BTC RACING BATTLES BACK ONTO THE PODIUM
A persistent performance by BTC Racing during rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill saw the squad battle its way back onto the rostrum to claim a second podium of the 2020 season so far.
It was another roller coaster of events for the Brackley-based outfit, which reached its 100th BTCC race start during the opener, with Tom Chilton making a welcome podium return in the final race of the weekend, whilst a torrid weekend of incidents impacted on his team-mates’ championship campaigns.
A truncated qualifying session on the Saturday saw a last push from the BTC Racing trio after the green flag. Josh Cook headed up the Hondas in 11th, with Chilton in 13th, and Michael Crees in 16th, despite all being less than half a second off the pole lap.
Race day started well for Cook and Chilton as they pushed up on the opening lap. While challenging for tenth on lap four, a rear right puncture pitched Cook off-track, firing the #66 backward into the barriers at Butcher’s at high speed, bringing out the safety car. Cook emerged shaken, but thankfully without injury, with the Civic sadly stricken with substantial damage.
A solid race for Chilton saw him move up the grid, narrowly missing out on a top-ten finish. Crees battled his way home on the narrow circuit to bring the #777 Honda home unscathed in 17th.
An incredible job by the BTC Racing crew to get Cook back on all four wheels saw a monumental effort to rebuild the battered FK8 and, against all the odds, the Bath-racer lined-up for race two with just moments to spare.
From 24th on the grid, Cook made a promising start. Racing three wide into McIntyre’s on the opening lap, he was unfortunately tipped into a spin, sending the #66 Honda into the gravel trap and out of the race for his second DNF of the day.
A sterling job by Crees saw the Jack Sears Trophy leader running in the point-scoring zone for the majority of the race before dropping back on the final lap, eventually crossing the line in 18th.
Chilton continued his climb up the finishing order. Making a strong start to move up to eighth in the opening laps, a brave lunge up the inside of Hill at Taylor’s Hairpin on lap 22 netted the Reigate-racer seventh place, which he held to the chequered flag.
After a red flag incident on the opening lap, a restart was called for the final race of the day.
Starting from fifth by virtue of the reverse grid draw and carrying 24kg of ballast on-board, Chilton made a lightning start off the line, taking the inside line through Duffus Dip to steal P4 from Hill. Racing door-to-door with Smiley, the 14-time BTCC race winner pulled the same move on the next lap to move past the Hyundai into third.
Coming under relentless pressure from Oliphant’s fast-charging BMW, Chilton delivered a defensive masterclass keeping the rear-wheel-drive machine at bay to claim his first podium of the season and second of the year for BTC Racing.
Starting from the back of the grid, Cook quickly made progress through the field, making up an impressive nine places as he battled his way back into the point-scoring zone to end another frustrating weekend on a more positive note.
Finishing just outside of the points, Crees’ 16th place spot in the final contest of the weekend saw him claim the Jack Sears Trophy class win – extending his advantage at the top of the standings to a comfortable 14 point lead.
The weekend’s results moved Chilton up into seventh place in the Drivers’ standings, with BTC Racing also seventh in the Teams’ championship – tied on points with sixth placed Speedworks Motorsport. In the Independents’ standings, both Chilton and the team sit in third place.
After a busy August schedule, the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship now takes a welcome break before reconvening at the fastest circuit on the calendar, Thruxton, on 19/20 September.
“If you look at the beginning of the weekend, we just didn’t quite get the rub of the green in practice and qualifying, so to come away with a podium is a great result,” said Joint Team Principal Bert Taylor. “I’m so pleased for Tom and his crew. They’ve worked relentlessly on his car to get Tom onto the podium.
“Josh’s crash in race one caused by a puncture was meteoric. The lads have my utter respect to have managed to get him back out for race two. It was nothing short of amazing, an immense effort. Yet again I’m so proud of the team effort this weekend, their work ethic is awesome.
“Ultimately it was a fantastic weekend for BTC Racing to mark our 100th BTCC race. Despite the challenges we faced, Tom ended the day with a podium and Michael has increased his lead in the Jack Sears Trophy.”
“I’m so happy that we managed to get a podium,” enthused Chilton. “I’m even happier that I’ve had two rounds where I’ve been consistently in the points where I should be.
“We worked out where we needed to improve the car after qualifying and I think if we went back now with the set-up we have we would be much higher up. I was really happy with the car in the race.
“It was a great weekend for learning and a great weekend for picking up trophies. A poor weekend for my team-mates, unfortunately, especially for Josh. I do feel for them. I’m really happy with the performance we had out of the car at Knockhill.”
“There’s really not much I can say about the weekend,” said Cook. “Yet again, we came away with a single point from three races and another two DNF’s through no fault of our own.
“I can’t praise the team enough for the epic job they pulled off to get my car repaired and back out for race two. They really did work miracles. I’m just sorry that work wasn’t rewarded out on track.
“I’m just looking ahead to Thruxton now. It’s my local track, and we took two wins there last year so we know that the Honda performs there. We have the benefit of being weight-free again, so have to be confident going into the next round.”
“After a tough weekend, we’ve come away having extended our lead in the Jack Sears Trophy,” said Crees. “So all-in-all it’s not a bad result. It was a tale of two halves for the team really. Unlucky for Josh with his troubles again, but a great result for Tom getting the podium.”