Pat Cranham, BTCC correspondent
BTCC Knockhill Recap
As expected Knockhill brought plenty of excitement and controversy during rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship where Tom Chilton took Team Aon’s first victory in the new ‘Global’ Ford Focus, local hero Gordon Shedden took a hugely popular victory while Tom Boardman took a controversial first BTCC victory for himself and Special Tuning Racing in race 3.
However in terms of the championship it now looks certain to be a straight battle over the last 9 rounds between the two Honda Racing drivers of Shedden and Matt Neal. Shedden leads the championship by just one point after former series leader Mat Jackson had a weekend he will want to forget.
It feels great to be leading it finally, but Matt [Neal] has two titles on me and knows how to apply the pressure so it’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out.
Home crowd favourite Shedden took a win, a 3rd and a 5th and leaves an event for the first time in his career with the championship lead, “It feels great to be leading it finally, but Matt [Neal] has two titles on me and knows how to apply the pressure so it’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out. OK, we’ve built a bit of a lead now over the rest but no way is it over – there are still nine races left and a shed load of points to be won and you just have to look at poor Jackson today to see how quickly it can go wrong.”
Despite being hampered all weekend by a broken bone in his hand sustained during a martial arts accident prior to the event, Neal took two second place finishes and a 4th to break clear of the rest of the pack along with Shedden. Understandably Neal was delighted with his day’s work and said, “After the awful time I had last time out at Snetterton this was just what I needed to get back in the title hunt. But Gordon has been on great form and he really is now a very difficult driver to beat whatever the conditions. Sure, it’s all played into our hands today but we can’t rest on our laurels. There are plenty of drivers in there capable of messing it up for us.”
Jackson had led the series by 9 points heading into Knockhill, however he suffered the worst possible weekend scoring just one point for fastest lap in race 2 to leave the Scottish circuit 23 points behind Shedden. Jackson suffered a puncture in race 1 after contact with WSR driver Rob Collard while in race 2 he took a high speed trip through the gravel breaking a radiator after hitting a kerb to hard. He battled up from the back of the grid in race 3 only to hit the back of Chilton at the Hairpin again ending his race on the spot. At the end of the day a hugely disappointed Jackson reflected, “I think that’s it now, realistically. They’ve got 20-plus points on me and even though there are more than 150 available from the final nine races, I cannot see both of them giving up a lead like that. The pace of our car this weekend has been terrific but we’ve just suffered some really cruel luck. We’ll give it everything in the final three rounds – we have nothing to lose now.”
Reigning BTCC champion Jason Plato can also all but count himself out of the championship battle after being no match for the Turbo powered cars up the straights at Knockhill in his Silverline Chevrolet. Whilst in race 3 he crashed following contact by Boardman who went on to take a controversial first series win and leave Plato trailing Shedden by a massive 35points.
As for Boardman this wasn’t his only controversial moment in race 3 as when restarting behind the safety he dramatically slowed causing carnage behind with the biggest incident seeing BTCC debutant Aron Smith smash into the back of Triple 8 Racing team mate James Nash, eliminating Smith on the spot with massive front end damage whilst Nash had to pit for essential rear end repairs ending and outside of the points. For now the result stands, however it is believed that Boardman’s contact with Plato will be reviewed at Rockingham, so expect an official result to be declared then.
This contact made a big difference for Triple 8 driver Nash as he would have taken the Independent championship lead after Jackson’s disastrous weekend. Nash now trails the Airwaves Racing driver by just 5 points and while the Honda duo battle for outright honours the fight for Independent honours will be another key battle as the series draws to a close. Both Jackson’s and Nash’s team, Airwaves Racing and Triple 8 Racing respectively, are also locked in a tight battle to take the Independent teams’ award. Triple 8 Racing trails Airwaves Racing by just 1 point, although they will be hampered by Nash being the only driver at present, following Tony Gilhams departure before Knockhill and Smith’s drive only being a one-off. While Airwaves Racing have all but confirmed 3 drivers for Rockingham with Michael Caine likely to be promoted from their Porsche Cup team.
One of the stars of the weekend was clearly Frank Wrathall in his NGTC Dynojet prepared Toyota Avensis. Wrathall continued his superb pace from Snetterton where he scored Independent victory, this time scoring two outright podiums for third whilst matching his previous best of 4th in race 1. A delighted Wrathall said after his second 3rd of the day in race 3, "Wow, what a day. Fourth and then a pair of thirds. These are just brilliant results for us when you consider where we were at the start of the season. There's more to come, too. I can't wait for the rest of the season."
So that concludes the round up from Knockhill. Heading into Rockingham in under two weeks there will be 3 main battles to look out for. That of Neal and Shedden for outright honours, Jackson and Nash for the Independent trophy and that between Airwaves Racing and Triple 8 for the Independent teams’ crown. So for all your build up to the Rockingham race weekend be sure to return to Motorsport.com
Quotes provided by BTCC.net