HIGHS AND HEARTACHES FOR BTC RACING AT OULTON PARK
BTC Racing endured a weekend of highs and lows during a frenetic fourth meeting of the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season at Oulton Park (August 22-23).
Changing weather conditions during Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions made for interesting results. With frequent heavy showers, Crees led the way early on in FP1, before Cook took the mantel in FP2, with all three Civic Type Rs looking to have found more pace since Brands Hatch.
With the Cheshire circuit finally dry for qualifying, Josh Cook was pipped to pole by just 0.089s in the dying throes of the session with a lap time of 1.25.823. Chilton, just off the pace by four tenths was in a P7 with Crees claiming his highest-ever qualifying position in P12.
After a delayed start, the opening race of the weekend got underway at a rain-soaked Oulton Park. Bogged-down off the line, Cook found himself on the back foot as he dropped position. Pulling off a classic comeback drive, the Bath-racer quickly charged past the works Hondas and BMWs to retake second before the safety car was called into action on lap four.
Closing in on Butcher, he set his sights on the prime spot at the restart. The #66 Civic traded paint and places with the Ford as the two vied for victory before Cook produced a stunning move as the duo raced through Cascades to take the race lead.
Controlling the race from lap five onward, he crossed the line with a comfortable two-second gap to claim the first win of 2020 for the BTC Racing squad.
Tom Chilton and Michael Crees both experienced their own battles on track to reclaim places lost off the start line. Having initially dropped back, Chilton edged the #3 up the field to eventually cross the line in P5 – securing his fourth top-ten finish of the season. Crees continued his points-scoring run, taking P11 in the #777 Civic and finishing highest-placed of the Jack Sears Trophy contenders.
The BTC Racing squad’s celebrations were sadly short-lived, however, with the #66 Civic Type R failing the post-race ride-height inspection, Cook was excluded from the race result, relegating him to the back of the grid for the second contest.
The second race of the day, unfortunately, brought more heartache for Cook. Despite carrying the full 60kg of ballast on-board, a flawless drive saw him make up an incredible 14 places by the 11th tour of the slippery track.
Hunting down a top-12 finish for the reverse grid draw, Cook charged into Hislops battling for position with Smiley, and BTC Racing team-mate Crees. With the three jostling for position, the two Hondas, unfortunately collided, with Cook taking the brunt of the contact, pitching him into the barriers.
Crees recovered well to nurse The Clever Baggers with BTC Racing car home in P12, adding to his championship points tally. Regrettably, yet another outstanding drive by Cook went unrewarded in P21.
Still finding his feet in the FK8, Chilton’s consistent pace saw the 14-time race winner collect another strong haul of points for his championship challenge, with the Reigate-racer crossing the line in P8.
With the reverse grid draw placing Chilton in P3 for the final race of the day, the #3 made a strong start off the line and challenged down the inside of the leading pack. Regrettably, he was unable to make the move stick against the fast-starting rear-wheel-drive cars and dropped back to P5.
Starting from P21, but free of the weight he carried earlier, Cook made another lightning charge up the order. Piloting the #66 Civic up ten places by the fourth lap, the 29-year-old looked set to break into the top-ten before an incident brought an abrupt end to the day’s racing, with the red flag called into play on lap 12.
An off-track excursion on the opening lap for the #777 Civic, forced early retirement for Crees with race-ending damage, and the Rich Energy ambassador recorded his second DNF of the season so far.
With more points banked from the weekend’s action, BTC Racing currently lies fifth in the Independent Teams’ standings, with Chilton the highest-placed driver in fourth place. Crees still leads the Jack Sears Trophy standings, albeit with a narrow four-point lead as the BTCC prepares to head north of the border for its annual visit to Scotland.
The BTC Racing team now has a tight turnaround to ready the Honda Civic Type Rs ahead of rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, which takes place at Knockhill, Fife, next weekend, (August 29-30).
Bert Taylor, Joint Team Principal:
“There are so many positives to take from the weekend. We’ve put the car on the front row and won the opening race in commanding style. We’ve had a great weekend. Of course, we’re disappointed with the outcome but we couldn’t have done any more than we did. We haven’t come home with a trophy, but we were ballistically fast all weekend. There’s no more that you could ask of a team that’s worked so hard between Brands Hatch and today.
“I’m incredibly proud of everyone at BTC Racing. I think ultimately the team and drivers have performed brilliantly; it’s just unfortunate the way that it’s played out on the track. We need to keep doing what we are doing, and it’ll come right.”
Tom Chilton #3:
“Two fifths and an eighth are solid points for the championship. That’s not the end of the world at all. It’s just that I haven’t got any shiny things at the end of it. I scored the most amount of points out of my team and I’m back where I should be in the top ten of the championship. We’re getting closer to where we should be.
“I’m gutted for Josh this weekend. He drove so well and will be feeling very beaten up this weekend I’m sure. I know what that feels like. We’ve all been there before. I really do feel for him.”
“I think we have a good qualifying car now. I wasn’t so happy with the way my tyres went off in the last race. We need to work a bit more on the race car now, and Knockhill throws up its own set of challenges. I love the circuit though. I’ve always gone well there and scored lots of podiums so I can’t wait to get there.”
Josh Cook #66:
“Yet another weekend to forget sadly. The car was quick again all weekend. We were so close to sticking it on pole in qualifying, with the front-row start. I didn’t have the best start off the line in race one, but we came back with a resounding win to then lose it for the ride-height failure. It was just gutting. A weekend of what could have been. We were on the pace all weekend, had some really good early laps and overtaking in races one and two; it was just unfortunate what happened with Creesy.
“I don’t think there’s anything I could have done differently to change the outcome. I just can’t believe that in the last six races I’ve only scored seven points. We just need to put this weekend behind us. Reset, and come out fighting again at Knockhill next week.”
Michael Crees #777:
“All in all I didn’t have a bad weekend. I scored my highest-ever qualifying place in P12 and then I would have taken three top-12 finishes but then the car just let go in race three. Whether that was cold rear tyres or my mistake, I’m not sure. That pitched me into a spin and caused the DNF.
“The incident with Josh in race two was just one of those things. I let Josh through to challenge Smiley, all three of us went over the hill, Josh out-braked him on the outside and I out-braked him on the inside and we ended up collecting each other. It’s the last thing that you’d ever want to happen. Coming together with your team-mate and ending with a DNF is not how you want to finish the day.
“I think my performance is getting stronger each time out. I’m running consistently in the front-twelve now. I’m still four points ahead in the Jack Sears and I need to focus on that championship now. Keep ramping up the points.”