eBay Motors driver Colin Turkington enjoyed a sensational double victory at Croft before a cruel retirement in race three handed Gordon Shedden the opportunity to close the gap at the top of Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship standings.
The Scotsman has kept the pressure on with a fourth place finish that followed two impressive podiums from earlier in the day. Shedden subsequently moves to within seven points of the championship summit, whilst reigning supremo Andrew Jordan also fired himself back into title contention with victory in the final frenetic showdown.
Turkington was in dominant form throughout the weekend, obliterating his own qualifying lap record by more than 1.2 seconds on Saturday before going on to score a brace of lights-to-flag victories.
The BMW driver scampered away from Honda Yuasa Racing’s Shedden in the opening two encounters, and although his Civic Tourer rival kept him honest for much of the running he eventually pulled away in both to win comfortably.
The duo were joined on the rostrum by different drivers in each contest, as MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save driver Jason Plato came third in race one whilst Shedden’s team-mate Matt Neal took an eye-catching podium in the next battle.
That’s as good as it got for the two BTCC legends, however, as Neal was excluded from the result after his Honda failed a ride height test in race two and Plato received a ten place grid penalty following contact with Alain Menu’s VW CC.
Neal’s day went from bad to worse when his Civic Tourer collided with both Rob Austin’s Audi and Warren Scott’s Vauxhall in the third race as the trio went side-by-side exiting the first corner. The incident sent all three cars off-track, and while Scott was able to continue but both Neal and Austin were forced into retirement.
The last race belonged to reigning BTCC champion Jordan. The 25-year-old endured a wretched weekend last time out at Oulton Park and Croft hadn’t proved any kinder in the first two bouts, but all that changed in an action packed finale.
Jack Goff started on pole position thanks to the reverse grid draw, and the Vauxhall Insignia driver held on initially before slight contact with the Toyota Avensis of Tom Ingram on the exit of Clervaux scuppered his chances of a maiden victory.
Pirtek Racing’s Jordan then got the jump on the Ford Focus of Fabrizio Giovanardi on the opening lap, though it wasn’t a clean manoeuvre as contact with the ‘blue oval’ machine ahead of him fired the Italian off into the barrier at Barcroft. Jordan never looked back as he went on to take the win from the eBay Motors BMW of Rob Collard, although he did receive a post-race ten place grid penalty for the next event at Snetterton for his part in the Giovanardi incident. Collard’s race wasn’t without drama either – he’s been handed a five place grid penalty next time out for his own misdemeanour with Goff.
Shedden finished third on the road but received a four second time penalty after the flag had fallen following an incident involving Mat Jackson’s Ford Focus, which subsequently promoted the latter to his second podium of the season so far.
The championship picture after another enthralling day of racing at a packed Croft circuit, which enjoyed its best BTCC attendance figure since 2001, is that Turkington heads the standings by seven points from Shedden, with Jordan a further 23 points behind. Plato and Collard maintain fourth and fifth respectively, whilst Airwaves Racing’s Jackson has leap-frogged Neal into the top six of the standings.
Colin Turkington said: “It was unfortunate we didn’t get to the finish in race three, it would have rounded off a really good day. That’s the nature of racing though – we had two issues really, the aborted start in race one coupled with the longer first gear put too much strain on the clutch. We’ll have a look at it, we’ve got this gear for the rest of the season but to smoke a brand new clutch in one weekend isn’t great. It’s still good to be leading, we’ve had a strong first half of the season and I hope we can maintain the form – it’s going to get tougher and harder as the year goes on but we’ve got a fast car now so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be competitive for the remaining races. I’m looking forward to the break – I’ll be coming back a married man, but it’s been a busy first half and I think everyone deserves a rest now!”
Gordon Shedden said: “We’ve closed the gap, but only because Colin [Turkington] didn’t finish and we can’t rely on him doing that every weekend from now until the end of the year. Actually the car I had under me was very good, especially on the soft tyres, I just couldn’t use it in the right places. I didn’t really do anything wrong, the doors just didn’t open for me to make progress. I was hustling Colin at the time he had his mechanical problem, and I would definitely have had a go at him. You never wish bad luck on anyone, but it has helped our cause. We can’t rely on that though, the BMWs have taken a big step forward in the last couple of race meetings, so we need to use the break wisely. We’ll go testing, but the thing is the car feels fantastic and compared to the other FWD cars we’re right up there. It’s testament to everyone at Team Dynamics – to build a new car and be in the hunt, scoring points and podiums is brilliant. I’ve scored points in every race this year and that’s never happened to me before. It’s consistency that’s going to win championships, and I thought this was going to be a tough weekend but we’ve seen how quickly everything can change.”
Andrew Jordan said: “It’s great to be back up there – we really needed it. Oulton Park was poor and we struggled in the first two races here, so to get a win is so important. The car’s fantastic, the boys have been working so hard and I’d have been happy with a podium, but to get the win was special. I’ve been on a bit of a downer, so it’s a great pick-up for the team and I to take this momentum forward into the break. We couldn’t quite get the balance where we needed it – sometimes the gaps open up for you and sometimes they don’t, and for the last few races they just weren’t there but we never give up at Pirtek Racing. All the talk has been about the BMWs and how strong they are, but I’m just going to keep pushing and get the best I possibly can out of the package we have. It’s going to ebb and flow all year long, but we need to stay consistent and win races whenever we can. We’re going to do some testing in the break; we’ll be busy going through data looking at where we can improve both the car and myself. We won’t stop working.”
The next stop for the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will be at Snetterton on 2/3 August.
2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Croft
1. Colin TURKINGTON (eBay Motors): 14 Laps
2. Gordon SHEDDEN (Honda Yuasa Racing): +7.478
3. Jason PLATO (MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save): +13.890
4. Rob COLLARD (eBay Motors): +14.153
5. Matt NEAL (Honda Yuasa Racing): +15.054
6. Andrew JORDAN (Pirtek Racing): +15.692
1. Colin TURKINGTON (eBay Motors): 15 Laps
2. Gordon SHEDDEN (Honda Yuasa Racing): +6.243
3. Rob COLLARD (eBay Motors): +10.430
4. Andrew JORDAN (Pirtek Racing): +18.455
5. Jason PLATO (MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save): +23.220
6. Mat JACKSON (Airwaves Racing): +24.716
1. Andrew JORDAN (Pirtek Racing): 18 Laps
2. Rob COLLARD (eBay Motors): +3.492
3. Mat JACKSON (Airwaves Racing): +18.517
4. Gordon SHEDDEN (Honda Yuasa Racing): +18.940
5. Adam MORGAN (WIX Racing): +19.179
6. Jack GOFF (RCIB Insurance Racing): +19.180
Click here for the classification from Croft.
Andrew Jordan received a one second time penalty after gaining an unfair advantage following contact with Matt Neal
Fabrizio Giovanardi was fined £500, received three penalty points and was demoted to the back of the grid for the next race after contact with Aron Smith. Airwaves Racing appealed the decision, which was later upheld, and Giovanardi will subsequently take the penalty in the opening race at Snetterton
Matt Neal was excluded from the final classification after his car failed a ride height test
Jason Plato received three penalty points and a ten place grid penalty for race three after contact with Alain Menu
Andrew Jordan received three penalty points and a ten place grid penalty, to be taken in race one at Snetterton, after contact with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Pirtek Racing has appealed the decision, which will now be held at Snetterton
Gordon Shedden received a four second time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage following contact with Mat Jackson
Martin Depper received a three second time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage following contact with Sam Tordoff
Rob Collard received a five place grid penalty, to be taken in race one at Snetterton, after contact with Jack Goff