That’s it. We’re now over 1/3 of the way through the 2018 BTCC season and I think we’ve finally seen a driver firmly throw down the gauntlet in their challenge for the title, Colin Turkington. Oulton Park proved to be a truly memorable weekend for some and a positively disappointing weekend for others but it was the BMW trio who came out on top of the pile. I’ve analysed some of the biggest talking points from Oulton Park in my BTCC weekend wrap.
Sutton Surely Out Of The Hunt
I predicted Team BMW and the BMR Subaru of Ash Sutton to be among the strongest contenders at Oulton Park. For defending champion Sutton, it proved to be a tough weekend which saw him drop down to 13th in the championship table with his hopes of a second BTCC title all but over. 21st, 23rd and 13th place finishes over the weekend, the best for any of the 3 Team BMR Subaru Levorgs ensure that Subaru remains rooted to the bottom of the manufacturer’s championship with Plato and Price failing to score a point so far in 2018. For a team which ended 2017 as arguably the strongest on the grid the fall from the top has been astounding, and I can quite easily see the team going the whole season without a podium finish, let alone a race win.
The power deficit was there for all to see in race 3, when Moffatt simply drove by Plato on the run up to Knickerbrook. With comments about their engine partners, Swindon Powertrain rife over social media on Sunday the team defended their engine partner in their post-race statement but there is plenty of work to do at Team BMR if we’re to see Jason Plato reach that magical tally of 100 BTCC race wins.
What a Weekend For West Surrey Racing and BMW
In contrast, BMW and West Surrey Racing enjoyed their best weekend of the season so far. Two podiums apiece for Jordan and Turkington, including a victory for Turkington in race 2 were added to by a dominant race 3 performance from Rob Collard to send Team BMW to the top of the manufacturers, teams and drivers championships with Turkington. I just knew that the BMWs would be strong at Oulton Park, and the likelihood is that they’re going to be even stronger at Croft. With a driver line-up which is arguably the strongest on the current BTCC grid the middle part of the season is the perfect time for Turkington to stake his claim to the 2018 drivers title and teammates Jordan and Collard to become his challengers.
2013 champion Jordans sits in 7th in the championship table, with Collard just 3 places behind in 10th, a fantastic recovery to a disappointing start to the year. The team aren’t home and dry yet, but if they can put in similar weekends at Croft and Snetterton they’ll certainly be in the driving seat. Jordan and Turkington are among the top performers of the year so far, with average finishing positions of 8.4 and 9.44 respectively, 1st and 3rd among the current grid. 2-time champion Turkington has always been a measure of consistency and you’d be hard pushed to find someone betting against him if the title battle came down to the last few races.
Eurotech (and Matt Simpson) Coming Of Age
If 2017 marked a great improvement on 2016, then 2018 has seen the Eurotech outfit take an even bigger step forward. 5th in the overall team’s standings and 1st in the Independent drivers and teams championships after Oulton Park is a fantastic achievement. Jeff Smith’s outfit enjoyed another stellar weekend at Oulton Park with Matt Simpson taking a stunning pole position and maiden victory in race 1, and Jack Goff bagging 8th, 8th and 4th place finishes. At a track where the Honda Civic Type R was strong last year, Goff certainly made the most of the equipment available and sits 3rd in the overall driver’s standings level on points with Adam Morgan.
Pole position and a maiden BTCC race win represent an incredible result for Matt Simpson, who only joined the BTCC in 2016. After a couple of tough seasons, one with Speedworks and then one with Team Dynamics 2018 has seen Simpson really find his feet in the Eurotech stable. He was unfortunate not to add to his points tally after race 1, after technical issues ruled him out of races 2 and 3 but it was a stunning weekend nevertheless, and his 15th place in the championship table is fully justified. I’m excited to see just how Simpson pushes on from Oulton Park and into the rest of 2018, it might yet provide one of the championship’s most intriguing subplots for the remainder of the season.
Power Maxed Racing Struggle At Oulton Park
After an incredible start to the season, Oulton Park represented the first really tough round for one of 2018’s surprise packages. A disappointing weekend for Power Maxed Racing/Vauxhall saw Josh Cook finish 17th, 27th and 11th and Senna Proctor finish 28th, 16th and 12th over the course of the weekend’s races. Cook’s weekend started on the back foot when a wishbone failure in qualifying with a heavy car saw him start race 1 in 20th position on the grid, with teammate Proctor not faring any better 26th.
The tough weekend sees Cook drop to 5th in the driver’s championship, and Proctor to 11th, with the team losing the lead of both the teams and manufacturers championships. With the rise of West Surrey Racing back to the top of the table, and all of the experience they bring the next few rounds will be key for Power Maxed Racing, Cook and Proctor if they are to capitalise on their early season success. With less ballast on board for Croft, qualifying at the front will be crucial if Cook is to maintain the pace at the top of the championship table. It will be fascinating to see if Oulton Park was merely a blip in a brilliant season or a more worrying decline in pace and fortune over the coming races.
Standout Performers Of The Weekend: Colin Turkington, Matt Simpson, Andrew Jordan
Standout Team: West Surrey Racing
Best Performance: Matt Simpson in qualifying.
Drivers Championship Top 15 After Oulton Park.
|1||Colin TURKINGTON||Team BMW||124|
|2||Adam MORGAN||Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport||112|
|3||Jack GOFF||WIX Racing with Eurotech||112|
|4||Tom INGRAM||Speedworks Motorsport||103|
|5||Josh COOK||Power Maxed TAG Racing||100|
|6||Matt NEAL||Halfords Yuasa Racing||98|
|7||Andrew JORDAN||BMW Pirtek Racing||93|
|8||Tom CHILTON||Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher||90|
|9||Rob COLLARD||Team BMW||71|
|10||Dan CAMMISH||Halfords Yuasa Racing||69|
|11||Senna PROCTOR||Power Maxed TAG Racing||66*|
|12||Sam TORDOFF||Team GardX Racing with Motorbase||60|
|13||Ashley SUTTON||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||58|
|14||Chris SMILEY||BTC Norlin Racing||56|
|15||James COLE||Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher||55|
Teams Championship Top 15 After Oulton Park.
|2||Halfords Yuasa Racing||164|
|3||Power Maxed TAG Racing||162|
|4||Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher||143|
|5||WIX Racing with Eurotech||142|
|6||Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport||108|
|8||BMW Pirtek Racing||92|
|9||BTC Norlin Racing||61|
|10||Team GardX Racing with Motorbase||60|
|11||Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing||58|
|13||DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing||49|
|14||AmD with Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing||48|
|15||Laser Tools Racing||46|
Manufacturers Championship After Oulton Park.
Let me know you standout performers in the comments below!