Mat Jackson, Rob Collard and Matt Neal made it six different winners from the opening six 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races, as the country’s biggest motor racing series produced an exciting and unpredictable triple-header at Donington Park.
Motorbase Performance’s Jackson won a breathless first race after muscling his way between MG Racing RCIB Insurance’s front row starters. Pole-sitter Ashley Sutton bogged down off the line and dropped back to fourth while Josh Cook banged wheels with Jackson’s Ford Focus, but the latter was able to squeeze through on the run down to Redgate for the first time. Jackson pulled away from the MG duo and was more than a second up the road at the midway stage. Cook was equally comfortable in second, while Sutton was fending off fellow slow-starter Tom Ingram for third. The Speedworks Motorsport man ran side-by-side with Sutton as they crossed the start/finish line on lap 11 before making the move stick through Redgate to claim the final podium position. The race headed to a dramatic conclusion in more ways than one as Matt Simpson and Daniel Welch made heavy contact at Coppice, whilst the Subaru of James Cole burst spectacularly into flames in a completely unrelated incident. With just one lap to go and three cars littering the circuit in dangerous positions, officials were left with no option but to red flag the encounter, handing Jackson a deserved win from Cook and Ingram. BMW machinery then joined Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and Ford among the BTCC winners so far this season, when Collard took an impressive victory in race two. That prospect had looked some way off with WSR’s Collard starting from sixth on the grid. The Team JCT600 with GardX driver blasted up to third on the first lap, but had to wait until lap 12 to make further ground as Ingram defended valiantly. Collard passed the Toyota Avensis with a tidy move at the final chicane and he immediately set about hunting down Jackson’s Duo-backed Ford, which had led from the start.
Collard hauled in the ballast-laden Focus and the two cars ran side-by-side through the exit of Coppice in the closing stages, with Jackson eventually having to concede going into the Esses. The race one winner held on to take second while a sensational scrap ensued behind him for the final podium position. Cars ran four abreast at one stage as Sam Tordoff’s BMW bounced across the gravel, before his WSR team-mate Jack Goff tapped Ingram’s Toyota on the exit of the chicane. Tordoff lost out slightly while Ingram was shuffled way down the order, and when the dust finally settled it was Ireland’s Aron Smith who had snatched third for BKR – a second podium in as many BTCC weekends for the fledgling outfit.
Honda’s Gordon Shedden and Neal sandwiched Goff’s BMW in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, whilst Cook scored some valuable points for MG with seventh, despite both him and team-mate Sutton being demoted down the pack.
Halfords Yuasa Racing took a commanding one-two in the weekend’s BTCC finale as Neal became the sixth different winner from the six races contested so far this season. Tordoff maintained the lead from pole position, and was followed by team-mate Goff on lap two, after he slipped by Neal’s Honda Civic Type R at the Esses. Reigning champion Shedden made his way through to fourth place, joining Neal in the quest to hound down the two BMWs ahead of them.
Although the WSR cars initially scampered off into the sunset, both Tordoff and Goff had the tough task of managing their Dunlop soft tyres for the duration. It proved to be a race of two halves as the harder compound runners benefitted from greater performance in the latter stages, and fortunes subsequently swung back towards Honda. Neal sliced past Goff at the Old Hairpin on lap ten and Shedden followed suit at Redgate next time around.
Although Tordoff desperately tried to look after his tyres, it became clear he was helpless to stop the Honda charge. Neal’s Civic Type R took eight tenths of a second out of the Team JCT600 with GardX BMW on lap 13 and he was through one lap later – making a textbook move at McLeans, one of the triple champion’s favourite hunting grounds.
Shedden produced a similar move on Tordoff as he had done to Goff earlier on – again at Redgate – and the Hondas were suddenly holding a comfortable one-two. Both streaked clear to take the chequered flag in unison and the BMWs of Tordoff and Collard followed in third and fourth – the latter also benefitting from the consistent performance of the hard tyre. MG’s Sutton stormed through to take fifth ahead of the fading Goff, whilst Aiden Moffat took an impressive seventh, and with it the Independents’ win for Laser Tools Racing.
The two Hondas of Neal and Shedden, respectively, lead the way in the Drivers’ standings after a strong set of results over the course of the weekend – culminating in that race three one-two finish. The two BMWs of Goff and Collard made ground to place third and fourth – Collard profiting particularly from his race two victory.
Halfords Yuasa Racing heads the Teams’ table by 22 points. Team JCT600 with GardX and Motorbase Performance, who both gained significantly over the weekend, currently stand second and third.
Honda also tops the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ standings from WSR. Aron Smith leads the Independent Drivers’ while Motorbase Performance overtakes BKR to top the Independent Teams’ table. Sutton again impressed, extending his advantage in the Jack Sears Trophy.
Mat Jackson: “I looked at the MG guys’ starts from Brands and they struggled a little bit there. Starts are my strong point so I knew I’d have a chance in race one. When (Sutton) sort of fluffed it, I thought ‘get in there’. We had minor contact with Josh Cook. I definitely got a bit of damage at the front but it was OK; I was hoping nothing had bent on the suspension and it was fine. I think Ash got a bit of a poor start and Josh was coming across, so it was just one of those things. Cook was quick over the early laps and to be honest, he was all over me, but I managed to withstand the threat and control it from there. It’s a good result and the car was on fire the whole way through!”
Rob Collard: “I had to work hard for that win in the opening laps of race two. The key was the first lap when I made the jump from sixth up to third. It all paid off. Once we were in second, it was game on with Mat Jackson starting to struggle a bit as the race headed towards the finish. The car is feeling so sharp at the moment so it was really good – I’m really pleased with it. We’ve stuck with the BMW and it’s the best it’s been since the 3 Series days. We left Brands with a bit of a cloud after race two and I’m delighted we were able to come here and prove to everyone we’re winners. There were some good moves in there and I’m proud I can still perform like that.”
Matt Neal: “Being championship leaders and with the associated success ballast, we came into this weekend knowing we would need to play a longer-term game. Our aim was to save the best ‘til last – and that’s exactly what we did. We bagged the points in race one, and then race two set us up nicely for the last one, with the reversed grid and the right tyres on both cars. It was great to come away with a one-two finish, and being my home circuit makes it even sweeter. It felt as good as my first BTCC win here all those years ago – I’ll never get tired of that feeling. To leave still leading the championship is the perfect outcome – I’ll accept 75kg ballast going to the next round with both hands!”
Gordon Shedden: “We knew we were going to have to take a bit of pain this weekend with so much ballast in both cars, and we decided to take that pain early on. It was always the plan that as Sunday progressed, we would get closer and closer to the front. That meant we were a little bit under the radar until the last race, but we kept fighting and plugging away and snatching points as and when they were available. It was very difficult in race one, but we kept our noses clean in race two and very nearly nicked a late podium and then the car felt great in race three. We just had to bide our time until the soft tyres on the cars ahead faded, which we knew they would do. It was fantastic to end the weekend with a one-two finish.”
1 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Motorbase Performance 18m 16.822s
2 Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +1.860s
3 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +2.077s
4 Jack GOFF (GBR) Team IHG Rewards Club +8.794s
5 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +9.149s
6 Robert COLLARD (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +10.324s
7 Jeff SMITH (GBR) Eurotech Racing +14.807s
8 Aron SMITH (IRL) BKR +16.423s
9 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +17.990s
10 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +19.589s
1 Robert COLLARD (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX 25m 07.394s
2 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Motorbase Performance +1.670
3 Aron SMITH (IRL) BKR +3.307
4 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +3.429s
5 Jack GOFF (GBR) Team IHG Rewards Club +4.939s
6 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +5.547s
7 Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +9.967s
8 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +10.311s
9 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +11.124s
10 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +11.378s
1 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing 19m 08.350s
2 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.222s
3 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +2.690s
4 Robert COLLARD (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +2.908s
5 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +4.142s
6 Jack GOFF (GBR) Team IHG Rewards Club +9.245s
7 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +9.379s
8 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +13.028s
9 Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +17.535s
10 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) Motorbase Performance +18.146s
Click here for the final classification from the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Donington Park.
Matt Simpson was reprimanded and received two penalty points for an incident involving Rob Austin.
Matt Simpson was reprimanded and received two penalty points for a further incident involving Dan Welch.
Rob Collard was deemed to have gained an unfair advantage cutting across the grass at the start of the race and received a verbal warning.
Matt Simpson received a verbal warning for an incident involving Kelvin Fletcher. As this was his third strike of the season he was deducted three points from his Drivers’ Championship total and demoted to the back of the grid for race three.