Team Aon totally dominated rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone taking victories in all 3, with Tom Chilton picking up a double whilst his teammate Tom Onslow-Cole took victory in the third race of...
Team Aon totally dominated rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone taking victories in all 3, with Tom Chilton picking up a double whilst his teammate Tom Onslow-Cole took victory in the third race of the day.
However it could and should have been Onslow-Cole doing all the winning as in race 1 and 2 it appeared he let his teammate through on both occasions. In the first race Onslow-Cole sheepishly claimed that, "I had one wrong gear change and that was enough for Tom to sail by," whilst in race 2 the decision was made to allow Chilton past because he had fresher tyres at the time.
The decision could prove vital in the title race and could come back to haunt the team, especially after victory in race 3 and points leader Jason Plato only finishing in 9th reducing his lead to just 14 points. How different this could have been if Onslow-Cole had been able to win races 1 and 2, although Chilton has now moved up several places in the overall standings to 5th as a result of the races from Silverstone but still 44 points away from the leading Chevrolet driver.
This proved to be the main talking point of the day and although many will criticize Team Aon for their tactics surely no one can criticize the team for their superb performance particularly after being hit with yet another restrictor after qualifying, when officials cut their boost.
Race 1 saw the two Fords lead from the start with the only real move at the front was Plato getting ahead of his Silverline Chevrolet team mate Alex MacDowall.
Onslow-Cole had looked reasonably comfortable at the front of the pack with no one really threatening any one, the main attack coming from Andrew Jordan in his Pirtek Vectra all over the back of MacDowall.
This was until Onslow-Cole's missed gear change allowed Chilton through, immediately putting Onslow-Cole under threat from Plato. Plato got alongside the Ford coming out of Luffield but the LPG power put the Ford back in front along the start/finish line.
Early championship leader Matt Neal was having a less easy race and was dicing with Airwaves BMW's. First Steven Kane dived down the inside of Neal at Brooklands, which Neal took offence to and immediately retaliated bumping Kane wide at the next corner but this only allowed the second Airwaves BMW of Mat Jackson past. Neal then tried to repass Jackson diving down the inside of the BMW at the right hander of Becketts and spun around Jackson allowing Kane to get back past Neal. Neal was to have the last laugh when he took advantage of a slide by Kane at Luffield to take 8th.
In front of the dicing pair were Rob Collard for WSR and Paul O'Neill for Sunshine.co.uk with Neal's teammate Gordon Shedden taking the final points scoring position after recovering from a huge first corner spin that put him at the back of the grid.
Race 2 saw Onslow-Cole take the lead from the start but once again Jackson's race wasn't to go well being hit into a spin by the over eager Andy Neate, which eliminated Neate with a broken steering arm. Jackson did eventually battle his way back past to take the final point down in 10th.
Jordan was one of the biggest movers after the Chevrolets dropped down at the start but his race was to come to all but an end when he had to pit from third place with a puncture.
On lap l7 for the second time of the day Onslow-Cole let Chilton past and immediately came under all sorts of pressure from Collard who barged his way past the Ford through Brooklands and into Luffield. Onslow-Cole managed to reclaim the position a few laps later but again on the final lap in similar fashion Collard manage to barge his way back past leaving Onslow-Cole far from amused.
Plato finished in 4th ahead of Neal who had a great battle with the Honda Integra of O'Neill. Neal had earlier got past O'Neill at Becketts and was putting Plato under a lot of pressure, not anticipating O'Neill to take advantage and get past the former double champion. Neal though was to fight back again with a move coming out of the last corner and winning the drag race to the line for 5th. Kane was to finish in 8th ahead of MacDowall who didn't enjoy a good start to the race and dropped from 4th to 9th during the opening few laps.
Current BTCC champion Colin Turkington, who now races in the WTCC for WSR - the team who he raced for, for many years and won the championship with - was present and drew the reverse grid pulling out number 6 which meant O'Neill was to start on pole for race 3.
O'Neill led from the start but MacDowall had stalled his Chevrolet back in 9th and he was hit by the unsighted Martin Depper. This turned MacDowall into a compact Chevrolet Cruze with Depper's Forster BMW looking like a right mess at the front following the teams superb repair job from the previous day after crashing heavily in Free Practice 2.
There was also more contact throughout the first lap first when Neal hit his long standing rival Plato into a mega slide at the first corner dropping Plato to the tail end of the field and through Becketts when an Airwaves BMW tapped Shedden into a slide.
The safety car had to come out for a few laps to recover the battered BMW of Depper and after the restart Onslow-Cole set off for the lead. O'Neill managed to hold onto the lead for a few laps before succumbing to the inevitable with Onslow-Cole passing the Techspeed Honda on the approach to Copse.
O'Neill was able to more than hold his own and then never came under threat for his second, duly taking a hugely popular second place and repeating his podium finish from Rockingham earlier in the year.
It was Chilton behind him who was to come under pressure, which he lost on lap 19 when Jackson hit the back of the Ford into Brooklands. Somehow Chilton managed to survive the attack but was to lose several places to Jackson and the two Honda's of Neal and Shedden to recover to 6th.
"What a day!" said Chilton, "Two victories from the first two races. I would have loved to have made it three podiums from three races, but in the last one Jackson's BMW had other ideas. As a result we ended the day on a lower note than we could have, but still what a brilliant day for Team Aon!"
Kane finished in 7th with James Nash being able to hold onto 8th from the recovering Plato to take his only points of the day in the sole Triple 8 Vauxhall Vectra. Behind Plato to claim the final point was MacDowall in his new Chevrolet compact!
The main incident of race 3 was a three-car tangle at Becketts when Jordan dived down the inside of Kane. The pair made contact, which sent the unlucky Jordan into a slide and collect the innocent Collard. Jordan would end up in the gravel while Collard would recover after a spin, but only to take 12th.
Other drivers out of luck in race 3 were Phil Glew, who was making a welcome return to the series in a Your Racing Car WD-40 Special Tuning NGTC powered Seat, had been running in the points before receiving a drive through penalty and John George in the second Sunshine.co.uk Honda Integra who had been running inside the top 10 until he struck engine difficulties.
The driver most out of luck of the day was Shaun Hollamby in the AmD Miltek VW Golf as he was unable to take to the grid in any of the days proceedings after an alternator belt broke during qualifying with Hollamby saying, "We just don't have the spares that we need to repair the damage here at Silverstone, but we'll regroup and be back for Knockhill in two weeks' time where the circuit will be more suited to the Golf and we'll be aiming to continue our push towards a top ten finish."
Despite missing out on the first two races of the day Onslow-Cole still managed a superb day after taking race 3 and finishing on the podium in the other two races. On top of that he managed fastest lap in all 3 races including a new lap record and reflected on the weekend which also saw him take the lead in the independents saying, "To make so much ground in one day on Jason and Matt is amazing and to be up to second and to be not so far off the lead in second feels fantastic. Snetterton two weeks ago seemed to suit the Chevrolet, here it was the turn of our car so it could be Matt's turn at Knockhill where everybody expects the Civic to be strong. With just three rounds to go things are bound to start getting tense so it will be really important to take as many points as possible and keep up the pressure."
Onslow-Cole is now in a clear second place in the championship as mentioned 14 points behind Plato with Neal dropping back to third now 23 points adrift from Plato.
There was also more good news for Team Aon/Arena with them taking the lead in both the manufacturers/Constructors championship as well as the independent teams award, but do still trail Honda Racing in the HiQ teams award but now just by 5 points.
The BTCC will next be in action in two weeks as the series goes north of the border to Scotland. This event is clearly a favourite with all concerned and Onslow-Cole finished off by saying, "Knockhill is a long haul north but when you get there it is always worth it. There is no other circuit like it in the UK and it could have been made for the BTCC. The buzz is fantastic - the public always turn out in force when the BTCC turns up, they are highly enthusiastic and knowledgeable and there's probably nowhere else where the fans can get quite so close to the action or enjoy such great views of the lap."
Motorsport.com will also be making the long haul to the event so stay tuned for all news prior and during one of the most exciting meetings during the year to see who will enter the last two weekends of the season leading the championship.