Team BMR took two out of three victories with the third going to Neal. Reigning champion Colin Turkington – who now lies second in the championship – took pole position on Saturday by just under a tenth of a second from Gordon Shedden. It was team-mate Jason Plato, however, who took the spoils in the opening race, wasting no time in taking the lead from third on the grid.
In race one Aron Smith failed to make the grid due to car issues while Mike Bushell was slow on the parade lap. He failed to complete any laps while Dan Welch, Simon Belcher, and Andy Wilmot retired after just three laps. In the opening laps Shedden took second from Turkington although following a lock-up for the former, the BMR driver took the position back before swiftly losing it again. Elsewhere Rob Collard enjoyed a feisty run, passing both Jack Goff and Adam Morgan in one move. Goff got his own back on the last lap – however – when he got into a drag race with Collard on the pit straight. Goff got seventh position by under a tenth of a second. Up at the front Plato beat Shedden and Turkington.
Shedden set the fastest lap in race one, giving him pole position for the second race of the day. Turkington wasted no time in getting ahead and went on to take an impressive victory by 2.5 seconds from Neal. The safety car was deployed on the second lap due to an incident involving Warren Scott and Alex Morgan. Racing quickly resumed on lap five and the fight for the final two podium spots intensified as Turkington pulled away. Adam Morgan, Neal, and Andrew Jordan were all fighting with Neal making contact with Morgan who then sent Jordan into a slide. It was eventually Neal and Morgan who secured the podium positions with fourth going to Jordan ahead of race one winner Plato.
The reverse grid meant that rookie Josh Cook would be starting on pole position for the first time. He didn’t last long in P1 as Collard made another of the rear wheel drive BMWs fast starts and took the lead. Neal once again found himself in the thick of the action, hitting Jordan as he passed and going on to win the race. MG appealed the decision to allow Neal to keep his win following the contact between the two drivers. That wasn’t the only fighting going on however. A safety car was deployed on lap seven after Goff and Sam Tordoff ended up in the tyre wall and beached in the gravel following the final chicane. This was as a result of a tap from Morgan for Goff who then collected Tordoff. On lap 11 racing resumed and excitement ensued. A. Smith found himself going wheel-to-wheel with Josh Cook who was impressing by sticking with the more experienced BTCC drivers. The pair both went off track and across the grass, narrowly avoiding contact with other cars as they returned. Aiden Moffat also got involved, with the young driver setting the fastest lap on his way to fifth having started right down the order. At the front Collard – who was running the soft tyre – struggled to hold on and dropped to fourth, while Neal and Jordan battled for the lead. Neal held on and took his second win of the season – the first driver to do so this year – with Jordan second and Shedden third. Smith and Cook eventually finished sixth and seventh, separated by just two tenths of a second.
The 2015 season launch and media day took place at Donington Park in March. On the day it was Team BMR who lead the times – Jason Plato narrowly ahead of new team-mate Colin Turkington. The team put in a strong showing at the season opener, coming away with four podiums, but also encountered some bad luck along the way. Andy Priaulx impressed on his return as he took pole position but an opening race on the soft compound tyres left him vulnerable when they wore out, meaning he failed to convert his pole into a win for West Surrey Racing.
Last year at Donington Park MG took two victories – one each for Plato and Sam Tordoff – while Shedden won race three. Plato took overall pole position during Saturday qualifying.
Donington Park Stats
Circuit Length: 1.96 miles Number of Corners: 8 Number of Laps: 16 Race Lap Record: Adam Morgan 1:10.573 (100.95mph) 2015 winners: Jason Plato, Sam Tordoff, Gordon Shedden
There is good news for the weekend ahead as the grid is set to be strengthened to 29 cars. Daniel Welch – who broke his foot just ahead of the season opener at Brands Hatch – is set to return this weekend, revealing that he has to “man up and get on with it“. He will partner team-mate Andy Wilmot who had a disappointing weekend at Brands Hatch, unable to race due to engine problems. Elsewhere Richard Hawken will make his BTCC debut after having to sit out the first round while Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing prepared their second car. His team-mate Derek Palmer came away from the opening weekend with two top twenty finishes.
After just one weekend it is close at the top of the table. Neal and Goff are tied on 37 points while Aron Smith has 36. Priaulx, Shedden, and Turkington are all within seven points of the leading pair. MG lead the manufacturers while Team BMR and A. Smith lead the team and Independents championships respectively. In the Independents Team championship it is Speedworks Motorsport at the top of the points.
Race one saw returnee Andy Priaulx line up on pole position ahead of Aron Smith, Jason Plato, and Colin Turkington. Rob Collard made one of the now familiar BMW rear wheel drive starts by moving up to second place by the first corner and pressured his team-mate – who was running the soft tyre – for the lead. He eventually took it on lap 14 and held off the Team BMR duo of Smith and Plato who joined him on the podium. Priaulx slipped down the order after his tyres lost grip and eventually finished in ninth place. There was just one retirement from the first race of the year and it was Derek Palmer in the Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing car.
Due to setting the fastest lap of race one, it was Plato who started from pole position for the second race alongside Priaulx. The Honda of Gordon Shedden got himself into second place by the third lap of the race with Prilaux dropping to third. The pair made contact late on in the race as they battled for the second and third podium positions. At the same time race leader Plato – who had a comfortable lead – went off track with a suspected puncture. Martin Depper was unlucky to get caught up in Warren Scott’s incident after the Team BMR driver lost control of his car and slid across the track. It wasn’t the best race for Scott’s team as Smith made contact with Goff and dropped down the order. Shedden took the eventual victory by just four hundredths of a second from Priaulx. 2014 champion Turkington finished the race in third.
After finishing tenth in the second race it was down to Rob Austin to pick the number for the reverse grid. He picked his own number meaning the grid would be reversed from tenth. Austin started from pole alongside Goff with Neal and Sam Tordoff just behind. Race one winner Collard started from 16th with race two winner Shedden in tenth. Neal got into second in the opening corner while Collard spun off into the gravel. A safety car was instantly deployed while Kieran Gallagher, Palmer, Stewart Lines, and Plato got caught up together at Druids. Gallagher and Lines made contact, sending them both into spins while Palmer and Plato got caught up due to having nowhere else to go. Josh Cook pulled off at the side of the track while the safety car was still out while Scott pitted. Shedden and Aiden Moffat also returned to the pit-lane. The race restarted on lap seven and the race distance was increased to 27 laps. In the last ten laps of the race the top three were separated by very little – Austin leading Neal and Goff. Neal took the lead on the 21st lap with Austin also finding himself under pressure from Goff. Andrew Jordan also joined the battle but the MG driver picked up a puncture, entering the pits after contact with Austin. Goff was flashing his lights at Neal as he tried to find a way past into the lead but it was the Honda driver – in his 25th BTCC season – who eventually won. Goff was second with Smith in third.
Andy Priaulx will start the first race of the 2015 British Touring Car Championship from pole position.
The West Surrey Racing driver – whose last pole position in the series was also his last appearance back in 2002 – ended the qualifying session just six hundredths faster than lead Team BMR driver Aron Smith.
It was a positive session for Team BMR with new recruits Jason Plato and Colin Turkington lining up on the second row of the grid. They were separated by just one thousandth of a second continuing the close pace they showed at media day. It wasn’t just the team-mates who were close as the top twenty on the grid were separated by just over a second.
Rob Collard and Jack Goff will start tomorrow’s first race from the third row, ahead of Gordon Shedden, Sam Tordoff, Tom Ingram, and Andrew Jordan. Next up will be Matt Neal, Adam Morgan, Rob Austin, Dave Newsham, Aiden Moffat, and Hunter Abbott. Returning driver Jeff Smith will start alongside leading rookie Mike Bushell, who in turn is ahead of Martin Depper, Josh Cook, Alex Martin, Simon Belcher, Stewart Lines, Derek Palmer, Kieran Gallagher and Andy Wilmot.
Richard Hawken is missing from the action this weekend due to Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing running into technical problems with their second car. Palmer will be their sole representative in the opening weekend of running. Joining Hawken on the sidelines is Dan Welch who broke his foot on Wednesday while preparing the team truck.
Three races will take place tomorrow with the grid for race two decided by race one fastest laps. The grid for race one: