BTCC 2014: The Turk Rules at Rockingham…

Rockingham was host to the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship which saw its Eighth weekend of racing as the series entered the final nine races that will see this years champion crowned.

MG’s Sam Tordoff has scored his second ever British Touring Car Championship pole position with the MGs being split by championship leader Colin Turkington in second.

Tordoff was on top for most of the session, rising to the top of the times inside the first ten minutes. Tordoff and Plato then proceeded to improve their times at the top, before Turkington split the duo inside the final two minutes of the session. Despite posting the second fastest time, Turkington was still 0.484 seconds off the pole pace.

It is Tordoff’s second-ever pole in the BTCC and his first of the season. The MG driver also starts from first for the opening race of the day for the second consecutive meeting, after inhering pole at Knockhill last time out.

Plato ended up third, unable to respond to the championship leader with his final timed lap. The former champion will nevertheless keep the position, after having his earlier grid penalty overturned.

Gordon Shedden was fourth fastest, ahead of Andrew Jordan in fifth, who ended the session early complaining of set-up difficulties.

Adam Morgan was sixth fastest in his WIX Racing Mercedes, ahead of the third MG of Marc Hynes in seventh, who enjoyed his strongest qualifying session in the BTCC to-date.

Team BMR’s Alain Menu was in the top ten for the sixth time this season in eighth, with Honda’s Matt Neal and Airwaves Racing’s Mat Jackson completing the top ten.

There were problems for a number of drivers further down the order in the half hour session. Tom Ingram (12th) and Hunter Abbott (31st) both endured off-track excursions at the Tarzan Hairpin early on, whilst Welch Motorsport’s Ollie Jackson and United Autosport’s Glynn Geddie both stopped on the circuit with mechanical problems.

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Colin Turkington would go on to victory in the opening British Touring Car Championship race, beating poleman Sam Tordoff away from the line at the start and pulling clear thereafter.

Turkington was unchallenged in the race to take his seventh victory of the season and further extend his championship lead. Tordoff was forced to settle for second, unable to challenge Turkington once the BMW driver’s tyres were up to temperature.

Jason Plato finished the race in third, scoring his tenth podium of the season, having not been close enough to challenge his team-mate in front.

Finishing in a season-best fourth was Alain Menu, who continued to make progress in the race despite running on the softer option tyres. Menu pulled off convincing passes on several drivers at the Tarzan hairpin including a pass on both the Airwaves drivers of Fabrizio Giovanardi and Mat Jackson on lap eight. He then set about and caught Jordan, and closed a near two second gap to Adam Morgan in the closing laps of the race.

Morgan himself was forced to settle for fifth after Menu caught and passed him on the penultimate lap, extending his run of top tens to eight in a row.

Reigning champion Jordan finished the race in sixth, ahead of Italian Giovanardi in seventh, who got past his team-mate on lap ten.

Eighth was Shedden, with the Scot losing ground on lap four when trying to pass Plato for a podium position. The Scot had a look at the MG driver into Gracelands but made contact, pitching him into a slide which lost him a handful of positions.

Completing the top ten were Airwaves Racing’s Jackson and Team BMR’s Jack Goff, who was forced to defend heavily on the final lap as eBay Motors’ Rob Collard and Exocet Racing’s Rob Austin looked to gain positions.

There was one safety car intervention for two laps during the race, which came about as a result of a big accident between Lea Wood and Warren Scott on lap five. Wood entered the turn two hairpin backwards, possibly as a result of contact, and hit the front-left of Scott’s car, causing significant damage to both cars.

United Autosport’s James Cole also failed to finish the race, having earlier been collected by BTC Racing’s Chris Stockton.

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Colin Turkington was in dominant form as he took his second British Touring Car Championship victory of the day  finishing ahead of Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff.

Turkington led the entire race after a perfect getaway that gave him a clear advantage on the opening lap. In the end the eBay Motors driver was able to win by a massive 8.081 seconds.

Plato, who got the jump on team-mate Tordoff at the start of the race, had no answer for the Northern Irishman, and was two seconds down after just two laps.

Tordoff was third, despite losing out to Alain Menu on the opening lap of the race. However the Yorkshireman got back past the former champion a couple of laps later to take his second podium of the day, and only his fourth of the season.

Andrew Jordan was fourth, finishing as the top driver on the soft tyre after making up four places in the second half of the race. Rob Austin finished in fifth, following Jordan’s progress through the field despite running on the standard tyre.

Menu finished sixth, losing out to Jordan and Austin in the second half of the race. The Volkswagen driver will, however, start the final race from pole position after his number was selected for the reverse-grid draw.

Mat Jackson was seventh, ahead of Gordon Shedden in eighth whilst Rob Collard and Hunter Abbott completed the top ten, with the latter equalling his best race in the BTCC to-date.

Fabrizio Giovanardi finished in 11th position, having been earlier running as high as sixth. The Italian was once again found battling hard with team-mate Jackson, who found his way past on lap three at Yentwood with slight contact between the two Fords.

WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan was running in seventh position early on in the race, and was in ninth before slowing on lap seven with mechanical problems in his Mercedes. Also retiring from the race were Chris Stockton and Aiden Moffat, who made contact on the opening lap of the race.

Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram and eBay Motors’ Nick Foster both retired from the race with two laps left to run whilst running in the final two points positions.

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Rob Austin emulated his 2013 success by taking victory in the final British Touring Car Championship race at Rockingham with a dominant display.

Austin used his rear-wheel drive advantage to get ahead of pole man Menu before turn one and never looked back, opening up a 1.5 second lead in his Audi A4 to take his second ever win in the series at the same venue he took his first victory.

Menu himself held on to finish in second and score his first podium since 2000, unable to close in on Austin and challenge for the win.

Reigning champion Andrew Jordan finished in third, scoring his first podium finish since Croft in June. The Pirtek Racing driver had to withstand heavy pressure from Turkington, although the championship leader settled for fourth in the end.

Mat Jackson scored his third top ten finish of the day in fifth and was involved in a close battle with Rob Collard, who finished in sixth.

MG duo Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff finished in sixth and seventh, with the latter passing Fabrizio Giovanardi for eighth three laps from the chequered flag.

Matt Neal finished in ninth and was the sole driver for the team to score points after title contender Gordon Shedden retired on the opening lap. The Scot had damage to the front-right of his car after contact with another driver.

There was a high attrition rate during the race, with nine drivers failing to finish. Marc Hynes retired on the opening lap along with Hunter Abbott after contact, whilst Adam Morgan also pulled into the pits with damage to his Mercedes. Aiden Moffat stopped exiting turn one with some emanating from his car, whilst Jack Goff stopped on the final lap after having been running in the top ten.

All of this now means that Turkington is 55 points ahead of Plato in the Drivers Championship, with Shedden slipping back to third place, 9 points behind Plato and out of the Championship hunt.

As the series moves to Silverstone in three weeks time, the scenario is simple: if Turkington can outscore Plato by 12 points, he will be Champion. However with Silverstone favouring the MG in the past couple of seasons, it may go down to the wire again at Brands Hatch.

Once again, after Rockingham, further comments were made about the state of play in the BTCC. Jason Plato has said he will now look to win the “Proper Championship” which he leads behind Colin Turkington who “is in a championship of his own.” Plato has also stated that his plans for 2015 remain fluid until TOCA outline what changes, if any, are made to be made to the NGTC regulations. Rumours have come about suggesting that Plato could be in a WSR BMW next year.

Thats something I find difficult to believe

Now Jason works hard to setup a good sponsorship package and sets out to reward this by good on track performance. But remember that MG are in their final year of contract with Plato and although there has been race wins, there has been no title glory, something that weighs heavily with Plato. So if he decides to leave MG, then he will leave to pastures new.

Thats something I find easy to believe.

In another related issue, Matt Neal has spoken out about the lack of equilibrium in regards of Turbo Boost regulation. 15 of this years NGTC cars use the Swindon built TOCA engine. However with Honda considering using the Civic Type R next year, he has warned tha Honda would consider leaving the BTCC if the boost issue is not resolved. The team use Neil Brown Engineering built engines, as do WSR and they always seem to have a boost reduction before racing at the more faster circuits on the calendar.

This is due to the excellent chassis built by Team Dynamics that makes up for this issue by giving excellent handling. However Neal has expressed the manufacturers strong unhappiness at boost regulation, something the fans have been unhappy with since 2011, to the fact that TOCA are trying to force out Honda by giving them a boost reduction instead of staying level with the TOCA engines.

Allied to this, remember that Honda is re-entering F1, potentially affecting the WTCC and BTCC programmes and the fact that the budget for the 2015 BTCC is not yet confirm could see Honda leave the series if not agreed.

This I could believe to happen.

Now, this all means that both of this years Works teams have now openly challenged TOCA over performance and regulation of the NGTC regs. Alan Gow has defended the championship and its regulations, but what this also means is that over the off season, we will see a lot of change in the BTCC, whether this is teams leaving the series or drivers moving teams.

But one thing is for certain. The sporting regulations will change. TOCA is always predictable in doing this to try and give the best show and it will react, not proact, to these comments made by Plato and Neal.

Lets just hope that the championship doesn’t lose its status as the best Touring Car series in the world because of unhappy teams, drivers and fans who are fed up with comments made during and after a BTCC weekend that overshadows the racing.

Something has to be done.

Cheers.

Phil.

All the best from the Guru!!

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