After a summer break that seemed to last for, well the whole of the British Summertime the BTCC finally re emerged at the sunny Norfolk circuit for the start of the second half of the 2015 season.
As has been common place this season there would be more additions and replacements to the rosta starting with the(long awaited) return to action for the Motorbase squad with Mat Jackson and new recruit James Cole swelling the grid to capacity, or so we thought, in the run up to Snetterton, Welch Motorsport first announced that Andy Wilmot had parted company with the team following a difficult half season and that one car would be entered for the trip east, a few days later Dan pulled his team out of the event, this was followed by the news that the Support Our Paras entry would be scaled down to one Infiniti for the rest of the season.
So of the 29 cars entered a few had different drivers, Robb Holland made his return to BTCC action in Simon Belcher’s Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis while Dextra Racing saw a different pilot in former Porsche Carrera Cup Champion Barry Horne. The 29 soon became 28 as Aiden Moffat suffered a large incident during free practice 2 and was advised on medical grounds to miss the event, we all wish Aiden a speedy recovery and hope he is fit and ready for his “home” event at Knockhill.
Qualifying saw a frantic session as the longest circuit on the calendar saw the shortest gaps with less than a tenth covering the top three, all BMR VWs resplendent in their new livery, reigning champion Colin Turkington taking pole from Aron Smith and Jason Plato, with the next three cars covered by .006s as Andrew Jordan’s “silver machine” Pirtek Triple 8 Racing MG6, Matt Neal’s Yuasa Honda Civic and Andy Priaulx in his WSR IHG Rewards BMW 1M filled places 4 through 6.
Jack Goff parked his Triple 8 MG6 in 7th ahead of Sam Tordoff in the Gardex JCT600 version of the WSR Beemer with Tom Ingram’s Speedworks Toyota Avensis ahead of Rob Collard’s Gardex JCT600 1 Series completing the top ten.
Turkington took a fairly easy and unchallenged victory and, in doing so set up a podium clean sweep for the BMR squad as Smith and Plato followed home ahead of Jordan in 4th ahead of a huge battle for 5th between Priaulx, Neal, Adam Morgan in the WIX A Class Mercedes, Dave Newsham’s Power Maxed Chevrolet Cruze and Jack Goff, keeping the fans entertained as the action at the front was fairly pedestrian.
Having a race to forget was WSR pair of Rob Collard and Sam Tordoff, the latter punting his team mate off in the opening few corners and into retirement, while series leader going into the weekend, Gordon Shedden in his Yuasa Honda Civic could only qualify 16th and finished a lowly 14th after being passed in the closing stages by the “other” BMR entry of team owner Warren Scott doing his bit to help his title challengers at the front of the pack. A big off for Nicholas Hamilton in the closing stages when the throttle stuck on his AMD Audi S3 looked worse than it was, and top marks to the team for getting the car out for the rest of the races.
Turkington would set the fastest lap in race 1 gifting him a front row start for the second of the days races ahead of Tordoff, Morgan, Goff, Plato, Priaulx, Smith, Jordan, Ingram and Newsham.
Turkington once again showed why he is a double champion, taking a second lights to flag victory in as many races, behind him however it was a different story.
Collard starting right at the back due to his race 1 non finish once again got caught in a first corner incident and found himself with damaged suspension, this time though was able to reach the pits and return several laps down before the end of the race, it wasn’t a great race for the Yuasa Honda squad with Neal and Shedden getting together in the opening corners pitching the 2012 champion into retirement and his team mate out with damage a few laps later. The Eurotech Hondas of Jeff Smith and Martin Depper, the Toyotas of Stewart Lines and Kieran Gallagher, Warren Scott and Aron Smith’s VWs and Dave Newsham’s Chevrolet Cruze would all be involved in incidents more reminiscent of a race 3 rather than second event of the day!
Behind Turkington though there was plenty of other action on the track, Priaulx made a great start, as did Morgan with Tordoff making an indifferent one which saw the Mercedes move into second with the Guernsey-mans BMW ahead of his stable mate, Plato would use his soft tyres (working very well in the hotter climate) to dispose of both Goff and eventually Tordoff on his way to 4th behind Priaulx who, try as he might could not get passed the Wix Racing A Class. Andrew Jordan enjoyed a race long battle with Tom Ingram before the luckless Ingram’s soft tyre deflated on the final circuit dropping him from a possible 8th down to a lowly 16th and out of the points, Mat Jackson scored some big points on Motorbase’s return to the series, inheriting Ingram’s 8th ahead of Rob Austin’s Exocet Alocsense Audi and Mike Bushell in the AMD Ford Focus.
The reverse grid was swapped 6 positions and Jack Goff took up the pole position slot ahead of Tordoff, Plato and the rest, Plato would battle hard to take second at the flag behind the young MG6 driver taking his first victory in the series, a well deserved and popular victory and the first of many?
Behind, Tordoff once again had a poor by comparison start from the front row, again ending up behind team mate Priaulx at the flag, Jordan, Jackson and Turkington enjoyed a scrap further down the order as the Ulsterman found that driving in traffic with maximum ballast isn’t as easy as driving at the front, while Rob Collard had a better event than the day’s previous two getting stuck in and finally being rewarded with 10th place following a great last lap move on Adam Morgan. Just behind the similarly recovering Ingram from his race 2 disappointment, and Rob Austin taking another haul of points to add to those of race 2.
Jason Plato now leads the championship with 230 points, 16 ahead of his BMR team mate Colin Turkington with Gordon Shedden a further 16 behind in third. The series now heads to Scotland, Knockhill a place that both Turkington and Shedden know very well.