WSR in the thick of things at Knockhill
It was a race meeting filled with highs and lows for reigning champion squad West Surrey Racing at Knockhill. In another flat-out weekend for the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, the squad enjoyed pole position, podiums and a win as well as some tough luck.
Rob Collard scored his third victory of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season while his Team JCT600 with GardX team-mate Sam Tordoff remained in the thick of the action at Knockhill.
Both cars were immediately on the pace during practice and qualifying with the West Surrey Racing BMWs showing their supremacy at the notoriously tight and atmospheric Scottish venue.
Tordoff, one of the brightest young talents in the BTCC, looked to have grabbed pole position on Saturday after setting a blistering time around the 1.27-mile layout. It would eventually be a front row start for the Yorkshireman, however, as he was pipped at the post by WSR stablemate Andy Priaulx.
Cause for celebration was confirmed when Collard ended up fourth in qualifying, ensuring there would be three BMWs in the top four positions. Even better was to come for Team JCT600 with GardX as Collard produced a sensational victory in Sunday’s opener. It was heart in the mouth stuff as Tordoff and Collard went side-by-side in the early battle for third position, but both drivers took to the challenge with ultimate professionalism. Collard took advantage of an aggressive scrap for the lead between Priaulx and the Ford Focus of Mat Jackson, by slipping past the sister BMW and into second.
Second would become first shortly after as Collard launched his #6 machine past the Ford at the final hairpin. He completed the move on the run to the start/finish line and would go on to take the win – the third of his impressive season. Despite being shuffled down the order in the early running Tordoff was busy producing a brilliant comeback drive.
He wasted little time in dismissing Honda’s multiple champions Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, before another move by Rob Austin’s Audi left him in fourth. He quickly closed down on the lead trio and he eventually finished short of the podium by less than a second.
Tordoff’s promising day rather unravelled from there unfortunately as he was forced into retirement in the final two races. His overtaking prowess was again there for all to see in the finale as he carved his way through the order before contact with a rival fired him out of the race.
It was left for Collard on this occasion to fly the Team JCT600 with GardX flag as the experienced race-winner produced yet another astonishing display in race two. Carrying maximum success ballast due to his earlier victory, Collard started the contest from fourth on the grid. Faced with such a challenge most competitors would be looking to maintain position, rather than move forwards, but Collard had other ideas. The Hampshire man passed Austin’s Audi in the early running to move into third, before he set about hounding Jackson’s Ford. Collard pressured his rival throughout and eventually made a move stick with just two laps remaining.
Collard blasted across the line to give his championship hopes a significant boost and yet another podium for Team JCT600 with GardX.
Despite his final race ending early with a debris-related puncture, Collard can was delighted with the points haul he collected in Scotland, and said: “The BMW was really flying today. It’s a credit to the guys, after the weekend we had at Snetterton – they’ve been working so hard on the car and we’ve got some brilliant results. The BTCC is always tough, and it was a hard fight for the win and the podium today with the likes of Mat Jackson and Andy Priaulx. To grab another win at Knockhill is brilliant, there’s something in the air here and it’s a privilege to race around such a great circuit.”
Tordoff added: “It’s case of what might have been for me really. The car was absolutely fantastic and we had the pace to win races so to walk away with only a fourth place is a little disappointing. That just goes to show how great this team is, however, as we believe we can win every weekend. It has dented our championship hopes a little but we’ll come out fighting at Rockingham next time out.”
On the other side of the WSR garage, Priaulx also had a weekend of mixed fortunes. It was a clean getaway in race one for Priaulx, but before he could get the optimum heat into the tyres on his 1-series he had been caught by the hard-charging front wheel drive car of Mat Jackson who made it through at the hairpin on lap one. As the race progressed, though, Andy started to fight back and looked to have the pace to hit the front.
An attempted pass for the lead in the closing stages didn’t quite pay off as Jackson nudged Priaulx wide, leaving the door open for fellow BMW driver Rob Collard to sneak up the inside and eventually go on to take the win. Andy held on to take a well-earned third place, racking up his seventh podium since returning to Britain’s premier motorsport series.
Starting from ninth in the second encounter he quickly began making up places, and he battled hard to come through and eventually cross the line in fifth place.
For the third and final BTCC battle of the day Andy was placed sixth by the reversed grid draw, and again it wasn’t long before he started moving forward. It was an all-out attacking race for Priaulx, and the BMW was clearly the package to have as the race progressed with other cars holding him up around the tight and technical track.
Andy made some tough passes to eventually move up to third as the chequered flag came out, however after the race it became apparent that a move on Aiden Moffat’s Mercedes was unfortunately made under yellow flag conditions, and as such he was demoted to fourth place in the final classifications.
He said after the racing concluded: “Overall I’d have to say it’s been a successful weekend for us. It’s been a very long time since I’ve raced here and there have been some significant changes to the circuit, which meant I had to spend a bit of time getting to know the place again. That made the performance in qualifying even more satisfying – the Team IHG Rewards Club® BMW handled brilliantly and we timed the run perfectly to steal the pole.
“Things didn’t go perfectly on Sunday, but to notch up another podium is great. We had a bit of work to do starting further back in race two but again the car really hooked up as the laps ticked by and there was some really exciting racing out there.
“Race three was another feisty one, and to be honest I’m really enjoying the excitement of racing in the BTCC again. It was a bit of a shame not to get a second podium, but that’s the way it goes. It was still a great day for me and the team.”