Race three rounded off another great weekend of BTCC action at Donington Park with victories for Mat Jackson, Rob Collard and Matt Neal alongside a one-two for MG in qualifying on Saturday. Race wins weren’t the only action on track over the course of Saturday and Sunday however with some incredible side by side action in race two, car fires for James Cole in the BMR Subaru and some inspiring charges through the field from the likes of Aron Smith making for another fantastic weekend of racing in the BTCC and round three at Thruxton can’t come soon enough. Below you can find four of the biggest talking points from this weekend’s action at Donington Park. My assessment of the winners and losers from Donington Park can be found in my latest post.
Motorbase Performance are back
Before the day started I tipped Mat Jackson for success over on twitter and Motorbase and the Duo Ford Focus certainly didn’t disappoint as Jackson followed up a first race victory of the season with a sensible and mature drive to second place in race two. Jackson was hurting on soft tyres in race three and fell down the order to finish 14th but rose to 5th place in the championship standings over the course of the weekend, well within striking distance of Matt Neal.
2013 champion Andrew Jordan was unfortunate to miss out on the fastest part of qualifying after ending up in the gravel trap but he recovered to finish 14th in race one and 12th in race two before ending the day in 10th place after a solid run in race three. Motorbase were unlucky at Brands Hatch and many (myself included) expected them to sweep the floor with the opposition however an unfortunate collision in race three two weeks ago ensured Motorbase left Brands with little to celebrate.
Fast forward a fortnight and the Motorbase Focus looks strong and consistent on pace, they should be very strong at Thruxton where they have historically gone well.
Progress from Subaru but there’s still some way to go
With his rear wheel drive experience Colin Turkington is certainly Subaru’s strongest performer at the moment and his fine 10th place finish in race one was hampered by an unfortunate DNF in the second race after being hit at the chicane. Race three saw the double champion finish in 18th place to leave Donington Park as the highest placed Subaru in the championship table and whilst there is still plenty of work to do it was a visible improvement from Brands Hatch.
Elsewhere in the Subaru stable a huge fire for James Cole in race one ruled the Ticketmaster Subaru Levorg out of the rest of the weekend and Jason Plato finished 17th, 20th and 16th over the weekends three races, just outside the points. Warren Scott was unfortunate to retire from race three however all of Plato, Cole and Scott look relatively evenly matched as the three get used to the new Subaru and rear wheel drive machinery.
Of course, I expect we’ll see huge progress from Subaru over the course of the season however I think Turkington will be the first BMR driver to regularly start breaking into the top ten when the Levorg finally overcomes its top speed deficit.
Honda’s one-two finish in race three was testament to the professionalism of Team Dynamics, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden as they perfectly managed their day to dominate the third race after the soft tyre woes of Tordoff and Goff. Starting with maximum ballast and getting the soft tyre run out of the way early in the day by coming home 11th (Shedden) and 12th (Neal) in race one Honda ensured they leave round two leading the championship table with Neal heading Shedden by five points.
Honda produced a tactical masterclass over the Donington weekend and by ensuring Neal and Shedden head the field into Thruxton once the maximum ballast qualifying session is out of the way their experience should once again come to the fore, especially with no need to run the soft tyre.
It’s refreshing to see Triple Eight back challenging near the top of the BTCC after a difficult 2015. Although Cook and Sutton weren’t able to transfer their immense qualifying pace into race wins a fine second place finish for Cook in race one underlines just how much progress has been made with the MG over the winter break and both Cook and Sutton have immense potential.
Both cars struggled on soft tyres and historically the MG 6 hasn’t been kind on it’s rubber however the improvement from last season is clear to see and both Cook and Sutton improved to finish 7th and 13th by the end of race three, leaving Sutton 8th and Cook 9th in the championship table, just 23 and 32 points behind Neal respectively.
With all cars being on the harder tyre at Thruxton Triple Eight/MG should have an easier time managing the tyres over the course of three races and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw either Cook or Sutton back up on the podium again at some point during the race weekend.
Round Three of the BTCC season continues at Britain’s temple of speed, Thruxton on the 7th and 8th of May.