Just two weeks after Croft, the BTCC roars back into action at Oulton Park for round five of the 2019 season. It’s crazy to think that after race three at Oulton Park the season will have reached its halfway point. However, whilst the BMW 3 Series’ of Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan have stolen the show in recent rounds, the championship fight is still on, with the top four in the table covered by just 26 points. Oulton Park was a happy hunting ground last year for the West Surrey Racing BMWs, and I’ve given my thoughts on the biggest talking points ahead of the weekend’s action in my Oulton Park Weekend Preview.
Can Anyone Stop West Surrey Racing?
There’s no denying the fact that West Surrey Racing have form on their side at Oulton Park with both Turkington and Jordan scoring two podiums apiece last year. In fact, Turkington was victorious in race two, a race which marked his only win of an extraordinary 2018 campaign. However, Jordan was victorious in 2017 and I’m expecting both to be extremely strong this weekend. Between the pair, there’s nothing to choose from but with Jordan the man in form with four race victories from the last six races and less qualifying ballast in the car, I think it’ll be the PIRTEK Racing man who leaves Oulton Park with the most points scored and a closer gap to his top of the table teammate.
Oulton Park also provides a brilliant opportunity for Tom Oliphant to return to the front of the field. After a solid opening weekend and subsequent podium at Donington Park, Oliphant has found himself further back from his WSR teammates than he would have liked, although an encouraging qualifying and 5th in race one at Croft was a welcome result. The rest of the Croft weekend went downhill for Oliphant, and whilst he would have no doubt earmarked Croft as an opportunity to score big points, he has another fantastic opportunity this weekend. The BMW 3 Series is the best car on the grid at the moment, and Oliphant will be keen to bag three consistent points-scoring finishes.
Tom Chilton To Challenge
Outside the BMWs, Tom Chilton was one of the best performers last year at Oulton Park as Motorbase came on strong at the Cheshire track. Replicating his 2nd, 3rd and 7th place finishes in 2018 will be among the minimum targets this weekend following Croft where he got his title challenge back on track with a victory in race three.
Sitting 7th in the table on 111 points and 32 points off the lead, having a brilliant second half of the year will be key to Chilton’s title hopes. Motorbase seemed to really be able to hook the Ford Focus up around Oulton Park in 2018, and outside of the Turkington and Jordan, I’m backing Chilton to be one of the best around the circuit again in 2019.
Ash Sutton Still Seeking His First Win Of The Season
The BTCC is competitive, so much so that the driver with the most wins in 2018 is still seeking his first win of 2019. Sutton’s remarkable consistency is keeping him right in the 2019 title fight and Oulton Park is a track where the Subaru Levorg finished 1st and 3rd at in 2017. To be honest, I’m quite surprised that Sutton hasn’t won a race yet this year, however, I do believe that a win will come sooner rather than later. Always so strong in the second half of the season, I think the rest of the field will be nervously looking over their shoulders at Sutton, especially as it’s around this time of year when Team BMR seem to spring into life.
Sutton will no doubt be strong at Oulton Park and whilst the BMW 3 Series has raised the bar once again, both Sutton and the Levorg still have what it takes to challenge for, and win the title. 7th, 5th and 4th at Croft was consistent if not slightly below what I was expecting them to achieve, and I’m certain that Sutton will improve on a horrible weekend at Oulton Park last year where he finished 21st, 23rd and 13th.
Qualifying will be tight and the fact that he sits 3rd in the championship standings means he will carry more ballast than the likes of Jordan and Chilton behind him. Whilst I’m sure wins will come, consistency is more important when it comes to challenging for the championship and Sutton is displaying tons of that this year.
The Honda Challenge
Any one of six Honda Civics could reach the podium this weekend but if they do win a race, I think a surprise is what it will be. Despite being run by different teams, each of Neal and Cammish, Cook and Smiley and Butcher and Tordoff have all had their moments so far in 2019 but at the moment at least, it’s Josh Cook leading Honda charge.
2nd in the standings coming up to the halfway point is a fantastic position to be in for Cook who has more than proven his worth to BTC Racing this year. 9th, 8th and 2nd at Croft kept him firmly in the hunt and whilst he might struggle for wins at Oulton Park, another weekend like Croft would be more than welcome. If he can stay in touch with Turkington at tracks which have been known to favour rear-wheel drive cars, it bodes well for later in the year. However, championship challenge will be new territory for Josh Cook as he goes into the second half of the campaign and he’ll be up against some stiff and experienced competition.
Butcher will be looking to rebound after a disappointing weekend at Croft which saw him drop to 6th in the standings, and Dan Cammish will be looking to continue the resurgence he’s had since Thruxton. All of the Hondas are going to be there or thereabouts, but I think it’s going to take something special to overhaul the BMWs at Oulton Park.