Friday Flashback: Croft 2013
As the paddock assembles at Croft Circuit and the stars and cars of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship gear up for the midway event of the season, it’s the perfect time to look back at what went on 12 months ago in north Yorkshire.
This weekend (28-29 June) will see 31 BTCC cars in action around the 2.25 miles of Croft, and while there weren’t quite as many entries last year the racing was undoubtedly some of the best we saw all season. Leading the way throughout the event was the eBay Motors BMW of Ulsterman Colin Turkington. He secured a last-gasp pole position in one of the most exciting qualifying sessions in recent years, with the top five drivers swapping fastest laps right to the end. Setting a new lap record in the process, Turkington eventually edged out the MG of Jason Plato by just over one tenth of a second with the Honda Civics of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in close formation behind.
Come race day, the unpredictable British weather was to play a big part in proceedings, however in both wet and dry it was still Turkington topping the time sheets. Race one ran on a dry track, with the 1 Series BMW leading the way from pole position to the chequered flag – eventually crossing the line almost ten seconds ahead of the chasing pack. Neal and Shedden made bold moves on Plato to secure the final two podium positions, while a stellar drive from Turkington’s team-mate Nick Foster saw him come through from 12th on the grid to a season’s best fourth place.
There was drama just before the start of the second contest, as a short, sharp rain shower suddenly made tyre choice hugely important. With the rain having stopped as the lights went out to start the race, almost all the cars opted to risk running slick tyres in the damp hoping the rain would not return. Both manufacturer-backed MGs, however, chose to run their cars on wet Dunlops anticipating a further deluge mid-race. This saw both Plato and local driver Sam Tordoff gap the field early on, but the rain they were hoping for never arrived. From looking like a 1-2, the pair dropped down the order and were almost lapped as their grooved tyres overheated on the ever-drying asphalt. This left the door open for Turkington to take his second victory of the day ahead of Shedden and an impressive Tom Onslow-Cole in the VW Passat.
There was to be no question over tyre choice in the final showdown, as a heavy downpour made wet tyres the only option. The reversed-grid draw put Adam Morgan on pole in his Ciceley Racing Toyota Avensis, but it was Foster who grabbed the early lead having gone well in the first two races. He soon slipped back into the clutches of Neal’s Honda, however, and with his wealth of BTCC experience the triple champion navigated the treacherous conditions to take victory despite a number of seriously sideways moments in the final few laps. Turkington made his way from eighth to be right on Neal’s tail and ready to pounce on the final tense tour. Neal just held on by 0.631s from the BMW, with Andrew Jordan taking the third podium spot in his Pirtek Racing Civic.
With Turkington coming into the 2014 event at the top of the standings he’ll be carrying maximum ballast, however it’s still hard to bet against the 2009 champion being the man to beat in Sunday’s three races. He’ll have plenty of competition of course, with local chargers Plato and Tordoff looking to make up ground in the MGs and Shedden only a few points behind in the standings, there’s a wealth of drivers that are capable of victory this weekend. Chrome Edition Restart Racing’s Aron Smith also deserves a mention as the most recent winner this season. Team BMR conducted a 3-day test at Croft earlier in the year, and Smith is confident that more silverware is on the cards for the car which scored a podium in the hands of Onslow-Cole here in 2013.
Relive all the key moments from 2013 in the highlights below:
And don’t forget you can watch all the racing action from this weekend live and in high definition on ITV4 from 11:00 on Sunday.