Pat Cranham, BTCC correspondent
Wild and Wet Thruxton does not stop Shedden from double victory; Jackson took race 1 win
MG KX Momentum Racing’s Jason Plato continues to lead the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after a double podium at Thruxton; however it was Honda Yuasa Racing’s Gordon Shedden who took a double victory for the second consecutive meeting during rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the championship.
Shedden had a nightmare start to the season with mechanical issues causing him two non scores at Brands Hatch, but last year’s runner up has since struck back taking 4 wins in 6 races by winning two races at both Donington Park and now Thruxton to trail Plato by just 4 points. Just like Donington it was Redstone Racing’s Mat Jackson who took victory in the first race of the day with all three races taking part in atrocious conditions at the Hampshire circuit.
Race 1 got underway in heavy rain with Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan on pole however his race wasn’t to last long as he hit some standing water, getting slightly sideways and made side to side contact with Plato. This sent Jordan spinning to the right, crashing into the barriers while Plato took to the grass to the left dropping him to 5th. This let Mat Jackson past to quickly build up a lead that he wasn’t to lose.
It’s been a mega weekend.
Dynojet’s Frank Wrathall briefly took 2nd in his NGTC Toyota Avensis but he was quickly passed by Dave Newsham in his ES Racing Vauxhall Vectra, who went on to take his best BTCC result to date on his BTCC debut at Thruxton. Plato fought back eventually finishing 3rd after first taking Wrathall exiting the final bit of the complex, Seagrave, on lap 5 before taking Rob Collard two laps later in the UK’s fastest corner Church, the place where he went off at 140mph during qualifying. Local man Collard had previously passed Wrathall early in the race with the pair finishing 4th and 5th.
Star of the race was clearly Shedden. After a technical issue during qualifying Shedden only started 18th and lost further ground at the start being caught up in a midfield collision dropping to the back of the field. However Shedden put all this behind him to carve his way through the field and eventually finished 6th.
The rain was getting worse through the race and was eventually stopped when Liam Griffin aquaplaned at the first corner crashing heavily on lap 10. The race was going to get started again until the recovery truck sent to recover Griffin’s Resdtone Racing Ford Focus got stuck in the mud bringing out the red flag.
Rain continued in between races 1 and 2 and it was decided that race 2 should be started behind the safety car. Once the race got underway it was Shedden who was on fire in the wet conditions, first passing Plato into the first bit of the complex, Campbell, before passing Newsham into the final chicane both in the same lap. He then quickly caught up to Mat Jackson before passing him on lap 9 heading into Campbell. By now the rain had stopped and on the drying track it was the new Next Generation models that had the advantage with their wider tyres and Plato passed Jackson up the inside into Campbell to take second.
Mat Jackson however did just fend off the Toyota of Wrathall to take the Independent win and the last step on the podium. The second Honda Yuasa Racing of Matt Neal finished 5th after only managing 9th in race 1, after his crash in qualifying meant starting race 1 in 19th place with Newsham in his S2000 Vectra slipping back to 6th.
There was also a great battle for 9th between the Team Hard Honda Civic of Tony Gilham and the recovering Jordan from the back of the grid following his first lap spin in race 1. However it was Gilham in last year’s works S2000 Honda which beat this year’s NGTC Honda by a nose crossing the line. This proved to be a crucial battle after legendary Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker pulled out number 9 on the reverse grid meaning Gilham would be on pole for race 3.
Race 3 amazingly got away in the dry however there had not long been a heavy rain shower with a huge black cloud approaching the circuit. Most had opted for wets however Newsham and Aron Smith, starting 2nd for Redstone Racing, opted for slick fronts and wet rears. This quickly proved to be the wrong choice when on the first lap once again the heavens opened. Gilham led the opening laps but quickly the two works Hondas of Shedden and Neal were behind the car Shedden used in last year’s championship. Shedden had earlier got past Neal when he made contact with Wrathall allowing the Scot past before passing Wrathall a lap later with Neal following him through.
Eventually the inevitable happened when on lap 4 Shedden got past Gilham also allowing Neal past at the same time. Afterwards the two Hondas broke clear and, apart from on lap 11 when Shedden moved over to let Neal past to give him an extra bonus point for leading a lap of the race, this was how the race stayed with Shedden taking his second victory of the day.
Gilham continued to drive superbly until on lap 6 when he locked up entering the complex crashing out of third whilst under pressure from Wrathall. Wrathall was then able to hold on to third from Plato for the remainder of the race, despite a big battle into the final chicane where, after slight contact, he was forced to cut a bit of the corner but was able to continue to hold on for his first podium of 2012.
Jordan ended his miserable day taking 5th after taking Mat Jackson on lap 10 heading into the complex. Behind the pair there was a great battle between the eBay Motors BMW of Collard and Lea Wood in his Binz Racing Vauxhall Vectra. With the pair heading into the final chicane they made contact with Collard spinning hitting the polystyrene blocks inside the middle of the chicane. Amazingly both crossed the line in the same positions with Collard suffering a rear wheel hanging off the tyre while Wood limped across the line with a massive oil slick to take 8th immediately pulling off straight after the line to discuss what had just happened.
For the second meeting running the happiest man at the end of the day following another two victories was Shedden. After securing his two victories Shedden said, “Two wins at Donington a fortnight ago and another two wins today… it’s been a mega weekend, even if qualifying didn’t go our way. The Civic’s chassis really came into its own today in the wet and round the fast corners but it’s still early days.” Despite Shedden’s two victories it was Plato who, for the third meeting running, left the event with a 4 point championship lead. Although not to win a race Plato was pleased with his days work as he continues to develop the still new MG and said, “We’ve had zero running in the wet before with the MG so to take away a big point’s haul on a rainy day is very pleasing. We’ve got a big test programme planned between now and Oulton which should really enable us to make big gains with the car.”
It’s fair to say reigning champion Neal had an up and down weekend, a point which he was quick to admit to as he has fallen 14 points behind Plato and said, “It’s been a bit of a scruffy day for me so to get on the podium in the third race was a good way to finish – and of course it’s another great result for Honda. The main thing is I’ve come away still in the hunt but it’s extremely competitive out there.”
Leading the Independent trophy is Mat Jackson although he isn’t content with that and is just focusing on the main prize after taking his second win of the season in conditions suiting the newer NGTC cars and said, “The conditions today haven’t been ideal for the Focus which runs a slightly smaller tyre compared to the Honda and MG so I’m delighted by what we’ve achieved today. It’s all about consistent scoring and not letting the others escape at this stage.”
After a hectic start to the season with 3 race meetings in 5 weeks, the championship now can catch its breath with a 5 week gap to the next event at Oulton Park on the 9th and 10th of June. So for all BTCC news and previews for that event, be sure to keep an eye to Motorsport.com with the series set to continue its incredibly close start to the season.