Knockhill served up another classic as the 2019 title race swung one way then another on a dramatic and chaotic Sunday in Scotland. What a race meeting it was. Knockhill never fails to disappoint as it’s position on the calendar late in the season means that it’s so important when it comes to the overall championship. Rory Butcher, Andrew Jordan and Jake Hill were the victors from three classic touring car races, and I’ve given my thoughts on all the biggest talking points from Knockhill in my Weekend Wrap.
Title Race Closes Up
It wasn’t so long ago that this title looked it had Colin Turkington’s name all over it as his Oulton Park double victory sent him 33 points clear at the top of the table at the halfway point. That gap was the biggest since 2006, but leaving Knockhill his advantage has been cut to just ten points over Andrew Jordan with Dan Cammish just one point behind.
All three challengers defied the ballast to qualify strongly inside the top five and Jordan finished 2nd, Cammish 3rd and Turkington 4th in race one. However, it was a dramatic race two which provided the day’s main talking point. Whilst Jordan stormed to victory and Cammish followed him in 2nd, Turkington’s coming together whilst battling for 3rd with Butcher left him down in 27th before he recovered to 19th at the flag. The gap to Jordan was cut to just four points and you could visibly see in Jordan’s post-race interview just how much that win meant.
The title momentum had changed direction in an instant, but the pendulum swung back to Turkington on the opening lap of race three as Jordan ended up in the gravel trap after attempting to avoid the spinning Subaru of Senna Proctor. Cammish would finished race three 6th and Turkington recovered from 19th to 10th to set the stage perfectly for a six-race showdown at Silverstone and Brands Hatch.
There’s absolutely nothing to choose between the trio and the focus will now turn to qualifying at Silverstone where like at Knockhill, it will be critical to minimise the impact of the ballast. All three would be worthy champions and whilst both Turkington and Jordan have both won BTCC titles in the past, Cammish is also a proven champion having won the Porsche Carrera Cup GB twice before his switch to the BTCC.
I think we’re in for a brilliant fight to the title and right now I just can’t pick a favourite. There’s the experience of Turkington who has three championships to his name and is probably the best on the grid at driving consistently to the title. But we also saw Turkington’s aggressive side on Sunday as he carved his way from 27th to 19th in race two, and then 19th to 10th and race three. If he wants a fourth crown then I think he’s going to have to get his elbows out and that will be a brilliant watch.
Then you have Andrew Jordan, who is having his best season since 2013 and will be desperate to win the title for himself and PIRTEK in the final season of their partnership. With Jordan’s BTCC future still uncertain for 2020, he’ll be giving it everything to finish this season as champion and that kind of external pressure could give him that extra edge and drive him to the title. He’s been there before and won it in 2013, and can take plenty from the fact that he closed the gap by 20 points at Knockhill. Another 20 point swing at Silverstone would see him leave with the championship lead.
Finally, you have Cammish who has been the form man since the BTCC visited Thruxton in May. On the podium at every round since, Cammish’s rise up the table has been astounding and with teammate Neal in 8th in the standings, he has a clear run at the title. In some ways as the hunter, the pressure is off as he chases down both Turkington and Jordan above him. He’ll also be confident going into Brands Hatch GP after his double victory there last year.
Right now I’m sticking with Turkington as my pick for the championship given his experience and sheer consistency over the last few seasons. But as we all saw at Knockhill, that could change in an instant!
Rory Butcher’s Eventful Weekend
Rory Butcher has all the makings of a future BTCC champion and we saw glimpses of what he had to offer all weekend long at Knockhill. Buoyed on by the home support, Butcher dominated on Saturday topping both practice sessions before putting the AmD Tuning Civic on pole to secure his first-ever BTCC pole position.
He followed pole position up with a victory in race one on Sunday which involved a brilliant last-lap battle with Andrew Jordan. As Jordan passed Butcher on the pit straight heading onto the last lap it looked like he would be consigned to 2nd, but as Jordan ran wide in the following corners, Butcher took his chance and recovered the lead. It was a fantastic exchange and showed us just what Butcher is made of under pressure.
You can’t asses Butcher’s Knockhill weekend without addressing the contact with Turkington in race two. If this title race goes down to the wire then there’s no doubt that the clash between Butcher and Turkington will be one of the pivotal moments of the 2019 season. Whilst Butcher did receive a five-place grid penalty for his part in the collision and that was probably deserved, it was clear that there was no ill-intent from Butcher when he went for the move at McIntyres, as the contact to Turkington’s right rear sent the BMW into a spin into the gravel.
I’m sure everyone will move on quickly, and Butcher’s strong weekend (1st, 3rd, 14th) allowed him to strengthen his grip on 5th place in the championship standings. The Scotsman is having a fantastic season behind the wheel of the Civic Type-R and I’m excited to see what he can achieve in the BTCC in the years to come.
Qualifying Unravels Cook’s Challenge
20th place on the grid won’t have been what Josh Cook had in mind heading into Knockhill as the BTC Racing driver struggled over one lap whilst his championship rivals qualified at the head of the field. Qualifying has been Cook’s Achilles heel in 2019 and whilst he sits 30 points behind Turkington in the title race, I feel like that gap is too big to close down given the strength of the three drivers at the top of the table.
Cook’s saving grace on weekends where he has qualified down the field has been his race three, and once again at Knockhill, he finished 13th, 9th and 2nd to keep his title challenge alive. Race three has been Cook’s strength all season and if you look back you can find evidence of this at Donington Park, Thruxton, Croft, Snetterton and now Knockhill. By showing that kind of form it means you can’t discount Cook from the title race yet, but if he is to feature going into the final weekend then a good grid slot inside the top five at Silverstone is now more or less mandatory.
However, I don’t want to take anything away from Cook’s performances this season as they’ve been nothing short of fantastic. He looks well at home at BTC Racing and is on for his best-ever season in the BTCC. Like Butcher, I’m excited to see what he can do in the years to come but his 2019 title challenge isn’t over just yet.
Senna Proctor’s Best Weekend Yet
After a tough season adapting to the rear-wheel-drive Subaru Levorg, Knockhill was Senna Proctor’s best weekend yet of 2019 as he finished 5th in race one and 4th in race two before retiring from race three. Whilst the DNF in the third race will come as a big disappointment given that he was on for another good result, it shouldn’t take away from the great showing Proctor put in at Knockhill. With two rounds left of the season, he’ll be keen to continue this newfound form.
Knockhill was always going to be a track which played to the strengths of the Subaru which is fast in the corners and slow on the straights, but Proctor maximised his opportunity and rose to 20th in the championship standings as a result with his 24-point haul. It’s been a difficult year for Team BMR with the Levorg as the car’s shortcomings compared to the BMW 3 Series and Honda Civics have been made apparent, with their last podium coming courtesy of Ash Sutton at Thruxton in May.
Proctor’s two points-scoring finishes come at a fantastic time and mark his first points since race three at Croft in June. Silverstone will be markedly more difficult for both Proctor and teammate Sutton given its high-speed nature and the Subaru’s lack of straight-line speed. But for Proctor, Knockhill was an encouraging weekend where another set of similar results will see him targeting Aiden Moffatt in 18th in the table.
The next round of the BTCC takes place at Silverstone on the 28th/29th September.
What were your thoughts on the action at Knockhill? Let me know in the comments below!