Oulton Park hosted the 4th round of the 2015 BTCC championship and, as has become almost the norm this year, bought more changes to the grid. Team Parker Racing’s Dextra Racing Ford Focus for Alex Martin was back after missing Thruxton due to surgery.
Also back after missing the races at Thruxton following their huge qualifying incident was Mike Bushell and Simon Belcher, Bushell’s Ford Focus being readied in double quick time by the AMDessex squad while Belcher’s Handy Motorsport team also turned in a super hero effort to get the Avensis assembled.
The other news that came out prior to the weekend was that the Support our Para’s Racing team would only have one Infiniti running for Derek Palmer following Infiniti’s decision to pull support from the team, SOPR intend to complete the season and hope to be able to run the second car for the rest of the season.
Qualifying threw up no real surprises as the usual suspects qualified at the sharp end of the grid with Jason Plato’s BMR VW CC ahead of the Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R of Matt Neal. Andy Priaulx put his IHG Rewards WSR BMW 1M third ahead of the MG6 of Pirtek Racing Triple 8s Andrew Jordan.
Series leader Gordon Shedden put his Yuasa Civic 5th ahead of a pair of VW CCs this time of 2014 champion Colin Turkington and Aron Smith. Jordan’s MG6 team mate Jack Goff qualified 8th ahead of Speedworks Motorsports Tom Ingram in the Toyota Avensis ahead of Thruxton race 3 winner Adam Morgan in the Wix Racing Mercedes A Class.
Jason Plato took a reasonably untroubled race 1 win and in doing so, also took the fastest lap, securing the pole position for race 2 in a slightly shortened race following an incident between and Alex Martin and Stewart Lines in the Team Hard Toyota Avensis.
The latter being pitched into the tyres at pit entry bringing out the safety car and, ultimately the red flag to hand victory to the BMR driver ahead of Neal, Priaulx, Jordan, Aron Smith and Gordon Shedden.
Shedden opted to run the soft tyre for race 1 and, in doing so securing a front row start for the second race of the day. ’14 champion Turkington had a race to forget as brake problems hampered the VW pilot seeing him take an impromptu diversion around the international loop and dropping down the order to eventually finish 25th.
Goff, Ingram, Sam Tordoff in the Gardex JCT600 BMW 1M, Dave Newsham’s Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet Cruze and Morgan rounded out the top ten in a fairly quiet race.
Plato and Shedden lined up on the front row with Jordan, Priaulx, Neal and Jeff Smith in his Eurotech Racing Honda Civic having set a fast lap on the softer tyre in race 1.
Aron Smith followed before the BMW pair of Collard – having had a bad qualifying session saw him end race 1 in 13th and Sam Tordoff with Morgan’s Mercedes finishing off the top 10. Turkington would start in 13th following his race 1 diversion.
Plato though would again take victory and in doing so become the first person this season to win with the full (heavier) success ballast for 2015, although Shedden did run him close, the pair crossing the line a mere 0.093 seconds apart.
The big news this time however was the clash of the team mates as BMW pair Collard an Priaulx collided in the final few corners, Collard retiring on the spot Priaulx continuing to take 15th, scant consolation when they had been running 5th and 6th.
Just ahead of the BMWs Jordan and Neal followed home the leaders, with WSRs Tordoff profiting from his team mates incident to finish 5th ahead of Morgan who would again profit from the reverse grid draw to take race 3 pole. The BMR pair of Smith and the recovering Turkington were next on the road ahead of Jack Goff’s MG and Jeff Smith’s Honda.
Morgan led away the field ahead of Neal, Tordoff and Jordan in a similar fashion to Thruxton a month earlier, however – as TV pictures would confirm the Mercedes driver would be handed a drive thru penalty for a jump start dropping the pole man towards the back of the pack and promoting Matt Neal to the lead.
Neal held on until the halfway point before losing out to both Tordoff and, a lap later Jordan the pair trading paint before the ’13 champion finally passed the 3 times title holder.
Neal held off team mate Shedden for 3rd and a trio of BMR VWs with Plato capping a fine weekend leading home Turkington and Smith just ahead of Goff, Ingram and Jeff Smith taking 10th. Morgan finally bought the Mercedes home in 17th position.
This now means Jason Plato leads the championship by 3 points from Gordon Shedden and a further 5 from Matt Neal, solid results from Andrew Jordan now see him 13 point behind Plato but 20 ahead of Colin Turkington as we head to Croft at the end of the month, and the halfway point of the championship.
Where has the time gone.