Moonlighting returns! ITV’s David Addison looks back at Brands…
As I type, I am en route from Oman to Malaysia. A nice lady from Oman Air has brought me a large gin and tonic and there are all sorts of movies to occupy me for the next seven hours.
Sadly, there isn’t a channel showing me race two from Brands Hatch which I need to watch again to try to piece together who did what! It’s a bit like some complicated crime drama where the culprit is unveiled and then you have to watch it again to spot all the clues… What a race!
Thankfully, Tim Harvey and I don’t have to nominate a driver of the day, as there were several candidates for that mantle on Sunday. Take Jack Goff as one: that opening race drive was fantastic – error-free despite the pressure of a greasy track, a safety car restart and having Colin Turkington behind him all race long.
Jack has always looked a smooth driver, but on occasions I admit to being frustrated that he doesn’t (or didn’t) get stuck in more. Easy for me to say but when a driver has to pay his own reparations it is understandable.
On Sunday, for me, there came that tipping point where Goff delivered what he has always been capable of and while he deserves a big cheer, so does WIX Racing with Eurotech which was on it all weekend, across all three cars, repaying Jeff Smith’s and Marvin Humphries’ efforts in style. There is nothing to suggest that Goff won’t be a factor all season and the wasp-liveried Honda looks set to be a regular front-runner, as the young guns start to take over at the top.
We’ve had Andrew Jordan and Ash Sutton winning championships in the last five years and more young guns winning races, with Tom Ingram again looking impressive in race three as he battled up from 11th. Tom’s race-craft has stepped up a gear in the last 18 months and he looked the ‘real deal’ on Sunday, whilst Adam Morgan looked good in race three as well.
Then there was Senna Proctor’s astonishing win from 27th on the grid in race two. Let’s just ponder that for a moment. The 14th row is so far back he was nearly delayed at the main gate paying to get back in. I can’t recall anyone coming from so far back to win a race, which was impressive in itself. Plus, it was the first win for Power Maxed TAG Racing, which proves as Speedworks has done, that the longer you stay in the championship, the more you learn and the better you get. Adam Weaver and his team deserved the success. Oh, and Proctor is still only 17…
One thing we missed was the chance to see what would have been an epic scrap between Aiden Moffat and Proctor for another lap and a half. Moffat is a very good defender and his oval racing roots means he has impressive car control, which he needed after a day in which contact found him more than once.
Ah, Mike Bushell. Another young gun up the front. Yes, I accept that the weather and tyre choice helped, but he looked far more suited to the BTCC than when we first saw him two seasons ago. Mike admits it too, and will only get better.
And what of Dan Cammish? Much was written and broadcast beforehand and expectations were high. You don’t come into the BTCC with a CV like his and expect not to be noticed, especially in a drive like the one he has secured at Halfords Yuasa Racing, but after having a quick car in qualifying, neither Dan nor Matt Neal’s car quite looked at the races on Sunday.
Clearly, Dan expected more given his frustrations on Sunday, though they were nothing compared to his mood on Saturday after he lost his best qualifying lap. He wanted to shine on his debut, understandably, and in a way he did because he proved what he is capable of, when it all clicks together. The wins will come, surely, and that will add yet another young gun up at the front. Then there was Jake Hill coming oh-so close to a maiden win and Ollie Jackson’s maiden podium and… the list of impressive drives goes on.
So where does this leave Jason Plato and Matt Neal? Their BTCC careers span three decades and still both are capable of winning. The answer to where this leaves them is… we don’t know. Given the pace of the Hondas in qualifying, I can’t believe that Matt won’t win races this year, and the Jason Plato story doesn’t end here, does it? Look at the way he races, the way that he has historically over-delivered in cars that had no business being near the podium. I don’t know, genuinely, what it is that has hampered JP since the start of last season as one hears so many conflicting stories, but one thing is for sure – he hasn’t forgotten how to drive.
We know Jason wants to win, it is what makes him tick. He isn’t a go-for-points man, he goes for wins and he will want to go from the BTCC, whenever that may be, with wins, not midfield placings. I can’t believe he won’t bounce back, but with every weekend that he struggles, so the spotlight begins to shift to others.
Now, teams. Bravo BTC Norlin Racing. Its new Honda Civic Type Rs looked increasingly impressive and Chris Smiley is becoming more of a factor as he is given the machinery with which to do the job. James Nash will be up there too, once he has a handle on NGTC equipment.
Disappointments? One could possibly argue West Surrey Racing’s weekend wasn’t as good as it should have been as Rob Collard struggled and Colin Turkington had his limp-home moment at the start of race two. His car did suffer the odd electrical hiccup last season and in the current climate, you cannot afford a bad race. You have to score. That, perhaps is why stringing together a championship-winning season is so difficult now.
If we were shown one thing at Brands, it is that we are in for another epic season. When I stood at Old Hall Corner on Good Friday 1978 and watched my first Tricentrol British Saloon Car Championship race, I fell in love with noisy, sideways saloons. The racing, though, wasn’t a patch on what we saw on Sunday and with a few, no, a lot of drivers hoping to bounce back at Donington Park, we are in for another storming weekend.
Now, how do I access the ITV Hub at 35,000 feet….?