Thruxton hosts spectacular second BTCC visit
Thruxton Circuit was the stage for another full-throttle weekend of motorsport action as the Hampshire speedbowl played host to the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship for the second time this season.
Sam Tordoff, Josh Cook and Dan Cammish all stood on the top step of the podium after a thrilling day of racing that saw reigning champion Colin Turkington have his lead in the Drivers’ standings cut to just 30 points.
A full programme of support series also put on a feast of wheel-to-wheel entertainment for the spectators, who packed onto the famous banking around the WWII airfield, while a host of off-track activities kept families occupied throughout the weekend.
In total, fans enjoyed 16 outstanding races with the BTCC backed up by British F4, Porsche Carrera Supercup GB, Renault UK Clio Cup, Michelin Ginetta Juniors and the Millers Oils Ginetta GT4 Supercup as Thruxton made the most of a second visit from the TOCA package following a hugely successful event in May.
Tordoff enjoyed an excellent getaway from pole in the first BTCC race of the day, having produced a blistering lap to put his Cobra Sport AmD AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Honda Civic Type R (FK2) top of the timesheets on Saturday.
The same can’t be said for fan-favourite Jason Plato who overshot his front-row grid slot, triggering a drive-through penalty for the Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing ace which dropped him to the back.
The veteran proceeded to carve his way through the field, much to the delight of his celebrity guest James Martin, but Plato’s charge was eventually halted just outside the points in 17th.
Back at the front, Tordoff kept his cool to lead home Cammish and Adam Morgan, notching his first win of the 2019 season after a campaign plagued by bad luck.
Meanwhile, the crowd on the banking were treated to a thrilling race-long duel between championship leader Colin Turkington and his closest title rival, BMW stablemate Andrew Jordan – with the Pirtek Racing ace eventually gaining the upper hand to finish 12th and nibble away at the Northern Irishman’s points advantage.
Tordoff picked up where he left off in race two, flying off the line and blasting through turn one below fans eagerly watching on from the balcony of the Thruxton Centre. Cammish, meanwhile, bogged down in his Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic, allowing Morgan and Josh Cook past on the run to the complex.
However, the Yorkshireman’s lead was short-lived as he was passed by both Cook and Morgan on the way into the chicane before tumbling further down the order when he lost out to Tom Oliphant.
Cook showed the field a clean pair of heels at the front to pick up his third win of the campaign while Morgan secured another comfortable second place ahead of Matt Neal, who sent the crowd wild with a superb last-lap move on Oliphant.
Hampshire hero Rob Collard was drawn on pole for the reverse grid race and shot away when the lights went out as Oliphant jumped Cammish while battles raged behind.
The Halfords Yuasa Racing ace soon muscled his way back past Oliphant on lap three but all eyes were fixed on an enthralling battle between Jordan, Tom Ingram, Ash Sutton and Cook.
Points-leader Turkington then lost out to Plato and Tordoff further down the field as the BTCC served up its usual dose of close-quarter squabbling while back at the front, Cammish capitalised on a mistake by Collard at Church to take the lead on lap 10.
The Honda star kept his cool despite a late downpour to take his ninth podium of the campaign and the team’s first victory of the season while Neal capped an excellent day for Team Dynamics with third behind Collard.
Ingram and Sutton clashed further back, allowing Cook and Plato to capitalise while the rear-wheel drive cars struggled for grip in the closing stages, creating even more excitement for the packed crowd.
The Carrera Cup field had been the first to take to the track in changeable conditions on Sunday morning, with Dan Harper initially struggling on slick tyres before carving his way back to the front and taking the spoils.
Harper doubled up in the second race later in the afternoon, holding off Josh Webster and Lewis Plato as the single-make series produced plenty of thrills and spills for the watching crowd.
Meanwhile, Will Burns built on his Saturday success in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup, taking his second win of the weekend ahead of Tom Hibbert and Reece Somerfield before Harry King bounced back from a tough few rounds with victory in race three.
Elsewhere, Will Martin and Zak O’Sullivan went toe-to-toe in a titanic duel to the flag in the Ginetta Junior race, with the former eventually prevailing after James Hedley’s early retirement, while Carter Williams completed a clean sweep in British F4 with back-to-back victories for JHR Developments.
Finally, the Renault UK Clio Cup also threw up a stormer of a race which culminated in controversial contact between Jack Young and Max Coates at the final chicane, with the former taking the chequered flag but being penalised post-race and the latter ending up stranded on the grass and furious in parc ferme. The race win eventually went to Ethan Hammerton.
As well as all the on-track action, this weekend was also notable for long-standing Thruxton Circuit Director Bill Coombs stepping away from the limelight as he takes more of a back seat role at the track.
“It’s 40 years since I did the racing school here, so it’s an appropriate time to back out,” he said.
“I’ve had some wonderful times here, particularly running the racing school, and more recently with the circuit. We’ve had this development plan which we have put into action and hopefully everybody has seen the changes that we’ve made over the past seven years, culminating in the Thruxton Centre.
“It is the only place that you can get so close to the action and it’s great that it’s situated on such a fast corner. The crowds love it here, and the hospitality has sold really well. Racing is always great here at Thruxton. It’s good racing on a super-fast, old-school circuit which we love.
“I’m still staying on the main BARC board so you will still see me around, but not doing the day-to-day operational stuff. I’m very pleased to hand that over to our team. We’ve got a fantastic team at Thruxton, and Pat Blakeney will head that up. I am sure he will do a fantastic job.”
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will be returning to Thruxton for Rounds 10, 11 & 12 of the 2020 season on 16/17 May next year.