The BTCC headed to Silverstone and the penultimate round of the 2014 championship,and brought with it the possibility of crowning the champion early for the first time since 1997.
For this to happen Colin Turkington would need to score 13 points more than Jason Plato and 4 more than Gordon Shedden to be crowned -subject to not receiving a points penalty- 2014 series champion.
While on the subject of penalties, Matt Neal and the Team Dynamics squad have been handed a suspended fine, and suspended exclusion from the 2015 series following comments made after the last round at Rockingham. It means that Neal and his team must be very careful in what they say and do for the rest of the year!
One change to the grid this week, Luke Hines makes a return to the series he raced in during the early part of the century scoring 3 wins for Vauxhall and Seat, before moving into GT racing.
Qualifying was as a contest between the Triple 8 MGs of Plato and Sam Tordoff and the Ebay Motors BMW of Turkington, the series leader lining up behind his closest challenger on the front row. Mat Jackson in the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus was 4th ahead of a pair of VW CCs for the Chrome Edition Restart Racing duo of Alain Menu and Aron Smith.
The Speedworks Toyota of Tom Ingram was up next ahead of the 3rd MG of Quantum Bifold Triple 8 and Marc Hynes, Adam Morgan’s Wix Racing Mercedes and the Exocet Racing Audi of Rob Austin rounded out the top 10, you would have to look further back to find a Honda, 15th to be precise as Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek entry headed the Works duo of Shedden and Neal, all lining up behind Aiden Moffat – celebrating his 18th birthday on the Sunday with his best qualifying of his short BTCC career.
Lap 1 Turkington leads into Copse with Plato right behind, Jackson has also gained a place on Tordoff for 3rd, further back drama as Hunter Abbot in the Alcosense Audi gets taken out by Simon Belcher’s Handy Motorsports Toyota.
Lap 2 Plato all over the BMW he won’t want Turkington making a break like he did at Rockingham, Tordoff trying the same with Jackson.
Lap 3 Well that didn’t take long, Plato through into the lead, at the back, more drama for Belcher as he collides with one of the Welch Motorsport Protons.
Lap 4 Jackson looking for a pass on Turkington while just behind the VWs of Menu and Smith start to catch Tordoff.
Lap 8 Matt Neal runs very wide at Copse following a dice with Fabrizio Giovanardi, 16th and 17th places for these multiple champions.
Lap 9 It’s settling down a little now, Plato leads Turkington, Jackson, Menu, Smith and Adam Morgan.
Lap 10 with various issues (contact and otherwise) following a few slow laps both Welch Motorsport Protons retire.
Lap 11 Giovanardi and Jack Clarke both battling hard in their Focuses for small points while at the sharp end, Morgan takes Smith for 6th.
Lap 12 Ingram (who had a horrible start following his qualifying) is battling with Rob Collard’s BMW and Rob Austin’s Audi for 9th, lots of small battles developing in the mid pack.
Lap 13 Neal leans on the Crabbies Racing Focus of Clarke for 16th, but that’s not good enough for points yet.
Lap 14 Morgan retires again from a strong position Smith regains 5th position. Matt Neal sets fastest lap – worth 1 point!
Lap 15 Ingram and Shedden get together at Beckets sending the Honda into a half spin, Shedden drops and Neal gains a few positions as a result.
Lap 16 Neal (on the soft tyre) muscles his way past Giovanardi for 12th.
Lap 17 Up front its as you were Plato, Turkington, Jackson, Tordoff, Menu, Smith.
Lap 18 Shedden battling Clarke now, Nick Foster has got his BMW in the mix too. Team mate Collard passes Austin for 8th.
Lap 20 Jackson still looking for a way past the BMW, Plato looks in control at the front.
Lap 21 Tom Ingram off at Copse with a puncture, if he had no bad luck he would have no luck at all! Matt Neal takes a drive through penalty for exceeding track limits.
Lap 22 Plato now has the lapped Simon Belcher between himself and the Turkington, Jackson battle.
Flag Plato takes the victory from Turkington, Jackson, Tordoff, Menu, Smith, Collard, Hynes, Austin, Jordan, Goff, Clarke, Shedden and Foster.
As it stands now in the championship Turkington leads Plato 384 to 333 if it’s decided today it won’t be until the third race.
Turkington gets a great start again leading into Copse, Jackson also attempts a pass on Plato but has to settle for third. Collard moves up to 6th.
Lap 2 He will not give up without a fight! Plato leads again, passing Turkington into Brooklands, Turkington is not daft though,he knows good finishes will bag points and the title.
Lap 5 As the race settles down Newsham and Morgan begin to move up the order after starting from low grid positions.
Lap 6 Shedden moving up the order too, now battling Goff and Clarke.
Lap 7 Menu having a go at Jackson while Turkington looks for a way past Plato, this may not be over at the front. Sadly for the Welch Motorsport squad both Protons again retire.
Lap 9 Shedden and Austin collide, pitching the Audi sideways before it’s tagged by Ingram’s Toyota, social media as a result goes into meltdown!
Lap 10 Martin Depper is travelling slowly with a puncture, possibly as a result of running over debris from the Austin incident Depper and Austin both pit.
Lap 13 The VWs are getting racey as Smith passes Collard at Becketts, Tordoff follows the VW, just head Menu finally gets past Jackson for 3rd.
Lap 14 Smith is now battling with Jackson for forth.
Lap 15 Smith all over Jackson but the Focus is being driven very defensively.
Lap 16 Tordoff having failed to finish the earlier move on Collard, now completes it for 6th, Giovanardi also passes the BMW, tyres going off?
Lap 19 Smith with lights flashing furiously trying to get by Jackson, but again, Jackson holds on.
Lap 21 Huge shuffle in the mid pack as Hynes, Shedden and Clarke all battle with Collard. Clarke gets sideways, as Collard tries to avoid the spinning focus the two collide, Collard’s car is launched into a series of spectacular rolls down the Wellington Straight. After a brief period of safety car the red flag is rightly shown and the result taken from lap 20.
Collard is taken to hospital for precautionary x-rays, all at Carwitter wish Rob Collard a full and speedy recovery.
Plato wins again from Turkington with Menu, Jackson, Smith, Tordoff, Giovanardi, Jordan, Warren Scott taking his best result to date on his 45 birthday and Jack Clarke taking tenth.
Giovanardi would again, benefit from the reverse grid lottery to take pole ahead of Tordoff, Smith, Jackson and the rest. Plato will have to run soft tyres this round while most around him will not. Rob Collard, understandably will not take the start.
Drama on the green flag lap as Sam Tordoff’s MG expires on the grid dumping oil all over the 2nd place grid slot.
A short delay followed while the track was cleared followed by a second green flag lap. The race would now run for 21 laps instead of 22.
Lights out and go for the final time today.
Lap 1 Lots of dust kicked up as the cars clear the grid but Giovanardi leads from pole ahead of Jackson, Smith, Turkington, Menu and Plato. James Cole gets sideways at Becketts, Robb Holland in his Rotek Audi S3 collides with the United Autosports Toyota, Martin Depper’s Civic is also involved, safety car deployed.
James Cole and Robb Holland seem to be having a rather heated discussion about the incident, this could end up with the stewards!
Not the way Robb Holland wants his season to end, he will miss Brands Hatch but his car will be their with Tony Gilham at the wheel.
Martin Depper pits but rejoins a lap down, still the safety car is out.
Lap 6 Safety car in, 24 laps the new distance, but wait, confusion behind as Turkington gets too good a start and jumps Smith before the green flag, as Turkington drops back behind the VW, Smith’s team mate gets right on the tail of the BMW. Ahead of the confusion Jackson takes the lead from Giovanardi.
Lap 7 Smith now passes the Focus of Giovanardi for 2nd.
Lap 8 Turkington right on the tail of Giovanardi, Menu, Plato sit just behind.
Lap 9 Jordan makes it 5 champions in a row closing up on the developing battle.
Lap 10 Jackson 2 seconds clear of Smith at the front.
Lap 11 Shedden sets fastest lap and makes it 6 champs as he catches up with the battle for 3rd.Luke Hines is off at Copse, not a good race for United Autosports.
Lap 12 Turkington now finding he has to defend from Menu as he attacks Giovanardi, Plato also going defensive from Jordan into Brooklands. Further back, Neal taps Morgan’s Mercedes forcing both cars off and wide, Jack Goff makes up two places as a result.
Lap 14 The yellow flags at Copse as the Toyota is recovered has stalled the 3rd place battle a little.
Lap 16 Turkington gets a great run out of Becketts but he’s on the outside for Brooklands, Giovanardi again holds position, Morgan passes Goff for 10th.
Lap 17 Menu now having a little look at Turkington for 4th place, the champion elect holding on.
Lap 18 Turkington gets alongside Giovanardi and past into Brooklands, Giovanardi holds his line and they enter Luffield and Woodcote side by side, Menu, Plato and the rest getting a little stacked up behind, across the start finish line and Menu makes it 3 wide…
Lap 19 … Into Copse its still Giovanardi from Turkington but Menu, Plato, Jordan and Shedden are all together behind the Italian. Into Becketts, Turkington has the inside, Plato taps the BMW driver who taps the Focus as a result, down the Wellington Straight and Turkington is past, Plato has jumped both Menu and Giovanardi into 4th, Jordan and Shedden have also passed the Ford driver. Wow what lap that was!
Lap 20 Giovanardi has now dropped out of the top ten.
Lap 22 Morgan passes Shedden into Copse as the Honda driver runs very wide.
Lap 23 Jackson and Smith very comfortable and unchallenged in first and second respectively as we enter the final lap.
Lap 24 Mat Jackson takes the flag for the 2nd time this year ahead of Aron Smith, Turkington, Plato, Menu, Jordan, Shedden, Scott, Goff, Giovanardi, Neal, Clarke, Newsham and Foster.
The championship will go to Brands Hatch, Turkington leads Plato by 50 points with 67 available, it’s a big as but stranger things have happened.
BTCC. Bring on Brands Hatch.