BTCC 2015: Thruxton Delivers Action Aplenty…

The third weekend of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship took place at the ultra fast Thruxton circuit in Hampshire and it delivered another spectacular days racing, however there were a few incidents in the run up to Race Day…

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Heres how it panned out…

QUALIFYING…

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Aron Smith claimed a maiden British Touring Car Championship pole position at Thruxton in a chaotic qualifying session, beating the Honda duo of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal to pole.

In a session that was both frenetic and disjointed – with two red flags disrupting proceedings – Smith posted the fastest time of the session in the dying moments to deny the pair of Hondas a first pole of the season.

Only Jason Plato was able to register a representative time in the opening stages – a 1:17.507s – before the first red flag was shown, with Mike Bushell and Simon Belcher involved in a big crash at the start of the lap.

As Bushell exited the pits, both he and Belcher appeared to misjudge one another with the former tapping Belcher’s rear, sending the Toyota Avensis into the air before the pair smashed into the barrier on the exit of Allard.

With both cars heavily damaged, Bushell has been taken to Southampton Hospital with a suspected broken left femur, although the AmD Tuning driver was conscious and responsive as he left the track.

With a substantial delay, the session finally restarted and times immediately started to tumble, with Neal and Shedden jumping straight to the top of the times with respective efforts of 1:17.125s and 1:17.189s.

The pair then went quicker on their second laps with Shedden going fastest, but as a second red flag was shown following a shunt for Hunter Abbott, the Scot’s time (along with those of Rob Collard, Sam Tordoff and Dave Newsham) was disallowed for exceeding track limits.

The second stoppage left seven minutes for drivers to improve their times, and Dave Newsham immediately made an impact by setting an identical time to Matt Neal before Adam Morgan went fastest with a 1:16.808s – although both he and Newsham had their efforts disallowed again for exceeding track limits.

It was then that Smith popped up to post the fastest time – a 1:16.785s – and with neither Honda driver able to respond, the Irishman secured his first pole in the championship.

Morgan ended the session in fourth with a second quick lap, ahead of Andy Priaulx in fifth. Plato finished the session in sixth, with Jack Goff leading the MG charge in seventh.

Josh Cook had another impressive run to eighth in his Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet Cruze, while Colin Turkington and Collard rounded out the top ten.

Martin Donnelly joined Dan Welch on the sidelines, after a power steering issue prevented him from running.

RACE ONE…

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Gordon Shedden won the opening British Touring Car Championship race of the day at Thruxton, heading home Honda team-mate Matt Neal and the Mercedes A-Class of Adam Morgan.

Having started the race in second, Scotsman Shedden got a better start that polesitter Aron Smith to take the lead, and remained unchallenged to the flag to finish 1.106s clear of Neal, with Morgan completing the podium after a puncture for Smith at the three-quarter distance.

As the race started, Shedden took full advantage as Smith span his wheels off the line to grab the lead, with Neal also slithering past the BMR driver into second place.

A fast-starting Andy Priaulx looked to sneak into third in his West Surrey Racing BMW, before dropping back into fifth after Smith and Morgan battled their way back past.

After regaining his composure, Smith looked to fight back into second past Neal – who had been gapped by his team-mate – but couldn’t make the most of a look up the inside of Goodwood, with Neal then defending the position by braking later than Smith and Morgan into the chicane.

Having set the fastest lap, Jason Plato found a way past Priaulx on lap four but was unable to make much progress in his pursuit of the battle for second.

Things stayed relatively settled until the closing quarter of the race, when Smith went wide on the exit of Church. rejoining the circuit, the Irishman spun his Volkswagen CC with a flat front-left, and returned to the pits as another podium finish slipped from his grasp.

There were no such problems for Shedden, however, as he cruised to a second win of the season with Neal and Morgan both comfortable in second and third.

After Smith’s late demise, Plato had a quiet but useful run to fourth in his BMR Volkswagen, and will start the second race of the day from pole after his early effort was the fastest lap of the encounter.

Plato’s early pass on Priaulx had been the start of a plummet down the order for the Guernseyman, but he fought back well to claim fifth as a gaggle of cars squabbled for the position with two laps to go, with the equally opportunistic Andrew Jordan claiming sixth.

Colin Turkington came home in seventh ahead of Jack Goff – who will start race two in second – while Josh Cook and Tom Ingram completed the top ten.

RACE TWO…

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Jason Plato resisted West Surrey Racing’s Rob Collard to clinch a second win of the British Touring Car Championship season at Thruxton, with race one winner Gordon Shedden finishing in third.

Collard had jumped the Team BMR driver off the line, but Plato fought back with a decisive move at the chicane at the end of the second lap, before holding off the BMW man for the remainder of the race.

It was the second phase of the start where Collard made his mark, out-dragging Plato’s Volkswagen CC on the run through Allard. Adam Morgan, Andy Priaulx and Shedden went three-abreast off the line, with Priaulx sent into a half spin as he and Morgan collided as Shedden swept by.

Things got worse for Priaulx moments later as he was involved in an incident with Mark Lines and Warren Scott, while there was chaos throughout the order as Jeff Smith and Josh Cook were forced to pit after collecting advertising boards.

Plato had stayed with Collard at the start of the race and after stalking the BMW in the opening part of the lap, dived down the inside into the chicane to regain the lead.

And the pair remained in that order until the flag, with Plato holding off Collard despite the latter’s best efforts, with a winning margin of 0.442s flattering Plato.

Shedden had stayed with the lead duo at the start but dropped back midway through the race, with Jack Goff giving the Scotsman something to think about at the end of the race as he finished just shy of a second podium of the season.

Colin Turkington was fifth ahead of Sam Tordoff, with Andrew Jordan finishing in seventh. Morgan recovered after his contact at the start of the race to claim eighth and with start the reverse grid race from pole, while Rob Austin and Aiden Moffat completed the top ten.

RACE THREE…

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Adam Morgan won the final British Touring Car Championship race of the day at Thruxton, ahead of the MG of Andrew Jordan and West Surrey Racing’s Sam Tordoff.

Morgan claimed a second win in the championship in impressive fashion, leading the reverse grid race from the start and managing a safety car period to win by 1.452s from Jordan.
The Ciceley Motorsport driver got a decent enough start away from the grid, showing Jordan the outside line before holding station through the first few corners.

Morgan grew his lead over the first few laps and had moved 2.097s clear by lap four, with most on their best behaviour with little change throughout the competitive order.

But a safety car on lap eight to recover Warren Scott’s stricken Volkswagen CC eroded what had become an even more comfortable lead for the Lancastrian, as the field bunched behind him.

If there were any doubts about his credentials, Morgan quickly put them to bed when the race restarted on lap 12 as he shot off into the distance once again, as Aron Smith and Matt Neal – the latter having started in 25th – passed Rob Collard to move into the top ten.

Morgan remained unchallenged to the flag, to secure a first win on the road in the championship, after his last win came following a post-race penalty for Jason Plato at Brands Hatch last season.

After a trying weekend, second place nevertheless marked a positive end for Jordan, while Tordoff kept his cool to claim a first podium of the season.

Colin Turkington finished fourth in his Volkswagen CC, ahead of Gordon Shedden and Neal, who made a late pass on Plato through Church.

Race two winner Plato came through to finish in seventh, with team-mate Aron Smith following him home. Josh Cook secured another top ten finish in his Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet Cruze, while Tom Ingram rounded out the top ten.

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Thruxton once again proved that its fast nature provides good racing from the BTCC on each visit, however it also showed the dangers of the UK’s fastest track such as the incident between Simon Belcher and Mike Bushell. Both cars were written off on the spot with severe doubts in both cases that getting to Oulton Park was possible and more over, affecting the chances of both drivers completing the season.

However, there is a silver lining to this incident. The Fan Power of the BTCC or should I say more accurately, the #BTCCFamily has stepped in. Mike Bushell will get to race at Oulton Park in a repaired AmD Ford Focus after the fans acheived the goal of raising £10,000 and over. As we speak, Fan power is helping to get Simon Belchers season back on track as well.

The moral here: Never ever doubt on the generosity and support of your fans.

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With a small break of a few weeks until Oulton Park hosts the BTCC, many teams and drivers will rest, relax and charge their batteries for the next encounter whilst teams will be repairing, rebuilding and testing to find that vital edge at a circuit that was once called a “Mini-Nurburgring” by a certain Jo Winkelhock. It will also provide us with another chapter in a season that is incredibly hard to predict, with the championship lead changing hands st almost every race.

Just the way we like it!

All the best!

Phil!

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