Mixed weekend for West Surrey Racing at Oulton Park
It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for the three West Surrey Racing drivers at Oulton Park for rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. A coming together between Andy Priaulx and Rob Collard put paid to their chances of top results, but Sam Tordoff rose to the occasion to secure his first victory for the squad.
Priaulx enjoyed a strong qualifying session and looked set for some top scores in Cheshire. The triple World Touring Car Champion was returning to the scene of his BTCC debut where he claimed an incredible first-day pole position back in 2001. Despite having to reacclimatise himself to the picturesque 2.2-mile circuit, Priaulx again proved an Oulton Park specialist as he blasted his West Surrey Racing-run BMW to third on the grid. Locked in a battle with the two most experienced drivers in BTCC history – Jason Plato and Matt Neal – Priaulx missed out on a second pole position of the season by just 0.071s.
Eager to reach the top step of the podium, Priaulx surged past Neal’s Honda off the line in race one before attacking Plato for the lead into Old Hall. Plato’s VW briefly baulked the BMW 125i M Sport behind him, which allowed Neal the chance to nip back by and into second.
Priaulx pressured Neal throughout before having to settle for third place and the second impressive podium of his BTCC comeback campaign.
The Guernseyman’s fortunes took a turn for the worse for the remainder of the day when last lap woe dropped him to 15th in race two. Contact with team-mate Collard as the WSR duo squabbled over fourth place scuppered Priaulx’s chances of another top result and he was dealt a further blow in the final encounter when mechanical problems put him out of the race.
While his team-mates were struggling, Tordoff was on the move and making some of the standout overtakes of the day. In race two he made a bold move by the Mercedes of Adam Morgan on lap eight before what was arguably an even better pass by the Volkswagen of Aron Smith into Lodge corner. This gave him fifth place over the line and a front row start for race three.
The 25-year-old was a victim of his own impressive getaway as the lights went out for the final contest, as he found himself alongside pole-sitter Morgan and forced out wide on the exit of turn one. Undeterred, Tordoff fought back having been demoted to third behind Neal, and it wasn’t long before he was challenging for the lead once more. A drive-through penalty for Morgan put the WIX Racing driver down the order, and with victory in sight Sam made a great pass by Neal to take the BMW to the front of the huge BTCC field.
“We really needed that on this side of the garage,” said Sam. “Right from the start of the year my expectations have been very high and to be honest we’ve not got up to speed as quickly as I’d hoped at the first few meetings. Getting on the top step for a new team is very special and it shows how far we progressed over this weekend. The BMW handled brilliantly, and while there are still some issues to overcome we’ve shown that if we can get to the front we’ve got the pace to win races. That’s what I need to keep doing now – we should be strong at Croft and it’s my home track, so I can’t wait to get racing again!”