British Touring Car Championship 2010 season in review, part 4
Following the end of Vauxhall's BTCC campaign this has been a weird season for Triple 8 who were set up in 1997 with the sole purpose of running Vauxhall in the BTCC. It was announced late that they would be entering two of their Vauxhall Vectra's with the only information at media day being they would be car 88 and 888.
Current Clio Cup Champion Phil Glew was announced shortly after that he would be piloting car number 88 but the big news at the opening meeting was the return of multiple Touring Car Champion superstar Fabrizio Giovanardi with backing from Uniq in a provisional one-race deal.
The deal came so late that Giovanardi had to renew his racing licence days before the start of the season but this did not matter as he qualified on the front row of the grid and convincingly flew to the opening two race wins of the season taking 5th in race 3 and taking an early points lead.
Glew also made a good impression of himself qualifying 9th and taking 6th and a 7th before running again well inside the top 10 in race 3 before suffering engine failure.
Surely the deal would be extended but wrong. Uniq pulled the plug claiming they were a new company to the UK and after the attention they got following Thruxton they could not meet the demand. So out went Giovanardi and Glew even though it had seemed he was in for the season with or without the Uniq deal and in was James Nash.
Nash qualified well for his first race at Rockingham in 6th but a first lap collision ended his race early. Race 2 saw him take 10th after contact with Tom Boardman while he gained a further two places to take 8th in race 3.
Nash starred even more during Brands qualifying but yet again his race was to end on the first lap after contact with Plato put him on the gravel.
Like Rockingham he battled up to take 10th after Chilton was disqualified and was running as high up as 4th in race 3 but lost out on wet tyres as the track dried to take 7th.
At Oulton he wasn't quite on the pace but at least he got past lap 1 of the first race and took 9th and 7th in races 1 and 2 with race 3 seeing him take a great 3rd place his only podium of the season with the help of the reverse grids. He continued his run of scoring in every race in which he finished the first part of the season at Croft taking a good 6th in race 1 but lost out in race 2 after contact with his team mate for the weekend, Daniel Lloyd, dropping him down the order in 13th while he also finished again out of the points in race 3 in 11th.
At Snetterton the Vectra was clearly on the pace and Nash was flying during the practice sessions ending it in 2nd. A good qualifying position was clearly on until the rain struck meaning 9th was the best he could manage.
A good 5th in race 1 though proved he had the pace to run at the front but was barged down the order in race 2 to finish 10th. This proved a great result as he now started on pole with a real chance of winning. The opening lap went like a dream getting off to a great start and leading at the end of the first lap but entering the first corner at full speed for the first time it all went wrong spinning in the cabbage field ending his race there.
Silverstone was a tough event for the ageing Vectra and a best of 8th in race 3 after two 11th place finishes Knockhill was even worse than Silverstone with Nash being hit out of race 1 by Jackson whilst in 11th which is where he would finish in race 2. In race 3 a great opening lap saw him in 4th after many cars were going off in different directions but after a safety car where the pack closed in Nash would also run through the gravel losing further places later on to again finish in 11th.
At Donington Nash was yet another driver to suffer from the mayhem at the chicane as he collected one of the plastic bollards and with it draped round the front of the Vectra he had to pit from 8th and finished 16th. He made good ground up in race 2 but later lost a few positions including a couple running through the gravel at the chicane finishing in 10th as he did in race 3.
During the last race of the season Nash enjoyed one of his most consistent races of the season. After qualifying in 7th he made good progress up to 4th but lost places but kept his composure to take 8th. He took 9th in race 3 but lost a place to Jackson after he had to take avoiding action after Jordan got it sideways but ended his season in a good way in 7th, which included overtaking champion Plato.
Over the season Nash as had several other teammates all of which have been involved with the Clio Cup. The first was 18year old Daniel Lloyd who raced Clio's last year and has spent his time in the states racing single seaters over there. After a successful test at Rockingham he was given his chance at Croft with backing from TNT post. Despite contact with Nash in race 2 dropping them both out of the points Lloyd impressed greatly taking 7th in race 1 after starting 11th with him taking more points in race 3 for 8th.
Next up was an enthusiastic Clio racer who took park at Knockhill. The BTCC was a big step up for Jeff Smith who despite taking several trips through the gravel throughout the weekend he managed to finish all 3 races with a pair of 14th's and a 15th taking two Independent points along the way.
The final driver to get a taste of the BTCC with Triple 8 was Clio front-runner Sam Tordorff.
Tordorff put in a great display during qualifying to start 8th but he dropped back during the opening few laps although probably would have scored some points if it wasn't for a rather harsh drive through penalty for using extra bits of the circuit. He finished just outside the points in 11 in race 2 before being rewarded with a single point for 10th in race 3.
One of the stars of the season was undoubtedly Paul O'Neill who continued his giant killing in his Sunshine.co.uk Honda Integra. Things started off brilliantly for fans favourite O'Neill at Thruxton with a 4th which he then went one better to take a third ending the day with a sixth.
He finished 6th and 8th at Rockingham before he went one better than he did at Thruxton taking a superb 2nd in race 3. Things were again going well in the wet at Brands taking 6th in the wet, which included several brilliant overtaking manoeuvres. He finish 4th in race 2 and was well in the hunt for the championship at this stage but mechanical failure on the warm up lap put a dent to that. Oulton Park was another weekend where mechanical issues prevented him from starting either race 1 and 2 although he did get out and score points in race 3 at his home event.
At Croft O'Neill was more pumped up and aggressive than ever before. Although he didn't quite get on the podium two 5th's and a 4th proved he has become one of the best BTCC drivers out there in ageing machinery.
Snetterton didn't quite go so well finishing race 1 in 11th while in race 2 an opening lap collision involving Tom Boardman and John George caused heavy damage and gave his team a mountain to get both cars out for race 3.
They did and he rewarded them with 8th.
At Silverstone O'Neill was back to his giant killing best after taking a 7th and 6th in races 1 and 2 he claimed his third podium and second 2nd place finish of the season with a little help from the reverse grid although he had led for a large chunk of it before being passed by the on fire that day Tom Onslow-Cole. All season O'Neill had been on a tiny budget and he feared that Knockhill could have been his last of the season. He finished race 1 in 8th while in race 2 he was running inside the top 5 until he couldn't help but take avoiding action through the gravel after Kane was spun around by Chilton and dropped him down to 10th. He made up for it in race 3 with a great drive to take a delighted 4th place.
He did make it back out for Donington although he probably wished he hadn't. His race ended early in race 1 after qualifying in 7th he was spun out of the race while although he finished the second race in 12th another DNF in race 3 made this his only pointless weekend of the season. O'Neill ended the season well at Brands finishing 9th before just missing out a podium in race 2 finishing 4th while he would also put in a good performance to finish 5th in the final race of the season. This also brought the end to the successful Honda Integra, in which Matt Neal took the title back in 2005 and 06, as now the Integra will become ineligible in the rules.
Joining O'Neill at Sunshine.co.uk was John George who continues to drive the Integra but has switched from TH Motorsport. Obviously not out there for wins enthusiastic racer George has enjoyed his battles at the tail end of the field and often kept the crowd entertained. George's highlight of the season was taking 9th at the opening race of the year at Thruxton and as the season has progressed the Guernsey man has lost his crash magnets tag and become a lot more consistent picking up 21 points in the Independents over the season becoming close to outright points on a few occasions.
Many drivers have suffered an up and down season but non-more so than Andrew Jordan. Jordan was the first driver to announce that he was to run TOCA's brand new Turbo charged NGTC engine from engine builder Swindon bolted into the car he ran last year for the works Vauxhall team this time returning to his family run Eurotech team. Although he has proved it is certainly quick it hasn't always been reliable despite this he took two superb victories.
Qualifying went brilliantly for the opening races finishing in 4th but problems throughout race day prevented Jordan finishing in the points.
Rockingham was a lot better finishing in the points in all 3 races with a 7th and 5th in races 1 and 2 narrowly missing out on a podium in race 3 with a 4th.
More trouble followed in race 1 at Brands Hatch while in the points but the car ran trouble free in the next two races to finish both races in 5th position.
Oulton Park though proved to be Jordan's toughest of the year. Mechanical trouble struck in qualifying preventing him from setting a time and they continued in race 1 after making progress from the start. Race 2 was a little better but still he could only manage 12th. The car was finally running well in race 3 until Neate, which he was rightly disqualified for, hit him out.
At Croft he maybe didn't have the pace in which he had run at before and finished the opening two races in 10th and 7th but the team transformed his car in between races 2 and 3 and with him starting on pole with the reverse grid, Jordan was able to run away with it and secure his first BTCC win of his career.
Snetterton saw Jordan take a 9th and 7th before a DNF in race 3 while at Silverstone he took 5th and 7th while in race 3 just like at Snetterton he failed to finish race 3. Knockhill was another tough weekend for Jordan not with the car but himself as he struggled through with a bad dose of food poisoning, which he picked up on the Saturday of the weekend. Despite this he managed to struggle through and secured 3 top ten finishes for 9th and a pair of 8th's. At Donington he had been on course for a good race 1 result before hitting Collard whilst unsighted at the chicane as all the bollards flew everywhere. He came back to take 9th in race 2 whilst he started on pole for race 3. He managed to cling onto the lead for a while before losing it and he also had a trip through the gravel trying to hold onto a top 5 finish eventually finishing in 6th.
At Brands he ended the season in style in an exact repeat to his weekend at Croft. After finishing races 1 and 2 in 9th and 7th he didn't quite have the front running pace. But again with the help of the reverse grid he was able to resist great pressure from Kane to take a lights to flag victory to end the season on a real high.
Tom Boardman returned to the series for the first time since driving in class B of the series the production class back in 2003. He returned driving and being run by the same team as he had run in the WTCC Independents the previous year, Special Tuning UK in a Seat Leon petrol engine. Over the season Boardman produced some great results narrowly missing out on podiums but fell away more as the season went on.
His season got off to a good start avoiding the punctures to climb from 14th to 5th at Thruxton although that was his only points at that weekend finishing 16th and 13th in the other two races. Similar to Thruxton Boardman enjoyed a fantastic race 1 at Rockingham selecting the correct tyres as the circuit dried up to take his only Independent win of the season and 4th outright. Contact with Nash eliminated him from race 2 while he was able to pick up a point in race 3 of the day. In the wet at Brands he had one of his best weekends of the year picking up points in all three races. He finished 9th and 6th in races 1 and 2 and found himself on pole for the final race of the day. He led early on, on his wet tyres but as the circuit dried he fell down the field although still managed a more than respectable 7th.
At Oulton an early off in race 1 was followed by 8th in race 2 and a front row start of race 3. After an early retirement for Alex MacDowall, Boardman found himself in the lead. He managed to keep it holding off a number of competitors for a good few laps until Neal got past. Just a few corners later and disaster was to strike with Boardman having to park the Seat by the side of the road. Another good run at Croft was to follow with him taking 6th after a non-points score in race 1. Once again in race 3 Boardman was running high up in third position. But as O'Neill made a forceful move through the pair ran wide with Boardman dropping down to 6th again and all chances of a podium lost. He scored in the first race at Snetterton in 8th but was tapped into a spin during the first lap of race 2 being collected heavily by the two Honda Integra's before finishing 11th in race 3. Next up was Silverstone where Boardman had a miserable weekend when he failed to score a point with two 12th places finished and a DNF in race 3. For Knockhill the team tried out the new NGTC engine but he was to have an even worse weekend with two retirements one which included a trip in the pits in a cloud of smoke and a disappointing 14th. The old engine was bolted back in for Donington where he took his best grid position of the season 9th and he went on to finish a good 7th although he ended the weekend with a 13th and a non-finish. He ended at Brands with a good 10th place after defending it for a good number of laps from a pair of BMW's but sadly for him like Donington he finished with a 13th and another non- finish.
At Silverstone Boardman had a teammate in the shape of Glew who had run in the opening rounds for Triple 8. Glew ran with TOCA's NGTC engine with the help form Your Racing Car and personal sponsor WD40. Glew didn't enjoy a successful weekend like he did at Thruxton failing to put in a time in qualifying due to engine trouble. He did however finish all three races with a 14th and 13th while in race 3 he had looked on course to score points until a drive through penalty put him back to 13th.
So that's the latest instalment of the season review during which we have seen how the teams and drivers have faired in the midfield in their bid to reach the podium on a regular basis. Like always in the BTCC the racing is just as fierce whether its for 1st or 15th so keep a look out for my final part of the review where will look out for those drivers towards the end of the field as they battle for those final points.