BTC RACING SALVAGES POINTS FROM TESTING BRANDS HATCH WEEKEND
It was a case of what might have been for the BTC Racing squad during a challenging second meeting of the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch’s GP circuit last weekend (8/9 August).
The impressive pace shown by Tom Chilton, Josh Cook and Michael Crees during rounds four, five and six went relatively unrewarded, with a series of mechanical woes and on-track incidents ruling the Brackley-based outfit out of podium contention on the world-famous GP layout.
Despite the soaring heat conditions, the BTC Racing trio appeared to be on top of the temperature control woes that had plagued them at Donington Park during Saturday’s free practice and qualifying sessions. With only 0.023 seconds separating the pair, Cook and Chilton lined up side-by-side on the fifth row of the grid for race one. A best-ever top ten position for Michael Crees was sadly snatched away, however, with the local Kent racer losing his fastest lap time for exceeding track limits, restricting him to 18th.
A strong start to the weekend opener by both Cook and Chilton saw the duo leap up into seventh and eighth. Setting the fastest lap on the second tour of the circuit, Cook was battling side-by-side with Tom Ingram as they charged through Westfield when contact occurred, resulting in the #66 Honda Civic dropping back to tenth. With the threat of his engine overheating, Cook was forced to pit to allow the BTC Racing crew to clear the debris picked up during his off-track excursion, rejoining the race dead last.
Chilton’s charge up the field continued, with the 35-year-old touching mirrors with Ingram as they duelled during the closing laps. Defending hard from a fast-charging Sutton on the final loop, he held fast to bring the #3 Honda home in fifth.
An excellent start to the day for Clever Baggers-backed Crees saw the Broadstairs racer push forward into the points with a 12th-place finish, whilst maintaining his position as the highest-placed Jack Sears Trophy contender.
Blasting off the start-line with 36kg of ballast on-board in race two, Chilton made a brave lunge past Ollie Jackson at Paddock Hill Bend to steal fourth, before setting his sights on the lead pack.
Further back, his BTC Racing team-mate Cook made up an impressive seven places on the opening lap to take 13th. Regrettably, the squad’s good fortunes ended there.
While challenging fellow Jack Sears Trophy protagonist Bobby Thompson on lap three, Crees’ #777 Honda and the Audi S3 tangled, as both cars were pitched off-track into the gravel and out of the race. A power steering pump failure for Chilton on lap ten forced the #3 FK8 back into the pits, with Cook following shortly after with an overheating issue in the #66 Civic.
Working against the clock with just over two hours before the final race, an outstanding effort by the BTC Racing crew saw all three cars line up at the back of the grid, with a new engine for Cook and extensive repairs for Chilton and Crees.
All three racers charged off the line, as Cook led the trio, making up no less than nine places by the end of lap one. Almost immediately, however, the #66 Civic picked up damage sustained from contact and was forced to pit once more.
Rejoining a lap down, a heroic drive from the Bathonian saw him set the fastest lap time of the race as he pushed the FK8 back up to take 17th when the final flag dropped.
Chilton, meanwhile, continued his assault on the pack, picking off places as the laps unfolded to work his way through the field to cross the line in eighth, collecting another strong haul of points towards his championship challenge. Likewise, the day ended on a high note for Crees, who shone in the #777 Civic, taking no less than 14 spots to claim 11th – his best BTCC finish to-date in the dry.
“If you look at the pace we had over the weekend, the results don’t reflect that,” said Joint Team Principal, Bert Taylor. “Two fastest laps for Josh, Tom was in with a shout of a podium in race two and Creesy gets taken off and comes back again. We’ve had three pretty bruised cars, and couldn’t have asked any more of the drivers and the team in the conditions.
“For Michael to come and race after his heart-breaking family news and still put in a solid performance as he did is a real testament to him. Nobody knows what Michael’s potential is yet. He’s not had the chance to show what he’s capable of, but I feel sure that it’s coming. He’s got a long way to go.
“It doesn’t look great on the board, but the guys and girls worked so hard over the weekend. It’s mega considering what we’ve gone through as a team.”
“The team did a great job with the car to make it faster after Donington Park,” said Chilton. “Straight-line speed is hurting us at the moment. We have the best chassis on the grid. We’re picking up fastest laps but slowest through the speed traps. I’m pleased with a fifth and eighth – just gutted that I missed out on a podium in race two. It was down to a power steering pump failure. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just one of those things.
“I’m starting to feel at home with the team and the car; I’m working well with my new engineer and we’ve gone quicker in every race. Oulton Park is up next, which is a chassis circuit so it should suit us well.”
“What can I say? It was a weekend to forget for us really,” said Cook. “I got taken out in race one, lost an engine in race two and was then taken off again in race three. My two fastest laps show that we clearly have the pace in the car. They seem to be about the only points I’m scoring at the moment!
“We just need to put this behind us now, and look ahead to getting our campaign back on-track at Oulton Park.”
“The pace in the car was mega all weekend, but we were still struggling with managing the temperature,” said Crees. “Race three was especially frustrating, to be honest, not being able to push harder. But 11th is my highest-ever finish in the dry. Overall I had a solid weekend on-track.
“I feel that we had the pace to be running higher all weekend. It could have been a whole different story if we’d kept P10 in qualifying. We’ve proven to ourselves that we can do it now, and we’ve held onto our lead in the Jack Sears Trophy.
“Personally, it was one of the hardest weekends of my life, which made it extra tough to go out there. I’d like to thank everyone who sent me and my wife Jodie messages over the weekend. It’s been a great support to us both.”
The weekend’s tribulations saw BTC Racing drop to seventh in the overall Teams’ table and sixth in the Independent Teams’ standings. However, Crees maintains his lead at the top of the Jack Sears Trophy classification ahead of the next race meeting at Oulton Park in Cheshire on 22/23 August.