The third race at Croft will mark the halfway point in the season and with it the meeting brings more changes to the grid. Firstly the Support Our Para’s Racing announced that the former Ginetta driver Max Coates would become the 4th driver to appear in the Infiniti this season while, for the first time in 2015 the grid would swell to 30 cars, as Nicolas Hamilton prepared to compete in the ex Robb Holland Audi S3 with the AMDessex team. Fingers crossed after the summer break we will have a capacity grid as Motorbase are expected back at Snetterton.
Qualifying saw Sam Tordoff take his maiden BMW pole position following his maiden BMW win last time out ahead of WSR team mate Andy Prilaux with 3rd fastest Gordon Shedden’s Yuasa Honda the only thing splitting the Gardex JCT600/IHG Rewards liveried 1 series’ of Prilaux and Rob Collard. Next up was reigning champion Colin Turkington in his BMR Racing VW CC ahead of another rear drive car as Rob Austin in his Exocet Alcosense Racing A4 scored his best qualifying effort of 2015.The Triple 8 racing MG6s of Jack Goff and Andrew Jordan rounded out the top ten split by Adam Morgan’s Wix Racing Mercedes A Class in 9th. Championship leader Jason Plato could only manage 12th in his BMR Racing VW CC one place behind team mate Aron Smith.
Tordoff led away from the pole as the rain started gently falling but it was Plato who made the early headlines by controversially starting from pit lane, although the chance of points had all but disappeared he would be on a clear track and able to put together, effectively a qualifying run to earn a decent grid spot for the 2nd race of the day. Back at the front the BMW trio dominated, Priaulx getting the better of Tordoff as the rain fell leaving the track tricky in the opening phase of the race, Collard following up in third behind his team mates but interestingly on the soft tyre, meaning WSR locked out the podium for the first time in their history.
The Works Honda pairing of Shedden and Neal followed ahead of Andrew Jordan and Colin Turkington, the latter having a last corner incident with the Speedworks Toyota of Tom Ingram who finished 8th, ahead of Morgan and Goff, the three of whom had battled frantically with Rob Austin before the Audi driver’s soft Dunlops faded, Austin eventually finished 13th.
Tordoff and Prilaux would start race 2 on the front row, with Plato’s gamble sort of paying off as the VW driver placed ahead of Shedden, Turkington and Collard, Austin had another decent lap time for 7th ahead of Ingram, Exocet Alcosense racing teammate Hunter Abbot and Aron Smith in 10th – although Smith would start from the pits following a lengthy clutch change.
The Two BMWs again led away from the chasing pack but this time the heavier Priaulx would have the VW pair of Plato and Turkington to contend with, the two passing the Guernsey man early in the contest. Tordoff took a relatively easy and unchallenged victory but team mate Collard had quite a different race number 2. Shedden had a indifferent start and dropped behind the Audi of Austin but was soon back up towards the sharp end of the field and put a great move on Collard for 5th place on lap 11 had most of the crowd track side and sofa side holding their breath as they touched while side by side. Fortunately both continued and Collard spent the remaining 6 or so tours battling to retain the position which bought both Austin and Ingram into the mix but at the flag there was no change, this was pretty much decided on the penultimate lap following a huge impact for Josh Cook in the Power Maxed Racing Help for Heroes Chevrolet Cruze which meant the corner was covered with waved yellow flags. As it was with race 1, Morgan and Goff rounded out the top 10.
The Sun was out now and well and truly shining on the WSR team as the reverse grid promoted Rob Collard to pole alongside Shedden with Turkington, Plato, Tordoff and the rest following on. At the start though the Honda got the better start, pulling out a 2 sec gap in the early stages of the race before the dreaded and expected soft tyre drop off. Collard reeled in the Honda over two laps and passed Shedden into the chicane early on the 12th lap. Behind it was a vintage touring car race 3 with plenty of action everywhere, Jordan got tagged by one of the Rob Austin Audi’s sending him into the pits with what looked like rear suspension damage, Rob Austin got caught in a pack at the hairpin and spent a good part of the race with a heavily damaged front before eventually retiring a few laps from the end, and Alex Martin in the day-glow Dextra Racing Ford Focus was in the wars and took a big hit to the tyres before bringing the car back to the pits and retirement.
Back at the front though once Collard had cleared Shedden it was a case of weather he could hang on ahead of Priaulx, the BMW driver also on the soft tyre but the rear drive car kinder to its rubber than the Honda. An epic final few corners saw some frantic defending from the Scot but the Beemer just had more grip into the final corners and saw WSR take their 3rd win of the day and second 1-2.
Turkington led team mate Plato home in 4th and 5th ahead of race 2 winner Tordoff, Ingram, Goff, Matt Neal who had a troubled couple of races further down the pack as a result of his race 1 pace in 9th with BMR Racing “boss” Warren Scott taking tenth.
Shedden now leads the championship going into the summer holiday with 195 points from Plato (185) and Neal (173)while solid results from Tordoff put him 4th with 162.
I’m guessing WSR and Gordon Shedden will be the happiest going into the summer break. See you in August!