PODIUMS AND POINTS FOR BTC RACING AT DONINGTON PARK
BTC Racing celebrated a promising start to the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park claiming a podium finish, Jack Sears Trophy, and points in all three rounds during an action-packed opener, as the squad now turns its attention to rounds 4, 5 & 6 at Brands Hatch’s legendary GP circuit this weekend (8/9 August).
Josh Cook led the scores for the Brackley-based squad, securing third place in the weekend finale. New team-mate Tom Chilton collected a solid haul of points from all three races, showing impressive pace out of the box, with Michael Crees’ dream Honda debut netting him the Jack Sears Trophy honours.
Chilton set an early pace in Saturday’s practice sessions, before getting caught on the wrong side of the red flag, traffic, and changing weather conditions during qualifying. Despite being just eight tenths-of-a-second off the pace, he found himself in 16thfor the opening encounter, closely followed by team-mate Crees in 18th. Cook fared better, lining up eighth on the grid, after setting a best lap time of 1m09.411s; beating Plato’s 2014 qualifying lap record – showing the strength of the BTCC grid this year.
The 2020 season opener delivered all the excitement expected from the BTCC, with high drama from lights out. After making a strong start off the line, Cook found himself in the gravel as the lead pack charged into McLean’s, which saw him re-join the grid in dead last. A strong fightback ensued with Cook picking off positions as the laps unfolded, and he eventually crossed the line in 13th.
Chilton’s steady hand and refined race craft saw the Reigate-racer bide his time to take advantage of a mid-pack coming together on lap nine. Having initially worked his way up the field in the early laps, the #3 Type R stole into tenth, opening the 35-year-old’s points tally.
Losing a couple of spots off the line, Crees quickly made amends as he found his feet in the Clever Baggers-backed Type R. Running as high as 13th, damage in the closing laps saw him finish just outside the points, in 16th.
Race two delivered a full complement of points for the BTC Racing trio. Trading places as they battled in the lead pack, both Chilton and Cook looked set for top-eight finishes with promising pace on show. Unfortunately, contact for Chilton on his 13th tour of the circuit pushed the #3 Civic wide, dropping him down to P13. Cook held fast in the running battle, managing to claim a top ten finish.
A solid performance by Crees was rewarded with a 14th place finish, collecting his first points of the season on only his second competitive run in the #777 Civic.
Starting from third by virtue of the reverse grid draw, Cook had to take immediate evasive action to avoid a coming together with Jelley off the start line before the safety car was called into play.
Lapping fastest on lap four, the former Jack Sears Trophy winner put on a stunning display as he closed down the race leaders whilst defending from Adam Morgan. Taking advantage as Ollie Jackson and Chris Smiley tangled for the lead, Cook dived into second. Coming under immediate pressure from the lighter and fast-charging pack, a frenetic battle unfolded with Smiley as Ash Sutton stole into the lead, dropping Cook back to third. A final push to the finish line almost paid off as he chased down Smiley to the final flag, but it was just out of reach with the #66 coming home in P3, securing a maiden BTCC podium of the year for the BTC Racing squad.
Chilton endured a frustrating end to the weekend. Struggling to unlock the full potential of the Type R on his first weekend in Honda machinery, the 14-time BTCC race winner had to settle for 12th, collecting his third set of points from the opening weekend of the 2020 season.
A weekend best position just behind team-mate Chilton – 13th in the final race of day – netted a delighted Crees his first BTCC silverware since joining the grid last year. Securing top honours in the illustrious Jack Sears Trophy, the 36-year-old showed promising pace and a clear head to take his second overall points score of the weekend and now tops the JST standings with an eight-point lead.
The weekend’s results leave BTC Racing fourth in the Teams’ Standings with just a few days’ turnaround before the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship heads to the iconic Brands Hatch GP circuit for rounds 4, 5 and 6 on 8/9 August.
“It was quite a tough weekend for us, but we’ve come away with points in all three races and two trophies so we’re very happy,” said Joint Team Principal Bert Taylor. “It could have gone better, but all in all, I’m pleased with a podium and exceptionally happy to win the Jack Sears Trophy with Michael on his first outing.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves this weekend. We’ve shown resilience to come back from the back of the grid to take a podium in the last race. All three drivers scored points and brought the cars home safely as well, which is a task in itself in this championship.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the boys can do on the GP circuit this weekend. We went from the back to the front there with Josh last year and finished second in the last race of the season. So we have lots of good memories. It’s Tom and Michael’s local track, so a little bit of home advantage should see them both further up the grid. I want us to achieve nine finishes firstly, and keep banking the points for our championship challenge.
“Credit where it’s due as well, TOCA, MSV, and ITV did a mega job to put on a great show for the fans this weekend.”
“Being taken out in race one put us on the back foot for the rest of the weekend. Without the option tyre, it makes it quite difficult to come through the field. You no longer have a race where you have an advantage. Not the ideal start to the weekend, but we managed to claw our way back up to get into the reverse grid draw for race three.
“We faced a lot of challenges we didn’t expect. We struggled with temperature management, so we just had to make sure that we brought the car home and played the long game. We had the pace to challenge higher up I think, and in clearer air, we would have pushed harder. I’m pleased with how it went overall. It’s a solid set of results to start the season and puts us in a good place heading to Brands Hatch.”
“Your whole weekend hinges on a strong qualifying result. We got caught in traffic, then a red flag, and then it rained, so I never got to set a fast lap. Starting from 16th, it’s always going to be hard work. I moved forward in race one and we were on for a top-six finish in race two, which would have been perfect for the reverse grid.
“I’ve come away with points in all three races on my first weekend with the team, the first weekend in the Honda, and with my new engineer. I’ve learned an awful lot about the car. I’m feeling confident that I’ve got to grips with the Type R and where we’re going to pick up from at Brands Hatch this weekend.
“When I started in the Ginettas three years ago, I never thought I’d be on the BTCC podium winning the Jack Sears trophy. It’s incredible and it means so much to me. It was the perfect end to my first weekend in the Honda with the BTC Racing team. I made a few mistakes early on, but I got my head down and came through.
“Although Brands GP is my home track it’s never been my favourite. I’ve just got to keep focused on bagging the points and winning the Jack Sears Trophy. The opening weekend has given me a lot more confidence in the car and my abilities.”