan who managed to secure the position, chasing after Shedden.
Meanwhile, Morgan was trying to keep the sister car of Aiden Moffat behind him whilst Moffat was having to defend against championship leader Sam Tordoff. Tordoff came alongside Moffat, and, no matter how much he fought, the Scotsman couldn’t stay ahead.
Tordoff set about finding a way past Morgan whilst his team mate was having to defend against Jason Plato, who was also looking for something to take away from the fairly disappointing meeting. Collard managed to keep his BMW ahead, whilst Tordoff was able to get ahead, continuing his move up through the field.
Jordan was next on the West Surrey Racing driver’s list and he overtook the race two winner without much of a problem.
Collard was now attacking and defending at the same time. The WSR driver was right on the tail of Jackson, but he couldn’t put up much of a fight whilst trying to keep Plato behind him.
The battle for second gradually grew throughout the second half of the race. Jackson had to Collard in his mirrors, who was defending against Plato, who was being caught by Turkington, who had Tordoff on his tail, who was being caught by championship rival Matt Neal.
Corner after corner, the pack grew closer, but nothing changed until Neal managed to move up the inside of Tordoff.
Plato was the next to make a move, coming alongside Collard’s car in an attempt to snatch the final step of the podium, but a lock up sent the BMR driver running wide, allowing the pack through. Plato eventually crossed the line in twelfth.
Tordoff tried to come back at Neal, but the chequered flag was already in sight and he would have to settle for sixth. It still meant he was able to extend his championship lead over Gordon Shedden, who moves into second place.
It is all still to play for as the championship heads to the final round at Brands Hatch at the start of October, where the 2016 BTCC champion will be decided.
Image Credit: Caroline Rhea