BTC Racing battles hard for second win at Thruxton
BTC Racing battled hard across a challenging race day to secure a second win of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season at Thruxton.
Qualifying saw the pair set times that left them just outside the top ten, with Josh Cook securing 11th place on the grid for the opening 16 lap encounter and Chris Smiley just behind in 12th.
A frenetic opening lap in Round 7 saw Cook slip back to 12th spot, with Smiley running in 16th having been clipped by Aiden Moffat’s Mercedes at the final chicane. Home hero Cook spent the entire race fighting to find a way ahead of Jake Hill, eventually crossing the line in 11th.
Smiley, meanwhile, found himself embroiled in a multi-car battle in the midfield and, having got up into the points-scoring positions, managed to secure 14th place.
As had been the case earlier in the day, both drivers would find it tough to make up places in Race 2, with Cook the better placed of the pair as he managed to break into the top ten thanks to a late move on former team-mate Ash Sutton.
Smiley found himself in contact with the Ford Focus of Ollie Jackson at the Chicane on lap two, seeing him drop down to 23rd. He was able to fight back through the field, however, and pick up a single point and 15th at the finish.
The final race of the weekend saw Cook start on the front row of the grid, with Smiley 15th as a result of the reverse grid draw.
Despite two safety car periods and some drizzle in the air, Cook was able to control the race from the front to secure his second win of the campaign and maintain a top three berth in the Drivers’ Championship.
Smiley lost two places on the opening lap when forced to take avoiding action when two cars clashed ahead at the Complex, but recovered well to end the weekend just shy of the top ten in 11th spot.
“Race one and two were tough as we weren’t comfortable with where the car was and we made some changes for race three and took a bit of a gamble,” said Cook. “It worked well and we took a leap forward with the car and put some good points on the board. We had expected the car to be quick in race two without the weight but we struggled and credit to the guys for the work they put in ahead of race three as they did a great job.
“I wouldn’t say we had been slow in the first two races, but we didn’t have the strengths we needed in certain areas. We found those for race three and the points we scored could prove to be vital. We need to make sure we remain in the mix when it gets towards the business end of the year.”
“It’s been a tough weekend for us as we came here to the test and I was right at the top of the times, but then we just couldn’t get the car to work when we returned,” added Smiley. “We made changes across race day and we found something that allowed me to start pushing forwards.
“I think people need to remember that this is only our third weekend with the car and we are still learning. We just need to get further up the grid in qualifying as it gets dicey in the pack when you find yourself in the midfield.
“It’s so tight that it can hard to make progress, but I showed you can overtake in the second and third races, and now I just need the rub of the green a little bit. I’m sure my time will come.”
Bert Taylor, BTC Racing Team Principal, was optimistic after a weekend spent learning about the car – especially having sealed a second race win.
“After the first two races, it looked like this was going to be a real weekend to forget for us as we just didn’t have the pace that we had showed when we tested at Thruxton last month,” he said.
“The team worked hard to make changes across race day and we took a bit of a gamble ahead of race three that worked and to come away with a win is great – we were able to salvage something with that one.
“We learned a lot that we can use when we return later in the year, and hopefully we can be on the pace from the outset in August.”