The BTCC second round threw up three different winners in the three race event held at Donington Park last weekend. Whilst it was a difficult weekend for Zircotec partner’s Pirtek Racing Honda it still resulted in three top five places. As the success based weight penalties started to be distributed to the other teams the Pirtek Honda started to come right back into contention despite running the whole weekend with the highest weight penalty themselves.
In qualifying the experienced Jason Plato had set the fastest ever lap around Donington by a BTCC car. After that the two times champion in his MG was always going to set an imposing target for anyone else trying to get past and so it proved in the wet conditions. In the first race Plato was leading into Redgate holding off the attentions of Colin Turkington in the BMW. From that point he was never overtaken and led the race to the chequered flag leaving the other competitors to fight it out in the rain and spray. In fact it would be true to say that Plato put in a perfect display of how to drive a racing touring car in horrifically wet racing conditions where the spray was making life very difficult for those following in his ‘wake’.
Whilst Plato motored serenely on to victory, typical BTCC non-stop action unfolded behind him. Turkington soon found himself under attack from Plato’s MG teammate Sam Tordoff and was passed. Former champion Gordon Shedden recovered from a poor start and made him way through to third but was quickly dragged into battles with Turkington, Tordoff and Rob Collard in the second ebay BMW. Meanwhile current champion Zircotec sponsored Andrew Jordan in the Pirtek Honda was battling his way through the field from 7th on the grid and was in 5th by lap 5 and entered the fray eager to make up more places. As the race entered its closing stages Jordan who had already moved into 4th pulled out a fantastic overtaking move on Turkington to gain 3rd spot. Shortly thereafter Turkington’s teammate Collard completed his misery by also going past him. The first race finished with the MG’s of Plato and Tordoff first and second with the Honda of Jordan in third.
Race two continued where race one left off and provided another MG one two, this time with the positions reversed. Again the wet conditions were more than a little tricky. Tordoff was somehow able to overtake teammate Plato around the outside into Redgate on the first lap. The horrendous conditions were soon catching out drivers throughout the field and the race featured several safety car periods. BTCC legend Alain Menu was involved in an incident that looked to be about to end in complete carnage. His VW was touched in the rear quarter causing him to veer off-piste on the climb uphill past Starkeys towards Schwantz Curve. As the pack flowed around Schwantz, the hapless Menu could do nothing as his momentum and a complete absence of any friction on the soaking wet grass saw him fire back across the middle of the track right in the centre of the bend. How they all avoided a collision was impossible to fathom. Race two finished with the two dominant MG’s first and second again with Gordon Shedden third having edged out Andrew Jordan in the latter stages who carried full weight penalty the whole meeting.
As the third race started the MGs’ success had brought with it the same weight penalties the Pirtek Racing Honda was enduring and once again threw up a change at the front of the race almost immediately.
Early in the race Andrew Jordan found himself in quite a dramatic slide causing him to lose a good few places and putting him out of contention for the win. Tordoff and Plato both started to feel the effects of the weight on their MGs quite early on and dropped backwards. Shedden, Neal and Jackson all passed them easily whilst Turkington was holding a commanding lead and looking certain to take the win. But that was before everyone noticed the increasingly faster laps of Gordon Shedden who started to catch Turkington’s BMW hand over fist. While Shedden was impressing reeling in the BMW driver Jordan was also turning in some equally stunning driving and was fighting through the field eventually taking a well earned 5th. As the final lap unfolded it went down to the chicane and a dramatic do or die move by Shedden around the outside. Turkington drifted wide forcing Shedden out onto the gravel and crucially Turkington’s manoeuvre saw him also travel across the gravel cutting the corner and Shedden just edging it over the line.
With three different winners the weight penalty system is about to shuffle the pack again in time for the next round. Jordan and the Pirtek racing Honda will only get even more competitive now that weights are evened out and we await the next round at Thruxton in two weeks time over the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of May.