It’s hard to believe that after Croft we have reached the halfway point in the 2018 BTCC season. Four rounds in we’ve seen first-time winners, huge steps up from 2017 and some real shocks and surprises over the season’s first 12 races. Croft provides a real opportunity for Colin Turkington to open up a gap at the top of the BTCC drivers championship, but he’ll be pushed all the way by his West Surrey Racing (WSR) teammates and a whole host of up and coming BTCC talent enjoying their best seasons to date. I’ve looked at some of the biggest questions and talking points ahead of Croft this weekend.
The Experienced Drivers Are Starting To Catch Up
The first three rounds of the season were all about the championship’s young guns. Fantastic starts to the season for Tom Ingram, Josh Cook, Jack Goff, Adam Morgan and Senna Proctor ensured that the top of the championship table was full of names enjoying their first title tilt in the BTCC. Even drivers who had enjoyed great starts in 2016 and 2017 (Ingram and Morgan) seemed to be enjoying a purple patch. Then Oulton Park happened, and it was the turn of the championship’s stalwarts Turkington, Neal, Jordan and Collard to step up to plate and stake their claim for a championship charge.
I think Croft represents a brilliant opportunity for Turkington to extend his championship lead, and BMW to cement their position at the head of the constructor’s championship. Although Rob Collard has said that he doesn’t think the advantage that rear-wheel-drive cars have enjoyed at Croft will be as big as in the past, I think it will still be there, and all three WSR BMW’s are bound to be among the podium finishers. Turkington took victory in race 2 last year and set the fastest lap in both the first and second races. His nearest challenger was Team BMR’s Ash Sutton, but with the Subarus well of the pace in 2018 the road looks clear for BMW to dominate.
After a disaster at Croft in 2017 (DNF, 18th, 5th) Matt Neal will be looking to continue the impressive form he has shown since Thruxton and could be in the mix for a podium should one or more of the BMW’s hit trouble.
Motorbase and Tordoff Need Some Luck
Oulton Park was a great weekend for Tom Chilton and finishes of 2nd, 3rd and 7th saw him rise to 8th in the championship just 3 points behind Andrew Jordan. Shredded Wheat Racing teammate James Cole also enjoyed his best weekend of 2018 last out but it seems that luck has all but deserted Sam Tordoff. If reliability wasn’t an issue I think we would be seeing Tordoff much higher in the championship table than his current 12th position. Results consisting of 4th, DNF, DNS at Oulton Park put an end to what looked to be a very promising weekend for the driver who only just lost out on the title to Gordon Shedden in 2016.
We’ve seen flashes of brilliance in a season plagued by disastrous reliability for Tordoff but I remain confident that we’ll see him hit the top step of the podium before the season is out. It won’t have been the BTCC return he was looking for, but he can at least take solace in the fact that his driving is as good as it was back in 2016.
Can The Challengers Keep Up
We’ve been treated to an amazing start to the season, and I think we are entering a fascinating time in the BTCC where drivers we have regarded as young prospects for a few seasons are finally becoming established as top-tier touring car drivers. Ingram, Cook, Proctor, Goff and Morgan all enjoyed great starts to the year but Oulton Park was where almost all of them were brought back down to Earth with a bump. Goff maintained pace in the championship battle with 8th, 8th and 4th place finishes and whilst Ingram and Morgan would recover well race 3, the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhalls of Cook and Proctor struggled all weekend.
I mentioned a couple of rounds ago that I thought it would be difficult for all the drivers above to maintain their form throughout the season and I think that Croft will provide a real test of their championship credentials. Goff will be eager to improve on a trio of 21st place finishes in 2017, whilst Ingram, Morgan and Cook will all be looking to better their results from both Oulton Park and Croft last year.
The Mid-Table Needs Some Big Performances
There’s a handful of drivers in the middle of the championship table who’ll be looking at Croft as an opportunity to regain the momentum they had at the start of the season. After two podiums at Donington Park, Aiden Moffat has finished in the points just twice in six races, both coming in the form on 15th place finishes at Thruxton. The Mercedes driver had torrid time last time out at Oulton Park and will be eager to return to form at Croft this weekend. He sits 18th in the championship table with 47 points.
Oulton Park marked a return to form for Rob Austin and the Handy Motorsport Alfa Romeo. 1oth and 7th place finishes in the first two races of the day ensured that Austin started race 3 from pole position. Despite losing the lead to a dominant Rob Collard the Alfa Romeo ran in a podium position until mechanical issues forced Austin into retirement on lap 9. Croft will be another unknown for the all-new for 2018 Alfa, but I think Austin will be in and around the top ten all weekend.
It’s hard to see past anything short of a BMW whitewash. I think Turkington, Jordan and Collard will be amongst the podium finishers in all three races with Matt Neal and Dan Cammish some of their closest challengers. I think Subaru will continue to struggle, despite Croft being arguably their best chance of a podium this season and I’m predicting Goff to be strong.
Let me know if you agree, or disagree for that matter! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Drivers Standings Top 15
|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|