Rob Collard leads the BTCC standings by 2 points
(Photo from: www.the chequered flag.com)
Rob Collard left Snetterton with a two point lead over closest challenger and teammate Sam Tordoff on Sunday after three eventful rounds which saw two races shortened due to massive crashed and red flags. Collard who started the first race well down the order in … made the most of others’ misfortunes and low points yields to take the lead at the end of a round for the first time this season.
As mentioned Collard did not have it all his own way throughout the weekend has he could on manage 16th in qualifying with Gordon Shedden taking his and Honda’s first pole in the series since Donington Park in 2013. Shedden was joined on the front row of by Colin Turkington in the ever improving Subaru Levorg with Adam Morgan and Tom Ingram on the second row. Mat Jackson started fifth for Motorbase’s 300th race in the BTCC with the impressive Hunter Abbott alongside him in the Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet. Aron Smith qualified seventh, in the car that took pole last season, as Ashley Sutton Matt Neal and Sam Tordoff completing the top 10.
Race 1 and as the lights went out Shedden was able to keep the lead ahead of Turkington however the best starter was Mat Jackson from fifth who found himself third by the hairpin after going round the outside of Morgan. Ashley Sutton also had a good start jumping up to fourth from eighth overtaking Morgan for at turn 3. As the first lap ended Shedden lead from Turkington, Jackson in third Sutton fourth Morgan fifth and Ingram in sixth.
It was an eventful first lap which saw Alex Martin crash out after contact with Jeff Smith and Aron Smith retire.
Lap 3 and Adam Morgan overtook Ashley Sutton for fourth at the hairpin while behind Ingram was defending well from the charging Jason Plato who worked his way up to seventh. As the race progressed the top five started to pull away from the rest, as Shedden continued to defend from those behind. Turkington continued to apply constant pressure and on lap 8 he made his move, switching back at Agostini and overtaking up the inside at the next turn Hamilton.
Turkington never looked back however behind the order began to change as on lap 10 tyre issues started to occur with Josh Cook suffering a front left puncture followed quickly by Martin Depper with similar issues. A lap later and it was Sutton who had an identical issue, dropping out of fifth place.
This briefly promoted Ingram to fifth although Plato had other ideas, producing a fantastic overtaking maneuver on the Speedworks driver around the outside into Hamilton.
The victory was Turkington’s though, his third of the season and in doing so became the first driver to achieve this feat. Behind Shedden and Jackson completed the podium places with Morgan fourth. Plato held onto fifth with Ingram sixth, Tordoff seventh, Neal eighth with Warren Scott and James Cole rounding out the top 10. The result means that for the first time all four Subaru Levorg’s finished in the top 10, with Warren Scott’s ninth being a career best result. Turkington’s victory had originally been provisional, as he was investigated for a jump start, though it was deemed he had done nothing wrong and the result stood.
Onto Race 2 and Turkington started on pole with Shedden alongside as Jackson and Morgan completed row 2. As the lights went out it was Jackson who got the best start and worked his way up to the lead by the hairpin. However the race was red flagged following a massive multicar pileup on the Bentley Straight on lap 1 after Ollie Jackson got into the side of Dan Welch’s Proton and sent it spinning across the circuit, with others unable to avoid the out of control duo. Fortunately everyone was ok, however Ollie Jackson was reprimanded with a £500 fine and three penalty points on his licence.
Second take and with the race shortened to 10 laps from the original 12 Turkington got a better start, and was able to defend from the again fast starting Jackson. However by Hamilton Jackson was able to take the lead leaving Turkington to defend from Shedden. Lap 2 and into the hairpin, Shedden made his first move for second, though it was unsuccessful taping Turkington in the process. Following a loss in momentum this allowed Turkington to get away slightly and allowed Morgan to get right behind Shedden who tapped the Scot into Agostini to take third away from the Honda driver. It also allowed teammate Neal, Plato and Collard through.
The top two continued to stretch their gap to the rest, however the fastest man on track was Neal in fourth who was quickly closing in Morgan’s Mercedes. Lap 5 and Neal made his move at Agostini, outbraking Morgan superbly as the charging Collard closed in for fourth, breaking the lap record as he closed. A lap later and Collard was through at Hamilton, and continued on his way up to Neal.
By lap 7 Collard was on Neal’s rear, and on lap 8 he made his first move, up the inside as Agostini however they ran side by side through Hamilton with Neal finding himself on the grass. However he was able to defend into the following right hander and keep the position.
The order at the front remained the same until the end allowing Mat Jackson to take his third win of the season with Colin Turkington second. Matt Neal held out for third leaving Collard to settle for fourth. Adam Morgan finished a lonely fifth ahead of Plato, Ingram, Tordoff, Austin and an angry Gordon Shedden rounded out the top 10.
Time for Race 3 and the reverse grid saw Sam Tordoff line up on pole with Tom Ingram joining him on the front row. As the lights went out it was aclean getaway by those at the front however all the action was behind as Alex Martin was tipped into a spin by Mark Howard as they battled on the pit straight. However as Martin’s car came around the unfortunate Hunter Abbott was unable to avoid the Ford Focus driver and was sent barrel rolling down the pit straight, only coming to a stop when he hit a TV camera scaffolding post with a cameraman filming. It was a scary incident and the red flags were bought out immediately, however luckily everyone walked away uninjured.
Take two and once again the race was shortened to 10 laps rather than 12 however before the race even started, championship leader Tordoff was dealt a cruel blow when his propshaft failed on the way to the grid. This left Ingram effectively on pole with Plato second.
As the lights went out Plato got the best start and took the lead heading into the first bend with Collard slotting into second. Ingram began to tumble as he found himself on the grass at the exit of Wilson as Jackson forced his way up to third with Rob Austin fourth.
As the first lap ended Plato lead though closely followed by Collard, Jackson, Austin Turkington and Shedden in sixth. Plato was able to hold of Collard until half way through lap 2 when Collard made his move heading onto the Bentley Straight.
Lap 3 and Shedden was on the move, up to fourth as he dived up this inside of Austin at Wilson’s while at Agostini, Jackson made his way past Plato for second, opening the door for the opportunistic Shedden who forced his way through to third, taking Austin with him. However, when it looked like Jackson was set for a clean sweep of podiums, the Motorbase Ford slowed down the Bentley Straight, promoting the field up a position leaving Shedden to focus on catching Collard.
The action remained unusually calm for a number of laps however Shedden was slowly reeling Collard in, and on the final lap, he was right behind the WSR driver. Shedden was phenomenal around turn 1 closing right up and at Agostini he made his move, outbraking Collard and making a gap up the inside following a light tap. As they ran side by side through Hamilton, Collard was forced off the track visibly aggravating Collard who tappen Shedden back through the next right turn.
However Shedden kept first and took the win ahead of Collard with Rob Asutin able to hold on for his for podium of the season, and the first for Handy Motorsport. Jason Plato held on by a tenth from Jordan, who finished fourth and fifth respectively with the second Subaru of Turkington in sixth. Adam Morgan came home seventh with his teammate Aiden Moffat eighth, Cook ninth and Matt Neal tenth.
It was a fantastic three races however the big crashed were major talking points throughout the weekend with many drivers facing a rush against time to be ready for the next round at Knockhill in two weeks.