Donington Park played host to round two of the 2019 BTCC where the championship battled closed up after an incident-packed three races on Sunday. It was last year’s championship top-two who took the spoils after Turkington stormed to pole position on Saturday before winning races one and two. The reverse grid race three left Tom Ingram on pole and in truth, he never looked troubled as he led from lights to flag to take his first win of 2019 and the first for the new Toyota Corolla. I’ve given my thoughts on the biggest talking points from the weekend in my Donington Park Weekend Wrap.
Tight At The Top
Leaving Donington Park, the top five in the championship table are covered by just six points with Ash Sutton leading the way on 70 points and Rory Butcher in 5th on 64 points. You couldn’t get closer if you tried and I think we’re going to see the momentum shift from driver to driver and team to team each weekend. Despite Sutton’s brilliant results in the last two seasons, Team BMR have never started especially strongly and to be leading the championship after six races and a 2nd, 3rd and 5th at Donington represents a fantastic start for the team. If recent seasons are anything to go by and both Sutton and the Subaru Levorg come on strong in the middle of the year, the rest of the field should be very worried that Sutton is at the top of the standings this early in the campaign.
Cook, Turkington, Chilton and Butcher are all in hot pursuit and all had solid weekends at Donington Park. Cook recovered from a tough race one where he ended 24th to finish on the podium in race three and whilst he leaves Donington just three points off the top it felt like the BTC Racing Honda Civic was capable of more than it delivered this weekend. Starting race one on the harder tyre saw Cook go backwards immediately, however his recovery from 24th on the grid to the podium over the course of the day was fantastic, and he’ll be pleased that he scored good points on what could have been a tough weekend.
Turkington stormed to a brilliant pole position on Saturday before winning the opening two races on Sunday to double his 2018 win tally just six races into the season. The defending champion was supreme all weekend and has catapulted up the table post-Donington. With his first win in the new BMW 3 Series under his belt, Turkington is going to be a huge threat for victory at every round this season and you would be hard-pressed to find a better driver at closing out a championship on the BTCC grid.
Chilton and Butcher each scored a weekend-high 4th place finish at Donington and whilst they didn’t reach the podium, it was their solidarity and consistency over the course of the weekend that enabled them to finish race six firmly in the title fight. Chilton is having a great start to the year in the Motorbase Focus and has carried on the strong form he showed at the end of 2018. You can count on him being firmly in the mix at the end of the season as he chases that first BTCC crown. Butcher is really impressing in just his second full BTCC campaign, and to sit 5th in the title race after six races is a fantastic achievement. I’m convinced more podiums will come, and whilst it would be a stretch to see Butcher emulating his countrymen Cleland and Shedden to win the BTCC title this year, I think we’ve seen enough from him already to be fairly certain that he’ll be more than capable of winning titles in the near future.
Incident Packed Three Races
There seemed an awful lot of incidents over the course of Sunday’s three races with Andrew Jordan’s shunt on the opening lap of race one among the highest profile of them. Jordan took a heavy impact into the side of his BMW 3 Series which ruled him out of races two and three and resulted in the 2013 champion being taken to hospital. Thankfully both driver and car were okay, but it was a big accident and whilst I love the rough and tumble of the BTCC it felt like yesterday’s races had a bit too much! I have no doubts that given the strength of Turkington in races one and two, Jordan would have had a solid weekend at Donington Park but despite a weekend of no points, he has plenty of time left to return to fighting at the top of the table.
Carl Boardley was another driver who had a big impact as he hurtled into the barriers down at The Old Hairpin in race three. Boardley, along with Team HARD teammates Jack Goff and Michael Crees all suffered from similar incidents. The Craner Curves and Old Hairpin seemed to be a hotspot for incidents in all three BTCC races and I hope that by the time Thruxton comes around on May 19th we see a better standard of racing across the field.
Immediately post Donington five separate penalties were handed down with plenty of verbal warnings to go alongside them. I hope that does the trick.
Steady Progress From Power Maxed Racing
One team looking to bounce back from a tough opening weekend at Brands Hatch were Power Maxed Racing. Steady progress from Rob Collard saw him score 10th, 7th and 2nd place finishes over the course of the weekend to take his first podium since Oulton Park 2018 and his first with Power Maxed Racing. Seemingly answering all those who questioned his return to the BTCC in a front wheel drive car, Collard enjoyed a solid Donington weekend and rises to 11th in the championship standings. I think he’ll continue to push on from here and whilst a title challenge is probably too much of a stretch, a race win or two could come this year.
Sixth place in race two marked Jason Plato’s best BTCC race finish since Croft last year and a set of 9th, 6th and 7th placed finishes at Donington mark Plato’s best weekend for a long time. After a Brands Hatch which showed much promise but eventually delivered little, Plato will be relieved to get his 2019 season off the mark with a solid weekend at Donington but there is still work to do if he is to challenge the upper echelons of the championship table once again. He sits 13th in the standings, 4 points behind teammate Collard and will be targeting Thruxton as the track he can take his breakthrough podium of 2019.
Tough Weekend For Some Big Championship Names
Donington Park proved to be an unhappy hunting ground for a number of drivers who would have been looking at the Leicestershire circuit as the place to kickstart their 2019 season.
Adam Morgan and Aiden Moffat, two drivers who in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class had been so strong at Donington in the past, struggled all weekend with Morgan’s 8th place finish in race three his best result. Moffat fared little better, finishing 14th in races one and three and retiring from race two. Both will be keen to head to Thruxton and turn their season around, especially Morgan who often starts the season strongly. Morgan leaves Donington 9th in the championship table with Moffat in 15th.
Dan Cammish and Chris Smiley were another two drivers who would have been hoping for a stronger weekend at a circuit which seemingly suited the Honda Civic. Cammish finished a strong 6th in race one before falling backwards in races one and two finishing 13th and 10th whilst Smiley, who finished on the podium last year at Donington was involved in a number of incidents but managed to finish 7th in race one. Significant potential in both cars was there for podium finishes, and whilst both Cammish and Smiley would have been disappointed not to extract that performance, both are more than capable of rebounding in style at Thruxton.
What were your thoughts on the Donington Park weekend? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!