Rob Austin topped the times in today’s (27 March) official Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pre-season test session at Donington Park, as the all-new Alfa Romeo Giulietta made its competitive debut.
WIX Racing with Eurotech’s Jack Goff led for much of the running, before Austin hit the front during the final hour in his striking DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing car.
A later flurry saw the Motorbase Fords occupy second and fourth as Tom Chilton and series returnee Sam Tordoff both showed good pace, whilst BMW machinery claimed third and fifth with Colin Turkington heading stablemate Andrew Jordan.
Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Josh Cook was sixth fastest as he made his bow in the Vauxhall Astra, whilst Goff had to settle for seventh at the finish. Goff also brought about a premature end to the session when he spun into the gravel at Redgate in the final ten minutes.
Goff wasn’t the only one to suffer, however, as a number of drivers endured wild moments during the four hours of running. Eurotech team-mate Brett Smith had the most notable incident, with his crash at the bottom of the Craner Curves leading to significant damage to his Honda Civic Type R.
The Ciceley-run Mercedes of Adam Morgan was eighth, ahead of Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram, whilst BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley performed well to claim a 10th spot.
Notable absentees from the top ten included the manufacturer-backed Honda squad as Matt Neal and Dan Cammish ran the brand new Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type Rs in public for the first time.
Reigning champion Ash Sutton had his maiden run of the year in the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing Levorg and could only manage 20th in the final classification.
The competitiveness and calibre of the field was already on show with the top 16 cars separated by less than a second and a huge number laps completed during the day by the full 32-car line-up.
The opening rounds of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will take place at Brands Hatch on 7/8 April.
Rob Austin said: “There are a lot of common components in a touring car but I underestimated how different driving the Alfa Romeo would be. It’s a lot of work to try and figure out a new car. Trying to get the balance to match up that of the Toyota because we really had that car really nailed down. We are certainly getting there though and we seem to be getting good lap times. I think we are in the ballpark, but we won’t know exactly where we stand until we get to Brands Hatch qualifying – at the moment it’s positive and our tails are in the air! I feel like a broken record as I have been a massive fan of the Alfa Romeo since I was a kid and to finally be getting the opportunity to be representing the brand in the BTCC is a dream.”
Tom Chilton said: “We did a lot of qualifying runs today to really test what the car is like, as that’s what it’s all about on days like this. It is fantastic news right now, but I won’t get too excited until I have got to Brands Hatch. The RS is mega! The chassis is a lot better and the aerodynamics are a lot better, which is obviously one of the main difference between the ST and the RS. Last year was a bit of a tester for me having had a five-year break from the championship so this year I would love to be champion! There are 31 other guys that want to be champion though, and everyone knows this is toughest champion in the world.”
Colin Turkington said: “I felt it went very well today. We’ve definitely improved the car from the start of the session to the end. Donington Park for the BMW has never been our strongest circuit. We bring the car here and you always have to work a little bit harder to get it in the sweet spot. This is our only chance to explore some other avenues and maybe take some risks in terms of setup. Once the racing starts, you don’t have time to push the car too far away from a good base setting. Where we are pace wise, I’m confident, though you can’t read anything into today. Everybody else is in the same position, though.”
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Season Launch – Donington Park
1 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing 1m10.074s
2 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.164s
3 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.280s
4 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team GardX Racing with Motorbase +0.341s
5 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +0.384s
6 Josh COOK (GBR) Power Maxed TAG Racing +0.397s
7 Jack GOFF (GBR) WIX Racing with Eurotech +0.450s
8 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport +0.461s
9 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.494s
10 Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +0.568s
11 Rory BUTCHER (GBR) AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing +0.712s
12 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Power Maxed TAG Racing +0.741s
13 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.892s
14 Dan CAMMISH (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.907s
15 Bobby THOMPSON (GBR) Team HARD with Trade Price Cars +0.917s
16 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +0.933s
17 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmD with Cobra Exhausts +1.028s
18 Jake HILL (GBR) Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing +1.063s
19 James COLE (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +1.137s
20 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +1.150s
21 Mike BUSHELL (GBR) Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing +1.191s
22 Brett SMITH (GBR) WIX Racing with Eurotech +1.239s
23 Tom OLIPHANT (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +1.247s
24 Tom BOARDMAN (GBR) AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing +1.469s
25 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +1.495s
26 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker Racing +1.555s
27 Michael CAINE (GBR) Team HARD with Trade Price Cars +1.671s
28 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing +1.691s
29 Jason PLATO (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +1.725s
30 Josh PRICE (GBR) Autoglym Academy Racing +1.971s
31 Sam SMELT (GBR) AmD with Cobra Exhausts +2.047s
32 James NASH (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +11.053s