2019 BTCC | Half Term Report

Image thanks to Autosport.

We’ve reached the midpoint of the BTCC season, and next week the second half of the 2019 BTCC campaign will begin at Snetterton in Norfolk as the likes of Andrew Jordan, Josh Cook and Ashley Sutton try to chase down Colin Turkington at the head of the points table. Before round six begins, there’s some time to look back and reflect on the highs and the lows of the first 15 races of the season. I’ve got it all covered in the BTCC half-term report where I’ve assessed the fortunes of every driver from 30th to the 1st in the table.

30th | Sam Osborne – 0 points. Best result 21st

It was always going to be a struggle for Excelr8 Motorsport in their first season of BTCC competition with two ageing MG 6s. Sam Osborne has shown some steady improvement over the first half of the year with his three best finishes of 21st place all coming in the last three rounds at Thruxton, Croft and Oulton Park. He’ll be learning and improving all the time, and be hoping to better his current best finish before the season is out.

29th | Nicolas Hamilton – 0 points. Best result 19th x 2.

With a best result of 19th coming at Donington and Oulton Park, Nicolas Hamilton will have been hoping for slightly better than 29th in the standings in a Ford Focus which is capable of running at the head of the field. Hamilton has shown flashes of speed over the opening half of the year and he’s a driver I’m backing to improve going into the second half of the year. A points finish would be a brilliant achievement, and he’s still got 15 races to get that.

28th | Rob Smith – 0 points. Best result 16th.

Rob Smith sits 28th in the 2019 standings at the halfway point. Image thanks to MG.

Another driver struggling in an ageing MG 6, Rob Smith’s best result of the season actually came early on a Donington Park where he finished just outside the points. Like his teammate Sam Osborne, I’m not sure just how much Smith can push on and the second half of the season will continue to be a learning curve for the MG driver.

27th | Matt Simpson – 1 point. Best result 15th.

After the highs of a maiden race win and 15th place overall finish in 2018, 2019 has been a crash back down to reality for Matt Simpson and Simpson Racing. His best result of 15th came at Thruxton and whilst the Honda Civic looked strong last year, so far in 2019 Simpson has been off the pace. He’s capable of much better, and I’m sure he’ll be looking for more than one points finish in the second half of the year. He should still be aiming to finish inside the top 20 and one good round could change the whole outlook at the bottom end of the table.

26th | Dan Rowbottom – 1 point. Best result 15th.

The BTCC is a tough place for a rookie to cut their trade and Dan Rowbottom is another driver who finds themselves lower down in the points table than they were perhaps expecting at the halfway point. The Clio Cup race winner has found it tough going in a Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes which hasn’t been as competitive as previous years, but Oulton Park was his best weekend yet with 15th and 16th place finishes. He’ll be hoping for more points in the second of the campaign, but it’s going to a tough fight to get them.

25th | Mark Blundell – 2 points. Best result 14th.

Mark Blundell has found the BTCC a hard place in 2019 and although he scored a brilliant 14th place finish on his debut the rest of the races haven’t gone his way. The Audi S3 is no slouch and in the hands of teammate Jake Hill, it is a regular points finisher. Blundell can certainly drive a race car as his past career has shown, but it just goes to show how hard a series the BTCC is for a rookie. He’ll be looking to return to the points at least once in the remaining half of the year.

24th | Carl Boardley – 3 points. Best result 15th

Carl Boardley sits 24th in the standings. Image thanks to BTCC.

Boardley has quietly gone about his business in the Team HARD Volkswagen CC and has three points-scoring finishes to his name. Like the MG, the Volkswagen CC is no longer the race-winning machine it once was but Boardley has made steady progress in 2019. If he scores a few more points this year it will be a success, but he’ll have to be at the very top of his game to do so.

23rd | Michael Crees – 4 points. Best result 12th.

Crees sits ahead of Boardley in the standings courtesy of his 12th place finish in the season opener at Brands Hatch, but like his teammate, it was always going to be a struggle to score points regularly. Results have often been around the mid-20s and whilst a points-scoring finish or two could come in the next few months I think it’ll be more of the same for Crees for the rest of the year. It’s been a solid debut so far, more of the same will be welcome.

22nd | Jack Goff – 12 points. Best result 11th.

Jack Goff’s season has been hampered by not starting two races at Thruxton and Oulton Park and whilst he will have been thrilled to get the last-minute call-up to Team HARD, I’m sure he would have hoped for slightly better results. His best finish came early on at Brands Hatch, and since Goff has struggled for consistency and reliability in the Volkswagen CC. We know Goff is capable of running inside the top ten and whilst the Volkswagen isn’t the car it used to be, I’m sure Goff will be aiming to climb the points table in the second half of the year.

21st | Bobby Thompson – 17 points. Best result 6th.

Bobby Thompson’s 17-point tally so far has been aided by a fantastic 6th place finish in the opening race of the season and the Team HARD driver has finished inside the points once the last 12 races. Nevertheless, to be ahead of his highly-rated teammate Goff in the standings is a great result going into the halfway point of the year, and if he can stay ahead for the rest of the season then it will be a massive result for Thompson. It’s been a solid opening races, but like his teammates, I think it’s going to be more of the same in the final half of the year.

20th | Senna Proctor – 19 points. Best result 10th.

Senna Proctor is in his first season in the Subaru Levorg. Image thanks to BTCC.

Senna Proctor is having a tough baptism in the Subaru Levorg and at the moment it looks like he just can’t get the car working for him. Croft bought about an upturn in form courtesy of three points finishes but Oulton Park was another tough weekend from the front-wheel-drive convert. Proctor was strong last season in the Vauxhall Astra so we know he can drive and race well, but at the moment I’m sure 2019 will be falling well below his expectations. I’m backing Proctor to turn it around, but I think it’s going to take some time and on the evidence so far it won’t be this season.

19th | Ollie Jackson – 22 points. Best result 10th.

Ollie Jackson is steadily improving in the Motorbase Ford Focus and whilst recent rounds at Croft and Oulton Park have shown an upturn in form, he still has some way to go to seriously challenge teammate Tom Chilton. He was hampered by poor reliability earlier in the year which limited his chances to score points, but the Focus is fast and Jackson needs to make the most of his chance with top machinery. More points will certainly follow and Jackson should be targeting the top 15 in the final standings.

18th | Aiden Moffat – 48 points. Best result 4th.

Laser Tools Racing struggled in the first half of 2019 as like with Team Hard and Excelr8 Motorsport, the machinery they are running just hasn’t kept up with the cars at the top of the table. Moffat’s best result of 4th came early on but he’s struggled to seriously challenge the frontrunners since that opening weekend. The move to the Infiniti Q50 is an exciting one but I think it’s going to take some time before Moffat is extracting the maximum from the car. I expect the rest of the season to be a struggle, but valuable work will be done in order to prepare the new car for next year.

17th | Chris Smiley – 48 points. Best result 2nd.

Chris Smiley hasn’t had the rub of the green so far in 2019 in a BTC Racing Civic that is capable of challenging for the title. A fine 2nd place finish at Croft showed the true pace of Smiley in the car, but a poor weekend at Oulton Park has sent him tumbling back down the standings. Smiley has the ability and car to be challenging for the top ten in the overall standings, and I expect to see an improvement over the second half of the year.

16th | Rob Collard – 51 points. Best result 2nd.

Despite scoring Vauxhall’s first podium finish of the season with a 2nd at Donington Park, Collard has struggled in the Power Maxed Astra, especially over the last two rounds at Croft and Oulton Park. A good run of points through the races at Donington and Thruxton has been enough to stop Collard falling out of touch with the drivers above him in the standings, but he’s over 50 points away from 10th and it’s going to be a struggle to close the gap. Finishing in the top 15 will be the minimum target for Collard.

15th | Adam Morgan – 64 points. Best result 3rd.

Adam Morgan has had a tough start to 2019. Image thanks to PSP Images.

Adam Morgan is a driver who will be disappointed with the way his season has gone so far after it’s become clear that the Mercedes-Benz A-Class has fallen away in terms of pace from the cars at the head of the field. I’ve become so accustomed to seeing Morgan inside the championship’s top ten in the last few seasons but a best-placed finish of 3rd at Brands Hatch at the start of the season remains the Cicely Motorsport driver’s best result. He’ll almost certainly be targeting an improved second half of the year but it’s going to be a struggle to break into the top ten based on what we’ve seen so far.

14th | Jake Hill – 71 points. Best result 2nd.

Unfortunate to lose the win last time out at Oulton Park courtesy of a post-race penalty for clashing with Matt Neal, Hill has still enjoyed a solid start to 2019 in the Audi S3. Consistently in the points, and often in and around the top ten Hill is meeting and exceeding expectations and a push for the top ten in the table is well and truly on. He’s growing in confidence and will be desperate to avenge the penalty which stripped him of his maiden race win. I’m expecting more of the same in the second half of the year.

13th | Sam Tordoff – 76 points. Best result 2nd.

Sam Tordoff endured wave after wave of bad luck in his BTCC return last season and whilst 2019 has been a slight improvement, 13th in the standings is well below where a driver of his pace should be. Consistency has been Tordoff’s main issue this year and whilst he had a solid round at Thruxton, Croft bought about another set of disappointing results. He’s no stranger to wins and racing right at the front, and he’s experienced enough now to know what he needs to do to turn his year around. A strong round at Oulton Park will have done his confidence the world of good, and I still think he’s on for a top ten finish if he can bag some more consistent results.

12th | Stephen Jelley – 83 points. Best result 1st.

Although Jelley’s race win came after the race at Oulton Park, it’s still been a fantastic effort from Jelley and Team Parker Racing so far in 2019. To sit within striking distance of a top ten finish is a massive achievement. Helped by a stronger engine in the BMW 1 series this year, Jelley has been consistently scoring points and staying relevant in the fight to get into the top ten. It’s going to be a big challenge to stay there given the likes of Collard, Morgan and Tordoff behind him, but on all the evidence we’ve seen so far, Jelley can mix it with them all and I’m excited to see how he fares in the second half of 2019.

11th | Tom Oliphant – 91 points. Best result 2nd.

Tom Oliphant will be hoping for more podium finishes in the second half of 2019. Image thanks to BTCC.

Tom Oliphant scored his best result of the season so far at Oulton Park last time out and sits just outside the top ten. It’s no easy feat going up against former champions Andrew Jordan and Colin Turkington at WSR and whilst Oliphant is doing a solid job, there’s still plenty of room for improvement and I think he’ll continue to do so. The opening half of Oliphant’s campaign was consistent and incident-free, and as he becomes more confident in the BMW 3 series I’m expecting more good results to come thick and fast. I’m almost certain more podiums will come.

10th | Jason Plato – 107 points. Best result 3rd.

Jason Plato has enjoyed a relatively successful return to front-wheel drive and whilst he has just one podium finish on his record, it’s his consistency which has allowed him to sneak in at the back end of the top ten. The Power Maxed Astra is fast, but it does appear to lack some pace when up against the likes of the BMW 3 series. Whilst Plato won’t be winning any titles this year, he’ll look to push on and consolidate his place in the top ten during the second half of the season. More podiums and a win will most certainly be the target, as will a top ten finish at the end of the year. His experience is really showing.

9th | Tom Ingram – 113 points. Best result 1st.

Bedding in the Toyota Corolla as a single-car team was always going to be difficult for Ingram and Speedworks and whilst he took a victory at Donington Park earlier in the year, Ingram has been unable to repeat his title-challenging speed from last year. 2019 was always going to be about learning for Ingram and he’s done a solid job to keep inside the top ten. Where he sits now is most likely where he’ll finish the season, but a few more podiums wouldn’t go amiss as he looks to build on his learnings from the first half of the year. I’m expecting an improvement, but not a massive one before the year is out.

8th | Tom Chilton – 118 points. Best result 1st.

Tom Chilton topped the timesheets over two days at the Snetterton midseason tyre test. Image thanks to BTCC.

If one thing is harming Chilton’s 2019 campaign it’s consistency more than anything else. Poor weekends at Thruxton and Oulton Park have costed Chilton dear in his quest for a BTCC title and whilst he’s shown brilliant turns of speed, it’s consistency which is going to make the difference in the title fight. In the hands of Chilton, the Ford Focus is up there as one of the best cars on the grid and he will be keen to show that more often in the second half of the year. More race wins and a big push up the table will be on the cards, and after his late-season surge in 2018 I wouldn’t write off Chilton for a top-five finish just yet.

7th | Matt Neal – 125 points. Best result 2nd.

A 2nd place finish at Donington Park marks Neal’s only visit to the podium so far in 2019 and like Chilton, he’ll be looking at the second half of the year as a chance to push on up the championship table. Neal is another driver who’s consistency has allowed him to maintain a strong challenge high up the standings but it’s going to take something extra to lift the three-time champion into the upper echelons of the title fight. A top-five finish in the standings would represent a successful second half of the year, and he’ll be desperate to get his name in the winner’s circle, too.

6th | Dan Cammish – 130 points. Best result 2nd.

One of the form men of recent rounds, Cammish has recovered spectacularly in recent races after a tough start to the year and is in a brilliant position to really improve in the second half of the season. A championship winner in Porsches, Cammish knows how to mix it with the very best and his second season in the BTCC is showing us just why he was so highly regarded. Yet to win a race in 2019, Cammish will be keen to change that over the final five rounds but more importantly, he’ll be targeting Josh Cook and Rory Butcher above him in the battle to finish as the top Honda Civic driver. I think he’ll continue rising up the table.

5th | Ashley Sutton – 147 points. Best result 2nd.

Ash Sutton led the points standings after Donington Park. Image thanks to PSP Images.

Yet to win a race this year, Ash Sutton has raced maturely and consistently so far in 2019 to sit 5th in the standings but is still missing that final piece of the jigsaw to beat the WSR BMWs. Two 2nd places in the first four races of the season have provided Sutton with valuable points, but it’s been his consistency in recent rounds which have kept him relevant in the title fight. Always strong in the second half of the year, I’m backing Sutton to really push on and win at least one race in the next few months. On past evidence you can’t rule him out of the title fight just yet.

4th | Rory Butcher – 147 points. Best result 1st.

One of the stars of the season so far, Rory Butcher has enjoyed a fantastic opening half of 2019 in the AmD Tuning Honda Civic which has included a win at Brands Hatch which came after a penalty to Tom Chilton. A tough round at Croft has made a title challenge more difficult, but on what we’ve seen of Butcher so far I can’t see any reason why he won’t be able to maintain his form in the second half of the season. He’s fast and consistent enough to keep the drivers above him honest and he’ll be targeting a push for 2nd in the standings in the final half of the campaign.

3rd | Josh Cook – 148 points. Best result 1st.

Another driver who has had a brilliant opening 15 races, Josh Cook’s 3rd place in the standings is a great result for Cook and BTC Racing but they’ll need to be at their very best to remain there in the next half of the season. Two race wins at Brands Hatch and Thruxton have aided Cook’s title challenge but he’ll need to ensure he qualifies well if he is to stay in the title fight. He recovered well after a poor qualifying at Oulton Park and I’m excited to see Cook right in the thick of it in the second half of the year. I’m expecting more podiums and wins to come his way.

2nd | Andrew Jordan – 162 points. Best result 1st.

Andrew Jordan is having his best season since 2013. Image thanks to PSP Images.

If it wasn’t for Jordan’s no score at Donington Park he would be much closer to teammate Colin Turkington in the championship standings, but the 2013 champion will need to draw upon every ounce of his skill and experience in his mission to overtake Turkington at the top of the table. Sensational since Thruxton, Jordan is having his best season since 2013 and is heading into a pressure-cooker second half of 2019. The pendulum will swing between Jordan and Turkington from circuit to circuit, and he’s going to need a near-perfect 15 races to win his second BTCC drivers title.

1st | Colin Turkington – 195 points. Best result 1st.

The top driver of the last two seasons, Turkington has picked up where he left off at the end of 2018 and leads at the top of the Championship table by 33 points. It’s hard to find any faults in Turkington’s performance during the first half of his title defence and he recovered quickly after a Brands Hatch which was below expectations to win the opening two races at Donington Park. He’s firmly in the driving seat but with Jordan breathing down his neck he’ll need continue his fantastic form during the second half of the year to win his fourth BTCC title. He’s certain to go down as one of the greats, and he needs more of the same to win the title.

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