Andy Priaulx, Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard claimed a win apiece as West Surrey Racing secured a stunning hat-trick of Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship victories at Croft today (28 June).
The weekend also included two debutants – Max Coates for Support Our Paras Racing and Nicolas Hamilton for AmDTuning.com who became the first disabled driver ever to compete in the BTCC.
WSR scored a sensational 1-2-3 finish in the opening race – becoming the first squad to do so in six years – as Priaulx led home team-mates Tordoff and Collard.
With only Gordon Shedden’s Honda preventing the BMW trio from starting Sunday’s opener in the top three positions, it didn’t take long for Collard to steal an advantage over the Civic Type R to follow his stablemates line astern through Clervaux for the first time.
Pole-sitter Tordoff led Priaulx and Collard with the Yorkshireman looking comfortable out front for much of the early running. The JCT600 with GardX-backed driver had pulled a gap of more than eight tenths of a second by the end of lap five as light rain began to fall. The defining moment came shortly after when Tordoff made a slight mistake at the chicane on the now greasy surface and Priaulx nipped through to head the field.
The rain eased almost as quickly as it had started and the three drivers settled into position for the remainder of the race. Collard dropped away into the clutches of Shedden’s Honda late on, but he held station to help the team to its first ever podium clean sweep.
Tordoff bounced back to claim a lights-to-flag victory in the second encounter as he dominated proceedings for the 15-lap duration. There would be no repeat of his race one error as he blasted the #7 BMW 125i M Sport off the line before pulling out a comfortable gap to the chasing pack.
Second placed Priaulx’s attention was taken away by the Team BMR duo of Jason Plato and Colin Turkington, who similarly had to fend off an attack from the fast-starting Collard. Plato and Turkington tag-teamed Priaux’s Team IHG Rewards car as the VWs nipped by before the former triple World Champion could generate enough heat into his Dunlop SportMaxx tyres.
Priaulx was soon up to speed as he set about hounding Plato and Turkington, but the VW pairing prevailed to complete the podium positions.
Collard joined the WSR race-winning party by taking a memorable victory in the final contest, despite initially losing the lead to Honda Yuasa Racing’s Shedden.
The pair had already clashed in the second bout when Shedden got the better of Collard in a fight for fifth, but the WSR driver would not be denied on this occasion.
There was slight contact on lap 12 as the two cars made their way round the long right hander approaching the chicane, which was enough to unsettle the leading Japanese machine. Collard looked to have completed the move and that was confirmed when Shedden bounced across the grass as he straight-lined the chicane during the squabble.
Shedden fell back towards Priaulx’s WSR BMW late on and suddenly it was the tussle for second taking centre stage. They were nose to tail on the last lap with Priaulx eventually claiming the duel as he sneaked past at the final hairpin to take second.
Team BMR’s Turkington and Plato held station for much of the final race to secure fourth and fifth respectively ahead of Tordoff’s BMW. The race two winner clinched the position late on after he made an almost carbon copy move to that of race winner Collard on Shedden, but this time it was Tordoff passing the other works Honda of Matt Neal.
Despite being shuffled down the podium order it has still been an extremely successful day for Shedden as he leads the drivers’ standings at the midway stage of the season.
The 2012 champion holds a ten point advantage over Plato, whose old rival Neal is a further 12 points back. Tordoff has benefited most from a quite brilliant weekend by firing himself into championship contention. He’s now fourth, a point ahead of Turkington and six clear of MG Triple Eight Racing’s Andrew Jordan.
Honda Yuasa Racing leads the Manufacturers/Constructors championship, while Team BMR continues to top the Teams’ order. Turkington takes over from Plato for Independent Drivers’ honours whilst two victories for Josh Cook in the Jack Sears Trophy extends his advantage.
Both aforementioned debutants enjoyed impressive weekends, making steady improvements on race day. Coates and Hamilton saved their best performances until last, finishing 20th and 22nd respectively in race three.
The BTCC now takes a six-week summer sabbatical before the contest continues at Snetterton in Norfolk on 8/9 August.
Gordon Shedden said: “I didn’t expect to see the podium this weekend – let alone on the soft tyre. There were some intense moments in the last race but it’s a good result. It’s been tough for us this weekend, but I’m sure the tide will turn in our direction at some circuits we’ve got coming up. That’s another piece of silverware for the Civic Type R – we’ve been on the rostrum at every track so far this year, which is brilliant for a brand new car. It’s so competitive this season that you’re never going to be able to win every race, but we’re in a great place going into the summer break at the top of the standings.”
Matt Neal said: “We just didn’t have the luck we needed this weekend. Fifth was a pretty decent finish in the first race and the car felt better in race two. It’s not easy to overtake around here and in race three I got up as far as seventh before the tyre performance fell away. Onwards and upwards, though; it’s still very close in the championship, and whilst I normally look forward to the summer break, I’m enjoying driving the Civic Type R so much that I just want the season to keep going right now!”