A one-two finish for the Team BMW cars of Andrew Jordan and Colin Turkington climaxed a dramatic opening meeting of the British Touring Car championship at Brands Hatch. Around 30,000 spectators saw three frantic races, all of which produced different winners.
The BMWs of West Surrey Racing had arrived at the opening round concerned that their brand-new design engines would last the races, but Colin Turkington had no time to find out. Off the line for race one his BMW 125i collided with the Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic of Matt Neal, both suffering terminal suspension damage and bringing out the safety car.
When the race restarted Tom Ingram, who had won the opening round in 2016, staged a repeat performance. His Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis was able to overcome the pole-position Eurotech Honda of Jeff Smith and pull away to win by three seconds.
Smith had been a surprise pole sitter due to stoppages and red flags during the previous day’s qualifying, and was not expected to hold on to his place. But he fought valiantly to stay in the top five until taking a frustrating path to the pits on lap 15 with wheel problems.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden rescued the Halfords Honda team by taking second place. But unable to close on the leader, he then almost fell victim to the fired-up Adam Morgan in the Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes A-Class – Morgan just failed to pass the Honda across the finish line.
Jack Goff’s second Eurotech Honda and the impressive Rob Austin in the Handy Motorsport Toyota completed the top five, while Tom Chilton scored a promising 10th spot in the new Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra, Jason Plato the best of the Subarus in 12th.
Race two proved a carnage-filled event that began with another startline accident. Plato’s Subaru collided with the Honda of Matt Simpson off the line and was pitched into heavy contact with the pit wall.
Honda on top
After the inevitable delay Ingram overcame battery problems to lead off the line but was soon overtaken by the Honda of Shedden, who pulled away to win.
Meanwhile the two BMWs of Andrew Jordan and Rob Collard had both started well and held fourth and fifth. Collard, renowned for his overtaking ability, quickly found a way past his team-mate and also overcame third-placed Austin. Then after a safety-car period closed up the field the BMW passed Ingram’s Toyota to secure runner-up spot.
Jordan should have taken fourth, only to be assaulted by Austin and then the cars behind them at Clearways, slipping back to seventh. This became sixth when Austin was later disqualified, putting Chilton’s Vauxhall Astra onto pole position for the final race of the day after the draw reversed the first eight finishers.
Chilton did not enjoy his pole position for long – making the most of his rear-wheel-drive BMW’s ability to put its power down, Jordan stormed through from the second row to take a lead the Pirtek-liveried car would not lose.
Initially the Vauxhall was able to stay with the BMW but as its soft-compound tyres began to wear it dropped back towards its challengers, which soon became the second BMW of Turkington. Starting ninth, the Northern Irishman had cut through the field, and by half-distance was in third, cutting a 2.2 second gap to Chilton.
With 10 laps left the BMW moved into second, and immediately started cutting the gap to his team-mate. Onto the final lap the two were nose to tail and Turkington looking for a way past. Jordan hung on to take the flag, engine worries forgotten as he celebrated with his overjoyed team.
Chilton took the final podium place to end an encouraging weekend for the new Power Maxed Racing Vauxhalls, followed by Neal, Morgan, Collard and the success-ballast laden Honda of Shedden, scoring more points to assume the championship lead.
The 2017 champion heads to the second meeting at Donington Park with a six-point advantage over the Toyota of Tom Ingram, with Jordan a single point further back. The Car Expert will be reporting from the Donington meeting on Easter Sunday, 16th April – look out too later this week for our review of a complex opening weekend for the BTCC.