In typically cold, damp April weather the 60th British Touring Car Championship got underway.
In qualifying, which decided the grid for the first race only, Eurotech’s Jack Goff took pole ahead of returnee Sam Tordoff. Two BMWs driven by former champs Colin Turkington and Andy Jordan were 3rd and 5th, with the two Honda’s Matt Neal 6th. He was behind his rookie teammate Dan Cammish who was a superb fourth. Defending champion Ash Sutton could only manage 18th and the other Beamer of Rob Collard was only 19th. It was mighty close though, with just over a second covering the whole 32-car field.
All cars were on wets due to the damp, greasy conditions. Tordoff got a slow start with the Beamers of Turkington and Jordan like rats up a drain pipe. Cammish lost positions initially but recovered quickly back up to third. Things got worse for Tordoff as he was taken out when Neal pushed off Matt Simpson as Clearways. Neal left it in the kitty litter as the safety car was brought onstage for the first time.
On the restart Goff got the jump on the field. Rob Austin, driving the Alfa Romeo Giulietta for the first time, made contact with the Audi of Tom Olliphant breaking the right-rear suspension of the Alfa. On lap 11 there was action at Paddock as Jordan passed Cammish and the Toyota of Tom Ingram made a move on the Focus RS of Tom Chilton.
Goff and Turkington broke away from the rest, with Turkington trying a move on the inside at Clearways on lap 14, but to no avail. A lap later, Ingram took third from Cammish on the inside at Druids hairpin. Cammish would continue to lose places, eventually finishing 8th.
At the chequered flag Goff had managed to pull out a little gap to win from Turkington, Ingram, Chilton and Adam Morgan’s Mercedes. Sutton stormed through the field to finish 7th with James Cole in another Focus RS rounding out the top ten.
This was mental. The track wasn’t quite ready for slicks yet would be sure to dry out by the end of the race. Neal, Simpson and Mike Bushell started in the pits on slicks, with most the guys at the front playing safe with wets. As the cars set off on their warm-up laps Turkington had an electrical problem that forced him into the pits before the race started, scuppering his chances.
Again the BMW of Jordan got a flier and led into Paddock, with Sutton also making up places to 5th. At the start of lap two Ingram took Goff on the inside. Just as this happened Stephen Jelley got tipped in a spin that saw him in the boonies at Clearways. Another safety car.
On the restart Goff lost another place almost immediately to Chilton. He got the place back however at Clearways on lap 15 with Sutton following him through. Meanwhile, Ingram had taken the lead. Later on Rob Collard, who had a rotten day, had a massive spin at Surtees after contact with Jackson and Aiden Moffat’s Mercedes.
By lap 20 Sutton was up to third behind Goff and Ingram while Jordan had fallen to 4th. Unbeknownst to any of them, Moffat and Vauxhall’s Senna Proctor, who’d started 27th, were coming up fast, their slick tyres working better as the track dried. Sutton lost three places after running wide at Druids. Ingram then went down to 4th at Paddock. Moffat and Proctor came storming through and also passed Goff into Druids, with Moffat brilliantly positioning his car on the very inside to take the lead!
By the end of lap 23 the order was Moffat, Proctor with the VW of Jake Hill 3rd, Jackson 4th and Tom Boardman on his return catching all of them in 5th. These guys had all started on slicks and with the track virtually dry now, they were romping away from the rest.
Coming into Druids two laps later Proctor went for the inside as they lapped Neal. Moffat stayed outside exiting the corner before Proctor lost control of his senses for a moment. He moved across, pushing Moffat off the track and into the wall. The car was damaged but he soldiered on to finish a dejected 5th.
Proctor took his first win ahead of Hill, Jackson and Boardman. Simpson and Bushell drove superbly from the pits to finish 7th and 8th. But what happened to Goff and co.? Well, Goff managed to stay in the top 10 with Ingram 11th, Sutton 12th and Jordan way down in 21st.
In the reverse grid Austin was on pole ahead of Moffat. Once again there was drama before the start as Hill and Olliphant were both in the pits with mechanical problems.
Austin held his lead at the start with Jackson going from 4th to 2nd. Meanwhile Boardman was turned around by Bushell and Ingram got ahead of Simpson. For the third time the safety car was required at the end of the first lap thanks to Collard and Cole making contact at Druids, the Beamer beached.
On the restart Ingram got Moffat into Druids, who then got shoved by Bushell the following lap. He would eventually fall to 21st with numerous problems.
Ingram then passed Jackson for 2nd into Clearways on lap 7. Three laps later he was on the back of the Alfa as they broke away. Going into lap 13 Ingram’s persistence payed off as he hit the front at Paddock, having got on the inside at Clearways. He sprinted off into the distance never to be troubled.
Meanwhile Goff had dropped to 9th. Sutton had done the opposite and got up to 4th by lap 22, fighting with Bashing Bushell. He eventually got the better of him at Graham Hill Bend two laps later.
Morgan was harrying Austin for 2nd and when Austin made a mistake he pounced, taking the place at Paddock on the very last lap.
Ingram won by a country mile from Morgan, Austin, Sutton, Bushell, Rory Butcher, Simpson, Goff, Turkington who’d gone from 27th to 9th and Josh Cook’s Vauxhall.
With three races gone Ingram leads the points on 40 but Goff is close behind on 37. Morgan is on 30 with Austin and Sutton both on 26 rounding out the five. At the end of the month the championship heads to Donington Park, a complete contrast from the tight little Indy circuit at Brands.