Rear-wheel-drive cars dominated the fourth meeting of the 2017 British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park today, BMW and Subaru sharing the first two wins but having to give way to the front-wheel drive Hondas in the final race. In the process Honda’s Gordon Shedden assumed the championship lead as Toyota’s Tom Ingram endured a weekend to forget.
Race one – BMW wins, Subaru stars
With his pole-sitting Honda Civic carrying 27 kilos of success ballast Matt Neal knew he would have difficulty beating the rear-wheel-drive BMW 125i of Andrew Jordan off the line, and Jordan’s Pirtek Racing car duly powered into a lead it never surrendered.
Neal briefly tried to stay with the BMW, until settling for a solid championship points haul with second place – though his Halfords Yuasa Racing Civic closed back up to finish just 0.2sec behind at the end of the 15 laps, and 12 seconds ahead of the field.
The real action was for third spot and Ashley Sutton again overcame the perceived issues afflicting the Subaru team to take the final podium place, after a frantic battle with Aiden Moffat’s Laser Tools Mercedes A-Class, Colin Turkington’s BMW and the Team Shredded Wheat Ford Focus of Matt Jackson.
Particularly impressive was Sutton’s recovery after being pushed onto the grass by Moffatt and falling behind Turkington in the process. His Levorg rounded the BMW on the outside at the final corner on the circuit and out-accelerated the Mercedes past the pits.
Less fortunate was the championship-leading Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis of Tom Ingram, that spun down the field after a clash with the Eurotech Honda Civic of Jack Goff. Ingram was then forced into retirement on lap 11 when his rear suspension failed, slashing his championship lead to just eight points over Honda’s Gordon Shedden, who finished seventh.
The second race started in dramatic fashion as Adam Morgan’s Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes burst into flames on the warm-up lap. The inevitable delay reduced the race distance by one lap.
Race two – Sutton’s Subaru duck
With the toasted Mercedes cleared out of the way Jordan’s BMW again made an excellent start to lead. Just as quick away, however, was the Subaru of Sutton, and by the chicane on lap two he was through to the lead and pulling away.
Jordan soon had to give up another place, to his BMW team-mate Rob Collard, while both Halfords Hondas were also soon past as the BMW struggled increasingly with the weight of its race one success ballast.
Collard stabilised and then reduced what was at one point a large gap to the leader, but could not catch Sutton, the Levorg taking the flag one second ahead to significantly boost Subaru’s so far difficult season. Behind the BMW Shedden led Neal home, Jordan next up followed by the impressive Team Parker Racing Ford Focus of Josh Cook.
Meanwhile Tom Ingram lost his championship lead as his desperate weekend continued with a second non-finish, the Toyota clashing with the Subaru of James Cole and then pulling off with a small fire. He would go into the final race six points down on Shedden’s Honda.
Race three – Honda’s win, Ford’s despair
The grid draw for the third race reversed six cars, putting Cook’s Focus on pole with Jordan’s BMW alongside. The Ford’s advantage lasted yards as Jordan’s rear-wheel traction advantage secured a hat-trick of excellent starts, with the Hondas of Shedden and Neal behind the Ford.
As the BMW built a gap Shedden crawled all over the rear of Cook’s Ford, until into the first corner on lap four the Civic assaulted the back of the Focus. Cook retired with broken rear suspension, Shedden continued despite a battered front of his car.
Shedden’s efforts to cut the gap to the BMW were helped by the safety car being deployed, after Aidan Moffat’s Mercedes was pitched into a heavy impact with the tyre wall while exiting the hairpin.
By the time the damage was repaired there were only six laps remaining and Shedden immediately closed on the leader, while behind Neal the heavily-weighted Subaru of Sutton was doing a great job holding off the very close attentions of Turkington and Collard’s BMWs.
Shedden eventually found the gap, at Cascades, and Neal was able to follow him through to secure a one-two finish for the Honda team, though Shedden later earned a verbal warning for his savaging of the Cook Focus. Sutton finished fourth, having kept the lighter BMWs behind him on a much more positive weekend for Subaru.
All of which left Honda’s Shedden back in a firm lead in his quest for a third-successive title, heading to the next round with a 16-point advantage over BMW’s Rob Collard. Tom Ingram, point leader at the start of the day, now lies third, 25 off the lead after a disastrous day in which he scored a single point.
The BTCC moves next to Croft, in Yorkshire, with three races on 11th June. The Car Expert will be there.