Moonlighting! David Addison’s pre-Donington Park thoughts…
So, what did Brands Hatch tell us then? Erm, well, it told us that we need Rounds 4, 5 and 6 at Donington Park this weekend before we can properly consider form! The rain and cold weather hid some of the truth and yet, as wet weather and tyre gambles often do, it allowed others to shine.
In some ways it was a weekend for the underdogs. Okay, Josh Cook and BTC Racing have won in the past but to leave Kent as championship leaders was a surprise. Take Josh first: a move to a new team and a new challenge for him once again, and yet there he was winning race one – grinning from ear-to-ear. Bert Taylor, too, couldn’t believe it: a win in the opening race and leading just about every points table going. Remember, BTC has undergone a winter of change: there are new premises, new cars and new engines, a new investor and co-owner in Bert’s old mate Steve Dudman (himself a racer in National Hot Rods and Pickups) and a new driver in Cook. Yet, it has all gelled very quickly and the BTC Racing you see now is leaps and bounds on from the days Chevrolet and Chris Stockton.
More wins? Certainly. Chris Smiley has a tough weekend but won’t want to play second fiddle to Cook and a he took his first podium at Donington Park last year, expect him to be on his toes this year.
There was also a big cheer for Stuart Parker and his guys at Team Parker Racing. Since he came into the BTCC, Stuart has had more than his fair share of tough race weekends, where every time things seemed to improve, a huge banana skin was dropped ready to catch them all out. Take Knockhill last year, where Stephen Jelley qualified well but clashed with Colin Turkington, with the weekend unravelling thereafter. Mind you, it looked as though Jelley’s Brands Hatch weekend had taken a dive when the car failed the ride height check after qualifying but inspired tyre choice and good race-craft brought Stephen and the team back into the game and the outfit took its first podium in race three.
The team also made the right call by telling Jelley to give back his place gained over Matt Neal, which would otherwise have seen Stephen on the wrong side of a penalty. It makes one wonder why the same call didn’t appear to come at Motorbase with Tom Chilton. You could argue that the team saw nothing wrong so didn’t feel it was necessary but clearly officialdom disagreed with the move and the penalty came post-race. Let’s see what happens this weekend with those marginal moves, and how exactly drivers and teams will continue to deal with this year’s new driving standards regulations.
The sadness of race three, in addition to Tom Chilton’s boundless irrepressibility being slayed, was that the first win for Rory Butcher and Shaun Hollamby’s AmD team went largely unnoticed. Most people would have left Brands or turned off their televisions safe in the knowledge that Chilton was the winner, so poor Rory never got to take the flag nor feel like a race winner. A win is a win and history will keep the fact, but one can’t help feeling that all involved would like a ‘proper’ win this weekend.
And now for Donington Park. Some drivers are telling me that the season starts here, but weather forecasters are saying that we could have more wet weather again. Whatever happens, we are in for plenty of drama…