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David Addison’s ‘Moonlighting’: Episode 4

Here’s the latest blog from ITV commentator David Addison as he looks back at the talking points from the opening rounds at Brands Hatch to shed some light on what might unfold this weekend at Donington Park:

Go on then, who was your star of the opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship weekend of the season?

Andrew Jordan with two wins? Colin Turkington for winning race three? Rob Austin for… being Rob Austin? Jason Plato for his recovery in race two? Or Tom Ingram for his mega showing in qualifying?

Truth be told, there was a lot to cheer about at Brands Hatch. For a start there was the size of the grid, the only down side being Dan Welch’s car being sidelined as its build had been delayed, but the 30-strong field made a fabulous sight in the sunshine, pouring into Paddock Hill Bend. The quality of the racing was excellent too and while some people may desire more incidents, most won’t. Clerk of the Course Ian Watson stood no messing at Brands, adopting the attitude that if you spoil someone’s race, officialdom will spoil yours. Therefore, the likes of Marc Hynes and Martin Depper, who were involved in accidents that ruined someone else’s race, were excluded. Harsh, perhaps, but it sent a message.

Ah, but the conspiracy theorists will say that the rule only applies to certain drivers. And they will point to Alain Menu…

The Super Swiss was involved with Tom Ingram in race three and Ingram was turned to the barriers and his Speedworks-run Toyota Avensis suffered a lot of damage. Menu was initially excluded but evidence was offered to show that he did lift but it was too late – by that stage, Tom had gone too far and contact was inevitable. Therefore, he was reinstated in the results and surely that shows that the judicial system works and there is no favour given. Discuss on the forum if you wish!

I thought the racing was excellent: hard and fair but without some of the blatant aggression that we’ve seen in the past and it bodes well for an exciting season.

What about drivers? Jordan was mighty, but why wouldn’t he be, continuing on where he left off in 2013. Turkington, who is always a star, was unlucky in race one when he suffered damage, but his driving in race three underlined just how good he is and that he will be a contender for the title.

Plato was unlucky at the start of race two and if those reliability woes continue, he will find this a very tough season where scoring – and scoring well – is essential. On the flip side, we were treated to a typical JP charge in race two and he should feature at Donington as he knows that he needs to kick start his championship campaign. Brands wasn’t a disaster but he knows a win got away.

The new Honda Civic Tourers impressed, but were we surprised to see them record podium finishes? Not really. After all, Team Dynamics is one of the best in the business and the lessons learnt in the Civic hatchback were transferred to the Tourer. And, despite the team playing down expectations pre-season, they were always going to be there or thereabouts and the maiden win ain’t far away.

Ingram was mighty in qualifying if perhaps a little cautious in the races, but that can be excused as he finds his feet in the cut-throat world of the BTCC. It was a shame that he clashed with Menu in race three, but he should console himself with the fact that Menu was impressed with the man he was following. That is high praise.

It was good to see Rob Collard and Nick Foster up near the front as they are happier in this year’s BMWs and will be factors within the top six on a regular basis if Brands is any guide.

Disappointments? The WIX Racing Mercedes didn’t sparkle as people had suggested it might but to be fair, it was the car’s first race and the first time everyone had been up against each other in the same trim. The big bee will nearer the front at Donington I expect, as will Menu who fell out of love with the BTCC’s three-race system at the first corner of the season. Yes, he has a point about a bad first race affecting your day, but it has been the same for ages and for everyone. That said, when his Volkswagen was pointing the right way, Alain was as impressive as ever. In contrast, Fabrizio Giovanardi struggled in qualifying and in the opening race with a slow puncture – never looking completely happy in the current spec of BTCC car. Only when he has found the secret to driving this type of car can we expect progress. Mat Jackson, meanwhile, looked better than last year as he found his missing mojo and ran competitively in race one until old team-mate Aron Smith tried to sit in the rear seats!

The United Autosports Toyotas of James Cole and Glynn Geddie looked the part as we knew they would but were down on power and that is something the squad will have been working hard to combat pre-Donington, while Martin Depper seemed to be a magnet for Marc Hynes and will be eager to get three solid finishes under his belt on home soil.

Ultimately, Brands proved that the cream rises to the top: the best cars, drivers and teams ran consistently at the front. The fascination comes in seeing who else can break into that elite group of podium runners.

But Donington is a very different circuit from Brands Hatch. Expect fireworks this weekend!

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