Heavy focus at the Croft circuit for the next round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship was on how much of an advantage would the rear wheel drive cars of BMW and Audi have, after the dominance at Oulton Park. As Yorkshire was the venue of Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the BTCC and the mid-way point of the season on the 28th and 29th June, the two wins by Colin Turkington and EBay Motors in Cheshire had opened up a can of worms from the manufactures, mainly Honda and MG. With Croft celebrating its 50th Anniversary, the BTCC rolls into town and there more than likely will be fireworks, mainly revolving around the RWD controversy. With Turkington securing wins in races one and two at Oulton Park, the 2009 Champion sat on top of the standings approaching the Yorkshire venue, where he secured two wins in 2013 on the Croft circuit which favours the rear wheel drive BMW 1 Series. As Gordon Shedden maintained his second in the standings exiting Oulton Park, the drive who lost out was the reigning champion Andrew Jordan. The 25 year old had led the BTCC when the series went north to Cheshire, but he came away lying third in the standings for Pirtek Racing. With 45kgs of ballast, the older Honda Civic struggled to match the pace of rival manufactures, sitting outside the top ten for much of the meeting and only a eighth place finish in race three the biggest cheer for the team. Falling to third in the standings brought Jordan closer to the chasing Jason Plato, with the double champion approaching what is a local race. Plato remained in contention for the 2014 title after securing a podium finish in Cheshire and with there being problems for Andrew Jordan and Matt Neal, Plato gave himself a cushion in forth but ended up closer to third. With Plato and team mate Sam Tordoff having one win apiece so far this season, experience and data gained in 2013 at Croft make them favourites of securing a win in 2014 at the event. Speaking of Matt Neal, the Triple BTCC Champion had an absolute disaster at the last round and one to forget. After finishing twenty-third in the last race at Thruxton, bad form followed Neal to Oulton Park, with his Honda struggling to match Shedden’s and two finishes outside the top ten ended with a DNF in race three. Neal’s bad luck allowed the second EBay Motors BMW of Rob Collard to leap-frog him in the championship standings and with Croft a good track for the BMW, Neal could have a lot of work to do to climb back ahead of Collard.
BTCC Championship Standings Top Six After Twelve Rounds:
1. Colin Turkington (5 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport) = 183 Pts.
2. Gordon Shedden (52 – Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer) = 174 Pts.
3. Andrew Jordan (1 – Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic) = 156 Pts.
4. Jason Plato (99 – MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save – MG6 GT) = 147 Pts.
5. Rob Collard (10 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport) = 125 Pts.
6. Matt Neal (4 – Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer) = 116 Pts.
Outside the top six in the standings, there is a huge chasing pack which involves plenty of BTCC race winners. The Airways Racing Ford Focus has come on leaps and bounds in 2014 after an awful 2013 and Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi have both looked stronger in recent rounds. A couple of podiums have already rewarded the team in 2014 but there are certainly opportunities for this to happen more as the season progresses. Local man Sam Tordoff in the MG comes to his home circuit of Croft looking to rebuild his run of form which he has had at Donington Park and Oulton Park, which led to a win in Leicestershire. Previous races have seen some bad luck in the MG but like we said before, data from 2013 should make the MGs favourites for podiums and race wins. For Team BMR Restart Chrome, victory for Aron Smith in race three was a huge achievement for the new team and a major boost in knowing the VW Passat is capable of race wins in the BTCC. Smith would now be looking for more wins, whilst double BTCC Champion Alain Menu returns to the scene which he enjoyed during the 90s and his time in the Super Tourers. Menu has looked strong so far in 2014 and had plenty of top ten finishes, but a win can’t be too far away, knowing the VW can run at the front against the more experienced teams and manufactures. Another driver to watch at Croft would be Rob Austin in the RWD Audi A4, after Rob propelled himself towards the front at Oulton Park and took a podium in race two. With the RWD cars slightly being held back by the regulations, it would be interesting to see whether Rob’s Audi can mix it at the front.
Pole to Flag for Turkington in Dominant Fashion
The story of RWD drive advantage was surely on everyone’s agenda come qualifying and it was no surprise around Croft to see Colin Turkington tops the time sheets, even with 45kgs of ballast on-board the BMW. For the race though, there was no problems for the BMW with the longer first gear, as Turkington pulled away quicker than Jason Plato and led Gordon Shedden into the first corner. As Rob Collard got another fast getaway in the second BMW, Jason Plato defended off Collard, whilst the Hondas of Jordan and Neal had a slight coming together.
As the race developed, Turkington continued to pull out a margin over Shedden out front and made things look comfortable. The main focus for everyone was the battle over third place, with Jason Plato driving one hell of a defence drive to keep the BMW of Collard at bay. The problem for Plato though was with Collard being slowed up, this allowed Jordan and Neal to close in and make a 4 way scrap for third.
Just outside the top six behind Matt Neal, the next battle was between Alain Menu’s VW Passat and the second MG of Sam Tordoff. With Tordoff struggling in the same way as Plato, he found Menu and Mat Jackson closing in on him. Lap ten saw a change in positions, with Tordoff losing out to Menu at the Esses and then Jackson followed through, demoting Tordoff to ninth, just ahead of Hunter Abbott’s Audi A4.
Back at the front, Turkington disappeared to a seven second victory, with Shedden claiming second and Jason Plato holding onto the final podium position. Collard retained fourth after not losing out to the guys behind, but the positions of fifth and sixth was reversed post-race. As Jordan finished fifth on the road, the contact between himself and Neal on the opening lap resulted in a one second penalty for the reigning champion and Neal was promoted to fifth.
In a race that saw plenty of conversional moments, the biggest penalty handed out was to Italian BTCC champion Fabrizio Giovanardi. On lap eight, the Italian was fighting with Aron Smith’s VW Passat and exiting Sunny Out, the two tangled. Smith was rejected to twenty-third as a result, whilst Giovanardi continued to finish twelfth. The Italian was then hit with a grid penalty for race two, which was upheld and then enforced for the opening race at Snetterton.
BTCC, Croft – 29th June 2014 – Race One Top Ten:
1. Colin Turkington (5 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i) = 14 Laps = 20:08.824
2. Gordon Shedden (52 – Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer) = +7.478
3. Jason Plato (99 – MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save – MG6) = +13.890
4. Rob Collard 10 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i) = +14.153
5. Matt Neal (4 – Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer) = +15.054
6. Andrew Jordan (1 – Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic) = +15.692
7. Alain Menu (9 – Chrome Edition Restart – VW CC) = +15.963
8. Mat Jackson (6 – Airwaves Racing – Ford Focus) = +19.173
9. Sam Tordoff (88 – MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save – MG6) = +20.905
10. Hunter Abbott (54 – Alcosense Breathalysers Racing – Audi A4) = +21.361
Turkington Goes Two From Two And Boosts Championship Advantage
For the second race, Turkington continued from where he left off in race one, breaking clear from Gordon Shedden, as Rob Collard settled into third. With everything supposedly clean on the opening lap, there was a stranded Audi A4 on the start-to-finish straight after Rob Austin collided with Dave Newsham at the start. This was a shame for Newsham, as the AMDTuning driver was forced to pit on his 100th BTCC race.
With Turkington pulling away from the Honda of Shedden, Rob Collard found himself under pressure from Matt Neal, who made his way past Jason Plato and pulled in the EBay Motors BMW quicker than expected. As Andrew Jordan completed the top five and was trying to reel in the Honda Civic Tourer, Neal found his way past the BMW on Lap eleven, with a move at Sunny.
The one driver who was suffering in race two was the MG of Jason Plato, who having to defend hard for the second race in a row. After losing out to Neal and Jordan in the early stages, Plato found himself under massive pressure from Alain Menu. The Swiss driver was challenging his former team mate over the second half of the race and then on the penultimate lap, the two relit fireworks from yester years. As Menu got a great run on Plato into Clervaux and moved ahead, the MG of Plato tapped the back of the VW and Menu flew towards the barrier and the gravel trap. Whist Plato continued on to finish sixth, the stewards hit the double champion with a ten place grid penalty for race three. The rest of the top ten was completed by Mat Jackson, Sam Tordoff, Tom Ingram and Fabrizio Giovanardi, with the Italian drawing ball ten for pole position in race three.
Whilst Turkington easily wrapped up victory to lead the BTCC driver’s championship ahead of Shedden, the Honda of Matt Neal was excluded from the podium. With Matt Neal’s Civic Tourer failing the ride height, this would see the top ten amended and Jack Goff obtain pole position for race three.
BTCC, Croft – 29th June 2014 – Race Two Top Ten:
1. Colin Turkington (5 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i) = 15 Laps = 21:32.413
2. Gordon Shedden (52 – Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer) = +6.243
3. Rob Collard 10 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i) = +10.430
4. Andrew Jordan (1 – Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic) = +18.455
5. Jason Plato (99 – MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save – MG6) = +23.220
6. Mat Jackson (6 – Airwaves Racing – Ford Focus) = +24.716
7. Sam Tordoff (88 – MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save – MG6) = +27.835
8. Tom Ingram (80 – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis) = +30.011
9. Fabrizio Giovanardi (7 – Airways Racing – Ford Focus) = +31.998
10. Jack Goff (31 – RCIB Insurance Racing – Vauxhall Insignia) = +32.864
DNF for Turkington Opens Door for Jordan Victory
The final BTCC race at Croft saw Jack Goff line up on Pole position but exiting turn one, things turned nasty for the Vauxhall Insignia driver as Tom Ingram tapped the rear and sent Goff flying off on the grass. With Giovanardi and Jordan having a small coming together behind, the two moved ahead into one-two formation before a collision ruined the Italian’s race. As Giovanardi supposedly slowed, Jordan tapped the rear of the Focus and Giovanardi went into the barrier at Barcroft, sustaining heavy front end damage. The stewards reviewed the incident after the race and hit the reigning champion with a ten place grid penalty for Snetterton, subject to an appeal by Pirtek Racing.
After a brief safety car period, Jordan led on the restart, with Jack Goff under heavy pressure from Rob Collard and Mat Jackson. With the MG of Sam Tordoff under pressure from BMW of Nick Foster, the driver to watch was Gordon Shedden. As Shedden was lapping on the same times as Gordon Shedden, the other Honda of Matt Neal was facing disaster from the rear of the field. Even though the former champion was making progress, a slight collision with Glynn Geddie at the complex was the first of more drama. When chasing Warren Scott along the start-to-finish straight, an aggressive move into Clervaux opened the door for Rob Austin. As Rob slipped up the inside on the run to Hawthorn, three wide led to a sandwich and retirement for Neal and Austin, with both drivers slating each other on social media and to the media afterwards. With one championship contender completely out and losing ground, another found problems moment later. After major success in races one and two, a overheating clutch ruined his race and he entered the pits on lap eight.
Back at the front, Andrew Jordan was controlling the race, whilst Jack Goff was under huge pressure from Rob Collard. On lap eleven, Collard dived for second and tapped the Vauxhall on the exit of Sunny Out. Collard took second in the progress and Jackson moved into third, but for Collard the EBay Motors driver was handed a five second penalty post-race, which became his third of the season and now Collard would start right at the rear of the field in Norfolk. As the race progressed, Shedden found his way past Jack Goff and then set his sights on Jackson for third. With Shedden pilling on the pressure, Jackson defended until lap seventeen, when Shedden tapped the rear of the Focus exiting Hawthorn and took the position. As Shedden went on to finish third, the stewards inspected the footage and penalised the Honda driver with a penalty, dropping Shedden back to fourth and promoting Jackson back to third.
Outside the top four, a superb drive from Adam Morgan and the heavily battered Mercedes saw a twelfth place start end in fifth, ahead of pole sitter Jack Goff. At the line, the two were separated by the tightest of margins, being 0.001. On the final lap, Morgan and Goff were involved in a tough fight with four other drivers, seeing Nick Foster in seventh, ahead of a charging Alain Menu. Menu’s team mate Aron Smith came home in ninth after a dusty moment on the first few corners, just ahead of Jason Plato’s MG, who completed the top ten.
BTCC, Croft – 29th June 2014 – Race Three Top Ten:
1. Andrew Jordan (1 – Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic) = 18 Laps = 28:24.822
2. Rob Collard (10 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i) = +3.492
3. Mat Jackson (6 – Airways Racing – Ford Focus) = +18.517
4. Gordon Shedden (52 – Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer) = +18.940
5. Adam Morgan (33 – WIX Racing – Mercedes Benz A Class) = 19.179
6. Jack Goff (31 – RCIB Insurance Racing – Vauxhall Insignia) = +19.180
7. Nick Foster (18 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i) = +19.382
8. Alain Menu (9 – Chrome Edition Restart – VW CC) = +19.751
9. Aron Smith (40 – Chrome Edition Restart – VW CC) = +20.397
10. Jason Plato (99 – MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save – MG6) = +21.370
With a long summer break now in order for the teams and drivers, the countdown to the 1st and 2nd August for Snetterton is on. When action resumes in Norfolk to start the month of August, focus will certainly be on Colin Turkington and the EBay Motors BMW. Two wins at Croft might have kept Turkington on top of the standings, but retirement in race three and success for Shedden and Jordan means the race for the title is a lot closer. Going into Croft, Turkington was nine points ahead of Shedden, but the gap is now only seven. With Jordan closing in on two-hundred points and twenty-eight adrift of Turkington, it’s looking a three horse race in the BTCC. Sitting in forth after what has been a hard weekend is Jason Plato and even with a deficit of forty-nine points, he can’t be discounted at the halfway mark. This is the same for Rob Collard, who lies in fifth on 170 points and has been the most improving in the second EBay Motors BMW over the last few meetings. With fifteen races left during the course of the 2014 season, there are plenty of possibilities for change and the vast arrange of circuits will favour different cars.
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship standings:
1. Colin Turkington (5 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i) = 228
2. Gordon Shedden (52 – Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer) = 221
3. Andrew Jordan (1 – Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic) = 200
4. Jason Plato (99 – MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save – MG6) = 179
5. Rob Collard 10 – EBay Motors – BMW 125i) = 170
6. Mat Jackson (6 – Airwaves Racing – Ford Focus) = 138
7. Matt Neal (4 – Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer) = 127
8. Sam Tordoff (88 – MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save – MG6) = 121
9. Aron Smith (40 – Chrome Edition Restart – VW CC) = 86
10. Alain Menu (9 – Chrome Edition Restart – VW CC) = 69
For photos of the BTCC at Croft, please visit our Flickr album here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs