Thruxton hosted the 3rd round of the 2015 BTCC season, a week later this year than the usual early Bank Holiday Weekend date. 28 cars arrived for the meeting, one less than Donington as Alex Martin in the luminous Dextra Racing Ford Focus was absent due to a back operation, 28 soon became 27 as the luckless Dan Welch had more issues with his Welch Motorsport Proton Gen2 which hardly left the garage all weekend. The field soon became 25 following a huge qualifying incident which saw the AMD Tuning Ford Focus of Mike Bushell and Simon Belcher’s Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis both damaged very heavily following contact as Bushell left the pits. Both drivers were OK but Bushell did have to visit Southampton hospital following ligament damage to his leg. As yet we are unsure if the two cars will be able to make Oulton Park at the beginning of June. One change to the grid saw former F1 driver Martin Donnelly in the Support our Paras Infinity squad in the place of Richard Hawken following a fairly ugly annoucement, retraction, speculation and finally re announcement on the Friday evening.
The track was where the main action was though. Aron Smith took the pole for Team BMR in the Volkswagen CC ahead of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal in the Yuasa Racing Honda’s and the impressive Adam Morgan in the WIX Mercedes A Class. Andy Priaulx’s WSR BMW was next ahead of Smith’s BMR team mate Jason Plato. Jack Goff was the best placed of the Triple 8 MG6s in 7th with Power Maxed Help for Heroes Racing’s Josh Cook next up proving that his Donington showing was no fluke, ahead of reigning champion Colin Turkington’s BMR VW and local driver Rob Collard in the Gardex JCT600 BMW.
Aron Smith’s maiden pole position via qualification didn’t quite end up the way he hoped as both the Hondas got the jump at the start with Shedden taking the lead to take an unchallenged lights to flag victory from team mate Neal, behind the Scot’s Honda was where it happened though with Neal, Smith and Morgan all battling for the podium before the VW pilot suffered a late race puncture dropping him out of the points to finish 21st and a lap down. BMR team mate Plato would finish 4th and with it set fastest lap that would see him take the pole position for the 2nd race of the day, ahead of Priaulx and Andrew Jordan, having an average weekend at a track he usually thrives at.
Turkington and Goff were next up the latter having an incident packed race, having run wide at the chicane he was passed by both Jordan and Priaulx as they ran three abreast over the start finish line before having his best lap time removed due to a track limits infringement. Cook and Tom Ingram in the Speedworks Toyota ran out the top ten just ahead of Sam Tordoff’s BMW.
Plato may have been on pole but Rob Collard wasn’t going to make it easy for the two time champion and led away at the start of an eventful race which saw both Morgan and Priaulx spin (the latter twice) in the opening sequence, Cook and Jeff Smith in the Eurotech Racing Honda Civic both had to take evasive action and saw both cars complete lap one with advertising hordings across the grilles of their cars, Priaulx’s moment at Allard was followed by another at the complex and dropped the multiple world champion to the back following a lengthy pit stop for repairs.
Other champion were not immune to the race 2 attrition as Neal and Aron Smith got tangled at the complex Neal coming off worse retiring as a result.
Up front however Plato had taken Collard in the early laps but was unable to shake the BMW the pair finishing less than half a second apart but around 3 seconds ahead of Gordon Shedden with Goff just behind the Honda.
Turkington was next up ahead of Tordoff, Jordan and the recovering Adam Morgan. Rob Austin in his Exocet Alcosense Audi A4 finished 9th ahead of Aiden Moffat in his Laser Tools Racing Mercedes A Class.
The reverse grid draw saw Adam Morgan take the pole position for the final race of the day ahead of Jordan, Tordoff, Turkington and the rest and with it take a dominant lights to flag victory following a short safety car period.
The top four finishing where they had started, behind though plenty was happening as Neal and Priaulx – starting at the back of the pack following their race 2 misdemeanors fought back to 6th and 13th at the flag.
Shedden topped off an impressive day finishing 5th again ahead of his team mate, while Plato landed 7th ahead of team mate Aron Smith, Josh Cook in his Chevrolet and Tom Ingram who also made good progress from the very back of the pack.
Morgan’s victory was his first on the track, his first coming in the steward’s office at Brands Hatch last October and promotes him to 6th in the overall standings on 98 points 16 behind Gordon Shedden who holds an 8 point lead over Colin Turkington. Neal is next up a further 3 points back and 1 ahead of Jason Plato, ho’s race 2 victory was his 90th in the BTCC. 2013 champion Andy Jordan currently places 5th with 99 points and is the highest placed driver without a victory thus far this season.
It’s tight at the top, anyone dare to call a champion yet this year? Though not.