Cammish: I gave it my all but it wasn’t meant to be
On a frenetic final day of the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, Honda driver Dan Cammish produced epic drives to take a race win and assume the championship lead, only to miss out on the title by just two points after his first mechanical failure of the season in the final race.
Having arrived at the final meeting 16 points behind championship leader Colin Turkington, and with Turkington’s team-mate Andrew Jordan breathing down Cammish’s neck in the standings, the weekend did not begin auspiciously for the Halfords Yuasa Racing team. Set-up problems in qualifying relegated Cammish’s Honda Civic Type R to 12th on the grid and Matt Neal 13th, with their BMW rivals first and third.
The #27 Honda made an excellent start in race one to jump to eighth, but the omens did not look good as Turkington quickly established a lead. As a safety car period closed up the field, rain began to fall and several runners, Neal included, dived into the pits for wet tyres.
Cammish could not risk giving up track position but also knew his rivals’ cars did not favour damp conditions. Balancing his Honda’s slick tyres on the increasingly greasy track, he scythed through the field. Jordan and Turkington were quickly disposed of, before Cammish rounded leader Rory Butcher in a brave move that had the crowd holding their breath.
The Leeds driver took the win and was chased home, remarkably, by Neal. Another fast tyre change by the Halfords Yuasa Racing mechanics set the three-time champion up for a charge through the field on his wet rubber, to complete a memorable race for the Honda team.
From pole position in race two, Cammish assumed the lead but Neal was beaten away by the fast-starting Turkington. As the Honda tried to fight back the two made contact and Turkington spun to the back of the field.
In tricky conditions on a drying track, Cammish was determined to drive with a championship mindset and when threatened by rivals Ash Sutton and Jordan, the Honda man did not fight too hard. Third at the flag, with Turkington not scoring, propelled Cammish into an eight-point championship lead with one race to go.
Neal, meanwhile, was forced to give best to old sparring partner Jason Plato, but when Plato spun sideways on the last lap the Honda driver regained the place to come home fourth and secure the 2019 Teams’ title for Halfords Yuasa Racing.
The reverse draw for the final round put Cammish into eighth starting spot. He dropped behind the fast-starting Jordan at the start, but kept his rival in sight and even when passed by Turkington remained in the points lead, only to have the championship snatched away on the penultimate lap when a mechanical failure pitched the Honda off the circuit and out of the race.
Neal finished 13th after a tumultuous race from 13th on the grid, but all of the team’s thoughts were with his team-mate, missing out on the Drivers’ title by just two points after a highly competitive season. The Halfords Yuasa Racing team had again been firmly in the title battle to the end and will now focus on returning even stronger in the 2020 season that starts at Donington Park on 29 March.
“My first non-finish of I think two seasons,” said Cammish, “and the first time I haven’t finished on the lead lap this season. Congratulations to Colin Turkington, he’s a worthy champion. I’m disappointed more than anything. It’ll take a little while to sink in that I’ve lost it in that fashion, but that’s the way it is. Obviously Colin has had a great year, but I’ve taken the title fight right to the end, which is testament to the team and the Honda. We’ve done a lot of good racing this year, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and that first race was mega regardless.
“It’s going to take me a little while to recover from that one. But I’ll be back more determined. It’s tough, it’s a long year and a lot of sacrifice, it’s tough on everyone, not just the driver. And to come within two points of being champion, you never know it might be the only chance I get, you just don’t know what the future will bring for any of us, but I gave it my all and it just wasn’t meant to be.”