Despite being pegged back ahead of the weekend, Croft glory returned to BMW on Sunday in North Yorkshire as Andrew Jordan made it four race wins from six races in the BMW 3 Series. Tom Chilton secured victory in a thrilling race three, getting his title charge back on track and it was a solid weekend for defending champion Colin Turkington who secured the outright points lead in the championship. It was another brilliant weekend of touring car action and once again we were reminded why the BTCC is up there as one of the best motor racing championships in the world. As the season is fast approaching the halfway point, I’ve given my thoughts on all the biggest talking points from Croft in my weekend wrap.
Andrew Jordan On Form
For the second round in a row Andrew Jordan was the man to beat as he continued to recover from his 0 point weekend at Donington Park. Jordan showed his pace at Croft early on Saturday, topping the times in opening practice before posting the fastest time in qualifying the same afternoon. He won race one with an assured drive, before another fantastic victory on full ballast ensured it was two from two ahead of the reverse grid race. Had Turkington passed Chris Smiley earlier on in race two, he may have gone on pressure Jordan more, but all in all, it was a fantastic weekend for the PIRTEK Racing BMW crew.
2019 is shaping up to be Jordan’s best chance at a BTCC title since his championship year in 2013, and post-Croft he now sits 4th in the standings on 117 points, which is actually a remarkable position given what happened at Donington two months ago. His strong run of form stretches back to Knockhill last year and this next run of races will be crucial in his championship campaign. Jordan and Turkington will no doubt push each other hard over the remainder of his season and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they deal with an inter-team battle alongside fighting the likes of Sutton and Cook for overall honours. Jordan’s ace up his sleeve is the fact that the series will return to Thruxton for a second time this year, a track which he has always run well at. He’s the form man at the moment, and his eyes will be firmly set on toppling Colin Turkington at the top of the table.
A Long Wait Between Drinks For Jason Plato
You have to go back to race one at Croft last year to find Jason Plato’s last BTCC podium finish, and race three on Sunday marked Plato’s return to the podium and his first with Power Maxed Racing. 8th, 6th and 3rd from Croft represent another solid haul of points for Plato who looks a completely different driver this year from the one we saw at BMR in 2018. Race three at Croft marked his 10th points finish in a row, and for the most part, he looks to have settled into the PMR Astra quicker than teammate Rob Collard, who admittedly has spent most of his career in rear wheel drive machinery.
Plato leaves Croft 10th in the championship standings on 93 points, over three times his points tally from last year. The Power Maxed Astra is fast, but to be honest, it looks like it’s lacking slightly when you put it up against the likes of the BMW 3 Series of the new FK8 Civics. As a big Jason Plato fan, I’d love to see him return to the top step and get to that 100 race win milestone, but whilst you can sense a win is coming, it’s looking like it could well come from a reverse grid race. Nevertheless, Croft provided some welcome, and much-needed silverware and I’m excited to see if Plato can break into the top five in the table in the second half of the year.
Chilton’s Title Charge Back On Track?
I wrote in my Croft Weekend Preview about how important Croft was for Tom Chilton, and he responded from his Thruxton nightmare in style by securing 3rd in race one and a win in race three. Post-Croft, Chilton sits 7th in the championship standings on 111 points, 32 points behind Turkington, with Oulton Park, a circuit he ran well at last year up next.
To come away with two podium finishes from a weekend where the rear wheel drive cars were expected to dominate is a brilliant haul for Chilton and the Motorbase team. His experience behind the wheel of a touring car is going to prove invaluable as he chases his first BTCC title. I’m backing Chilton to slowly rise back up the table as the rest of the year progresses, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him right in the middle of the title fight come the end of the year, especially given how strong he was at the tail end of 2018. Whilst Jordan, Turkington and Sutton will be many people’s picks for the title, I’m going with Tom Chilton as my dark horse.
Tough Weekend AmD Tuning And Rory Butcher
It all went wrong for AmD Tuning at Croft. After the highs of Thruxton which saw the return to form of Sam Tordoff and Rory Butcher move into the joint championship lead, it all came crashing down at Croft as both Butcher and Tordoff struggled all weekend with Butcher’s 7th place in race three the best-placed finish for any of the AmD Tuning Civics. Butcher’s weekend took a nosedive after an accident in qualifying relegated him to the back of the grid for race one, and whilst he made steady progress through the field, it wasn’t enough to secure him a strong reverse grid draw for race three. Butcher fell to 6th in the championship standings as a result, and Tordoff fared little better with a best finish of 13th meaning he sits 17th in the overall standings.
I rate both Butcher and Tordoff highly, and whilst I firmly believe that Croft was a one-off bad weekend, it’s going to be vital that both bounce back at Oulton Park. After leading the standings going into Croft, Butcher needs to return to the front to ensure his title challenge stays on track. All too often in the BTCC we see teams and drivers fading as we enter the midseason, and both AmD and Butcher will be keen to avoid the same fate. The old model Civic is still good enough to mix it at the front for now, but a disappointing Croft weekend means more pressure at Oulton Park to put in a strong performance. Tordoff will also be keen to turn his season around, and as a driver which came so close to winning the 2016 title, I think we all know that he really should be right up there in the title fight.
Who was your top performer at Croft this weekend? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!