Cover image thanks to LAP Photographic.
Round two of the 2019 BTCC season is upon us as the series heads to Donington Park for races four, five and six of the year. Fresh from an incident-packed Brands Hatch which saw Josh Cook, Andrew Jordan and Rory Butcher all take important victories, the BTCC arrives in Leicestershire with some big championship names looking to kickstart their title challenge. There’s a whole lot to play for ahead of qualifying on Saturday and race day on Sunday, and I’ve given my thoughts on some of the biggest pre-race talking points in my Donington Park weekend preview.
Cook To Double Up?
Josh Cook took a fantastic victory in race one of the season at Brands Hatch to establish himself as the early season championship leader and arrives at Donington Park with a 4 point lead over Tom Chilton. In a fast FK 8 BTC Racing Civic, Cook will be looking at Donington Park as an opportunity to extend his championship lead at a circuit where he has had success at in the past.
Cook took pole position and his first BTCC race victory in race one last year at Donington to underline the pace he has at the track and I expect him to be up there once again this weekend. However, Cook’s strong record at Donington extends beyond 2018, scoring a 2nd place finish in the MG in 2016 and three top tens in 2017. A fantastic start to the year last season meant Cook featured heavily in the championship fight up until the midpoint of the season, and Donington will be the first test of his title credentials this year.
Moffat Or Morgan Again?
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is fast around Donington with Aiden Moffat taking his first BTCC race victory at the circuit in 2017 before Adam Morgan won race three last year. Moffat also finished on the podium twice in 2018 and the Mercedes A-Class in the hands of Morgan, Moffat and Rowbottom is my dark horse for victory this weekend.
Brands Hatch was good to Morgan, who finished 3rd in race two and he arrives at Donington sitting 5th in the championship table just 13 points off the top. The Ciceley Motorsport A-Class has always been extremely fast, and at a circuit which should suit it down to a tee, I’m banking on Morgan being fast and up on the podium once again. Moffat will strong once again at a circuit he always seems to go well at, and Rowbottom will be looking for continued improvement in his first BTCC season. I’m expecting to see at least one Mercedes up on the podium this weekend.
Reset For Power Maxed Racing
Power Maxed Racing’s opening weekend went downhill right from the moment Jason Plato was hit with a penalty for being over the white lines at the start of race one, and the team will be looking at Donington Park as the place where their 2019 season really kicks into gear. Despite Plato’s 2nd place in Brands Hatch qualifying demonstrating the obvious pace in the Vauxhall Astra, the team left Brands Hatch with a best result of 13th from Plato in race three and Plato and Collard sit 20th and 27th in the championship respectively.
The pair will arrive at Donington driving a car which won race one here last year, and both will be hoping for more of the same this weekend. Qualifying at Brands showed us that despite three seasons in a rear-wheel-drive Subaru Levorg, Plato seems to have re-adapted back to front wheel drive machinery extremely quickly and I think that he’ll be a real threat to the podium this weekend. A season of real struggle near the back of the field in 2018 means the two-time champion is hungrier than ever for BTCC success. He will be desperate to bring home some silverware.
Who Else Could Reach The Top Step?
It says something about the quality of competition in the BTCC when you can list at least ten drivers who could go into the Donington weekend with a chance of victory, and there will be some big names looking to get off the mark on Sunday.
Colin Turkington and Tom Oliphant will be hoping to follow teammate Andrew Jordan into the winner’s circle after he won race two at Brands Hatch, and on a track where I think the BMW will be strong, it’s going to be fascinating to see which of the WSR trio comes out on top. Turkington steadily improved over the course of the Brands Hatch weekend finishing 5th in the final race, and Oliphant performed admirably, shadowing Turkington almost the whole weekend to finish 6th in race three. Both will be targeting race victories at Donington after the pace they showed at Brands Hatch, and come qualifying they could be at an advantage with their championship standings of 13th and 14th meaning they won’t carry any ballast into the session.
Tom Chilton will be looking to open his win account for the year again after having his race three victory at Brands Hatch stripped from him following a post-race penalty applied after contact with Matt Neal. Donington hasn’t been kind to Chilton in the past two years, with 9th in race three last season being his best result. However, in a fast Motorbase Ford Focus, he shouldn’t be discounted. I expect him to be a threat all weekend long.
Ash Sutton is another driver who will be targeting silverware after finishing 2nd at Brands Hatch in race two before being turned around in race three. Two 3rd place finishes at Donington in 2017 will serve him well, and for once, the Subaru Levorg looks fast out of the box. Sitting 7th in the championship means the ballast he carries into qualifying will be minimal and he will be targeting a strong qualifying to set himself up for a plentiful weekend.
Who do you have your eye on this weekend at Donington Park? Will Cook be able to maintain his championship lead or will he be swallowed up by the chasing pack? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!