WINNING START PUTS HONDA ON TOP
Kwik British Touring Car Championship team Halfords Yuasa Racing started the delayed 2020 season in style, with Dan Cammish winning the first race at Donington Park last weekend (1/2 August). Cammish ended the day just six points off the top of the title race, while Honda leads the Manufacturers’ championship – on the same points as title rivals BMW – as the squad heads to Brands Hatch this weekend (8/9 August).
Saturday’s qualifying saw the Halfords Yuasa Racing mechanics forced into rapid action after discovering an issue on Cammish’s car shortly before the session began. They changed the differential in just 16 minutes and Cammish rewarded their efforts by securing the outside of the front row, just thirteen hundredths-of-a-second behind main 2019 title rival Colin Turkington. Matt Neal also put in a strong performance to line up his Honda Civic Type R in ninth spot, half a second further back.
At the lights turned green for race one, Cammish was beaten away by the fast-starting rear-wheel-drive car of Ashley Sutton, the Honda man settling into third as Sutton challenged leader Turkington. On lap four the two leaders squeezed each other, opening a gap that Cammish happily dived into to snatch the lead.
Not even a late safety-car period prevented a victorious start to the 2020 campaign for Honda, with Cammish finally banishing memories of his previous BTCC race last October, when he lost the 2019 title in an accident just 14 corners from the chequered flag. To add to the Halfords Yuasa Racing joy, Neal fought his way up to fifth.
Race two proved more challenging – with his Honda Civic Type R weighed down by 60kg of success ballast, Cammish spun the wheels at the start and Turkington beat him away. The weight then told and the Honda slipped back to finish just ahead of the sister car of Neal.
Sixth and seventh places at the chequered flag earned another useful clutch of championship points for the team, and the same spots on the race three grid after the reverse grid draw swapped round the first 12 places.
Following a frenetic mid-pack start, Cammish had to give best to eventual race winner Sutton but then set about rival Stephen Jelley, with the Honda moving ahead at the chicane and Jelley then spinning, promoting Neal. But as the race wore on Cammish was unable to hold back the Corolla of Tom Ingram and eventually finished seventh. Neal was just behind in eighth having held off Tom Oliphant and his team-mate, reigning champion Turkington.
The productive day’s work saw the Halfords Yuasa Racing team leave Donington with Cammish just six points behind Turkington at the top of the Drivers’ points, while Honda heads the Manufacturers’ championship on equal points with its closest rival. But there is little time to enjoy the success, the team heading south to Kent for the second three races in the series at Brands Hatch in just a few days’ time (8/9 August).
“Race one was brilliant,” said Cammish. “To start on a high with a win – I always
knew Ash would be aggressive with Colin and when he opened up the gap I think he forgot about me, and I took the opportunity.
“Our front-wheel-drive rivals are very competitive but it’s been a cracking day, I’m second in the points with 40 more than I started with last year.
“It will be tough going back to Brands, I’ll have a lump in my throat the first time I go through the corner where my title ambitions went last season, but I like the track and the car goes well there – it will be head down and get some more points in the bag.”
“A solid day for me, scoring points in all three races,” said Neal. “I got a bit stuck behind Dan in the last race, tail-gunning for him which meant I got compromised a bit, but the car was strong and we finished ahead of our main rivals in both race one and three. We have points on the board and both cars in one piece going to Brands in just a few days’ time.
“The Brands GP circuit is always a favourite for all the drivers because it’s so old school. I think our rivals will be strong but we have a strong car too – the Civic Type R likes fast corners and the GP circuit has a lot of fast stuff out the back.”