DOUBLE DELIGHT FOR BTC RACING WITH BEST-EVER WEEKEND AT CROFT
BTC Racing celebrated its best-ever weekend of results with a commanding performance that secured a double victory and triple podium during rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Croft Circuit (10/11 October).
Returning to the scene of its first BTCC victory, the Brackley-based outfit notched 83 points across the weekend, taking top honours as the highest-scoring team of the meeting. Josh Cook opened up the trophy tally by claiming a maiden double win for himself and the team in the opening two contests, with Tom Chilton following up with the Independent win and third-place podium in race three.
The BTC Racing trio hit the ground running on Saturday. During a dramatic qualifying session that saw two red flags interrupt the damp 30-minute period, Cook and team-mate Michael Crees were two of many who lost early lap times for exceeding track limits, before a late flyer from Cook secured a front row start in second.
Post-session technical inspections and subsequent penalties would then promote Cook, resulting in BTC Racing’s first-ever pole position and the second of the Bath racer’s BTCC career. Both Chilton and Crees also benefited from the amended results, moving up the grid to line up in seventh and ninth spots respectively, marking the team’s best qualifying result of the season so far.
Charging off the line in race one, Cook came under immediate pressure from the chasing pack. Duelling side-by-side across the start-finish line at the end of the first tour, the 29-year-old held off an early challenge from Jake Hill to retain the race lead. A textbook performance followed as he fought to keep the #66 Civic ahead on the greasy track, claiming his second victory of the year and setting the fastest lap of the race.
Chilton’s strong start saw him narrowly miss an opening lap melee as Ashley Sutton spun across the track in front of the #3 Honda. Moving up into fifth, the Reigate racer delivered a defensive masterclass as he held off the fast-charging Infiniti, before eventually relinquishing the place to take the flag in sixth.
A water leak for the #777 Civic unfortunately prevented Crees from making the grid. As the team completed a last-gasp repair, the Clever Baggers-backed driver was forced to start from the pits a lap down, from where he crossed the line in 22nd.
Starting from pole with the maximum 60kg of ballast on-board, Cook made an excellent charge off the line in race two. Following a brief safety car appearance, the Bath racer delivered a flawless drive ahead of the pack, where he remained untroubled until the closing moments. With Matt Neal’s lighter Honda catching the #66 Civic with just two laps remaining, Cook defended hard to hold first before a late lunge by Neal at the Complex dropped the BTC Racing machine back to second spot.
Following a stewards’ review of the on-board footage, Neal was later given a time penalty for the move and the results were reversed, handing a second successive win of the day to Cook.
Chilton continued his battles in the chasing pack. Carrying 30kg of ballast, he held off encounters from the lighter challengers, running as high as fifth in the early stages. As the laps unfolded, the 14-time race-winner traded places and paint with the manufacturer-backed Toyota and Honda machines, eventually bringing the #3 Civic home in sixth.
Making up for lost opportunities, an outstanding opening lap by Crees saw the #777 Type R gain an impressive eight places. Pushing forward to hit his 12th-place target for the reverse grid draw by lap eight, disaster struck once more for the Jack Sears Trophy contender as a misfire caused him to drop down the order and back into the pits having completed just 12 laps.
With the reverse grid draw slotting Chilton onto pole position for the final race of the day, he made a good jump off the line but was quickly chased down by Tom Ingram, who stole into the lead. An epic battle for second then ensued, with Chilton defending against relentless challenges from Dan Cammish before eventually succumbing, and the #3 FK8 claimed third at the flag – collecting the Independent race win and third podium visit of the day for the BTC Racing team.
A battling performance from Cook saw him pilot the #66 Honda safely home in eighth to finish off his double race-winning weekend with another solid haul of points.
Regrettably, Crees’ luckless run continued into the last race, with a recurring fault on the #777 forcing him into early retirement after only completing a single lap on the Yorkshire circuit.
The weekend’s results have bolstered the team’s championship positions, with BTC Racing moving up to fourth in the overall and third in the Independents’ standings, closing the gap to second place. Chilton remains third in the Independent Drivers’ standings, sitting just two points off Rory Butcher in second. Cook’s first-ever double win has propelled him up to tenth overall and sixth in the Independent points, whilst Crees remains second in the Jack Sears Trophy, 27 points off the current leader.
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship heads to Snetterton in Norfolk next, for the penultimate event of the 2020 season and rounds 22, 23 and 24 on 24/25 October.
“It’s been an incredible weekend – the best-ever in the three-year history of BTC Racing,” reflected Joint Team Principal, Bert Taylor. “To turn our first-ever pole position into a win, get fastest lap and then follow that up with a second win with Josh is something very special. Then to get another podium with Tom in the third race is probably one of the biggest hauls of trophies we’ve ever had. We won our first-ever race at Croft back in 2018, and then to do what we did last weekend is what dreams are made of.
“It was a tale of two halves in the garage, sadly. We had a difficult weekend in the Clever Baggers with BTC Racing side for Michael. But that is motor racing, unfortunately. We couldn’t have done any more. He qualified in ninth but then didn’t have the chance to show what we can do from there. I’m sure that he’ll bounce back. We’ll go back to the workshop, regroup, work out what the issue with his car is and make sure that he wins the next two Jacks Sears weekends.
“A massive well done to the team again for all of their efforts. They’ve worked so hard and it’s great to see them rewarded. Also thanks to Team Dynamics for all their help and assistance to get us back to the front.”
“We came out of the blocks quite quickly in free practice,” buzzed Cook. “We’ve worked on the engine and other bits and pieces since Silverstone. Everything that we’ve done has been positive. We’ve taken a step forward on the powertrain and are still testing stuff set-up wise, but we were fairly confident after FP2 that we’d be somewhere in the mix in the dry in qualifying. As soon as it rained, we didn’t know what to expect, so pole position was a great result.
“Race one was a great lights-to-flag victory, and with the fastest lap. We had the maximum ballast for race two, so I just needed to control it. Jake [Hill] caught me a little bit, so I backed him up to Ash [Sutton] and left them to battle it out. So when Matt Neal tapped me out of the way it was a bit of a kick in the teeth, as we didn’t get to celebrate over the line. It was just a shame as the weekend was both mine and also the team’s first double win. And BTC Racing’s first pole position in qualifying.
“It was nice to have a selection of decent results and to get something that we deserve this year. I think we’ve taken a turn. We’ve developed things and we’re on the front foot rather than the back foot.”
“Looking at my weekend, getting three strong top ten finishes, with two top sixes and finishing off with a third-place on the podium is great,” said Chilton. “Good, solid points.
“I got an epic start in the last race and pulled away to build a nice gap to Ingram and Cammish to Turn One. I knew I needed that buffer as we made some changes to the car to make it quicker at the end of the race, but it got significantly colder than I expected and I had a very loose car. It probably looked spectacular on the TV, but it was easy to make a mistake.
“I collected some solid points, got some silverware and got the Independents’ win as well. We keep picking up points and gaining more momentum as the year goes on. It’s just a shame that it’s coming to the end. We haven’t got much longer left. Snetterton is a great circuit and Brands Hatch is my local, so I’m very excited for the last two events.”
“Sadly, the car let me down all weekend and has ruined my Jack Sears Trophy hopes,” added a deflated Crees. “I just hope that Bobby Thompson is ok. It helps to put it into perspective when you see big accidents like that. I had a frustrating weekend, especially after Silverstone, but you need to keep what’s important in mind.”