Trio of winners at Donington Park

Matt Neal maintained his championship lead following an eventful three races at Donington Park.

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 action continues in two weeks when the championship travels to Thruxton on 9th and 10th of May.

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2015: BTCC – Donington Park Results

Names in bold indicate fastest lap

Race 1

  1. Jason Plato
  2. Gordon Shedden
  3. Colin Turkington
  4. Andrew Jordan
  5. Sam Tordoff
  6. Dave Newsham
  7. Jack Goff
  8. Rob Collard
  9. Adam Morgan
  10. Rob Austin
  11. Warren Scott
  12. Andy Priaulx
  13. Josh Cook
  14. Jeff Smith
  15. Martin Depper
  16. Tom Ingram
  17. Matt Neal
  18. Aiden Moffat
  19. Hunter Abbott
  20. Alex Martin
  21. Kieran Gallagher
  22. Derek Palmer
  23. Richard Hawken

Not classified

Andy Wilmot
Simon Belcher
Dan Welch
Mike Bushell

Race 2

  1. Colin Turkington
  2. Matt Neal
  3. Adam Morgan
  4. Andrew Jordan
  5. Jason Plato
  6. Rob Collard
  7. Josh Cook
  8. Jack Goff
  9. Sam Tordoff
  10. Andy Priaulx
  11. Dave Newsham
  12. Aron Smith
  13. Tom Ingram
  14. Gordon Shedden
  15. Jeff Smith
  16. Aiden Moffat
  17. Hunter Abbott
  18. Rob Austin
  19. Martin Depper
  20. Kieran Gallagher
  21. Simon Belcher
  22. Stewart Lines
  23. Alex Martin
  24. Richard Haken

Not Classified

Mike Bushell
Dan Welch
Warren Scott

Race 3

  1. Matt Neal
  2. Andrew Jordan
  3. Gordon Shedden
  4. Rob Collard
  5. Aiden Moffat 
  6. Aron Smith
  7. Josh Cook
  8. Jason Plato
  9. Martin Depper
  10. Tom Ingram
  11. Colin Turkington
  12. Adam Morgan
  13. Jeff Smith
  14. Hunter Abbott
  15. Warren Scott
  16. Simon Belcher
  17. Stewart Lines
  18. Kieran Gallagher
  19. Alex Martin
  20. Richard Hawken

Not classified 

Mike Bushell
Rob Austin
Dave Newsham
Andy Priaulx
Sam Tordoff
Jack Goff

2015: BTCC – Donington Park Preview

The British Touring Car Championship continues this weekend with the action moving on from Brands Hatch to Donington Park.

The BTCC returned on the Brands Hatch Indy a fortnight ago on a weekend which saw Rob Collard, Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal pick up a win apiece. It was a great start to the year for the Honda Yuasa Racing team who only revealed they would be running a brand new Honda Civic Type R a few weeks before the start of the season. The results saw Neal – along with MG’s Jack Goff – leave the weekend at the top of the championship table.

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.

Neal and Goff lead British Touring Car Championship after first weekend

Matt Neal and Jack Goff have taken the early lead in the 2015 British Touring Car Championship. Neal won the third and final race of the day while a string of solid points finishes saw Goff tie with the Honda driver at the top of the championship after the first weekend of action.

Final podium
Aron Smith, Matt Neal and Jack Goff spray champagne following the final race of the day © Matt Roberts

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.

Final podium
Aron Smith, Matt Neal and Jack Goff on the podium following race three © Matt Roberts

2015: BTCC – Brands Hatch Indy Results

Race One

  1. Rob Collard
  2. Aron Smith
  3. Jason Plato
  4. Jack Goff
  5. Colin Turkington
  6. Gordon Shedden
  7. Andrew Jordan
  8. Matt Neal
  9. Andy Priaulx
  10. Tom Ingram
  11. Adam Morgan
  12. Aiden Moffat
  13. Josh Cook
  14. Rob Austin
  15. Sam Tordoff
  16. Martin Depper
  17. Dave Newsham
  18. Hunter Abbott
  19. Jeff Smith
  20. Simon Belcher
  21. Mike Bushell
  22. Warren Scott
  23. Alex Martin
  24. Kieran Gallagher
  25. Stewart Lines

Not Classified

Derek Palmer

Race Two

  1. Gordon Shedden
  2. Andy Priaulx
  3. Colin Turkington
  4. Adam Morgan
  5. Andrew Jordan
  6. Tom Ingram
  7. Sam Tordoff
  8. Matt Neal
  9. Jack Goff
  10. Rob Austin
  11. Hunter Abbott
  12. Aron Smith
  13. Aiden Moffat
  14. Josh Cook
  15. Dave Newsham
  16. Rob Collard
  17. Mike Bushell
  18. Alex Martin
  19. Simon Belcher
  20. Derek Palmer
  21. Stewart Lines
  22. Kieran Gallagher
  23. Jeff Smith

Not Classified

Jason Plato
Warren Scott
Martin Depper

Race Three

  1. Matt Neal
  2. Jack Goff
  3. Aron Smith
  4. Sam Tordoff
  5. Rob Austin
  6. Tom Ingram
  7. Adam Morgan
  8. Andy Priaulx
  9. Dave Newsham
  10. Hunter Abbott
  11. Mike Bushell
  12. Colin Turkington
  13. Martin Depper
  14. Jeff Smith
  15. Simon Belcher
  16. Jason Plato
  17. Stewart Lines
  18. Derek Palmer
  19. Andrew Jordan
  20. Kieran Gallagher

Not Classified

Alex Martin
Gordon Shedden
Aiden Moffat
Warren Scott
Josh Cook
Rob Collard

Bold name indicates fastest lap

Jason Plato tops Media Day times

Jason Plato set the fastest time at today’s British Touring Car media day. It was the first opportunity for the teams to all come together and they took the opportunity to test their cars around the Donington Park circuit.

A 32 car grid was confirmed for the 2015 season as the championship embarks on its second year of full NGTC regulations. Not all drivers will appear at the start of the season, however. Nicolas Hamilton is set to make his debut – albeit as a guest competitor and therefore not eligible for points – at Croft while Motorbase have chosen to sit out the first half of the season as well. They will make their debut at Croft with Mat Jackson and James Cole.

Over the winter season there have been a number of driver moves. Reigning champion Colin Turkington has made the move to Team BMR along with Jason Plato. Andrew Jordan has moved from the family run Eurotech team to MG 888, being joined by Jack Goff. Sam Tordoff has made the move from MG to WSR – racing under the Team JCT600 with GardX banner – alongside existing driver Rob Collard. Returnee Andy Priaulx will also race for the team under the banner Team IHG Rewards Club. WSR will be entered in the championship as a manufacturer/constructor. Elsewhere there is stability with Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden remaining at Honda Yuasa Racing, with the team only recently confirming they will be racing a Honda Civic Type R.

There are a few changes to the rules for this year. They include an increase in success ballast. This will be applied to drivers in the first and second races in the following amounts:

  • 1st – 75kgs
  • 2nd – 66kgs
  • 3rd – 57kgs
  • 4th – 48kgs
  • 5th – 39kgs
  • 6th – 33 kgs
  • 7th – 27kgs
  • 8th – 21kgs
  • 9th – 15kgs
  • 10th – 9 kgs

Another change will see the Race 2 grid decided by fastest laps in Race 1. Previously the grid order for the second race had been decided by finishing positions. Now it will be determined by each drivers fastest lap in Race 1. If a driver changes one or more tyres of the same type, then any quicker lap time after the tyre change will not be counted. If more than one driver sets the same lap time then whoever set the time first will go ahead on the grid. Only drivers who finish the race will be placed in accordance to their fastest lap while drivers who fail to finish will be lined up after all the finishers. Another change will see rookies – of which there are eight – competing for the Jack Sears Trophy.

Times in testing were close as Plato just edged his new team-mate by six thousandths of a second. The times were as follows:

  1. Jason Plato – 1:10.249 – 45 laps
  2. Colin Turkington – 1:10.255 – 62 laps
  3. Aiden Moffat – 1:10.300 – 40 laps
  4. Adam Morgan – 1:10.304 – 52 laps
  5. Jack Goff – 1:10.380 – 65 laps
  6. Andrew Jordan – 1:10.625 – 54 laps
  7. Hunter Abbott – 1:10.794 – 62 laps
  8. Warren Scott – 1:10.829 – 68 laps
  9. Martin Depper – 1:10.928 – 60 laps
  10. Sam Tordoff – 1:10.985 – 58 laps
  11. Dave Newsham – 1:11.099 – 53 laps
  12. Matt Neal – 1:11.135 – 35 laps
  13. Jeff Smith – 1:11.252 – 52 laps
  14. Rob Austin – 1:11.260 – 40 laps
  15. Josh Cook – 1:11.289 – 32 laps
  16. Rob Collard – 1:11.391 – 55 laps
  17. Mike Bushell – 1:11.523 – 44 laps
  18. Gordon Shedden – 1:11.796 – 11 laps
  19. Alex Martin – 1:12.308 – 41 laps
  20. Simon Belcher – 1:12.726 – 51 laps
  21. Andy Priaulx – 1:14.190 – 22 laps
  22. Stewart Lines – 1:15.718 – 53 laps
  23. Andy Wilmot – 1:16.040 – 19 laps
  24. Tom Ingram – 1:21.949 – 3 laps
  25. Aron Smith – 1:22.029 – 3 laps

The season kicks off on Easter weekend (4th & 5th April) on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.

First timer reviews of Autosport International

A month ago I travelled to the Autosport International Show in Birmingham for the first ever time. Having wanted to attend for a number of years I was thrilled when I was selected as an official blogger for the event. I travelled from Northern Ireland, flying in on the Friday and heading home on Monday – giving me two full days to take the show in.

I attended with my other half who has been to the show before but as an exhibitor so it would also be his first time to see everything properly and in a relaxed manner. I had heard plenty of times before that the space was vast but I was not prepared for what I saw when I arrived. There is so much to see and do that it is hard to know where to go first. We decided to do an initial walkabout – get our bearings and an idea of what was on show – before stopping at stands to look at them properly. While this was a good idea in theory we were soon slowed down not long after we started after discovering a number of motorsport merchandise stands close to the entrance we had come in. After we had eyed up some items which we planned to return at a later time to purchase, we got back to our plan of wandering around just to see what was what.

There is so much on show at Autosport International including the aforementioned merchandise, as well as auto, engineering, and racing displays. It was interesting to hear the likes of David Coulthard and Allan McNish offer their views on the past F1 season, as well as enjoying the banter between the British Touring Car drivers. At the start of the day I collected the schedule sheets for who would be on the Autosport and F1 Racing stages and when from the media centre, and this allowed us to plan our day around who we wanted to see talking. There were also autograph sessions throughout the two days but I will admit I only attended two. One of them was at the Dunlop BTCC stand where I got all the touring car drivers in one fell swoop including Dave Newsham, Tom Ingram, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan. The second was at the very end of the Sunday, just before I left, with Petter Solberg. Really, the reason I did not attend many of the autograph sessions was the queues. I didn’t mind if I got the autographs or not so to me I felt I would rather be walking around than standing in a queue for 45 minutes.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable time at Autosport International. There was so much more than I actually expected to be there. I made a couple of purchases at some of the stands as well as picking up a lot of literature about some of the exhibitors. While there I also signed up to Project Brabham, an innovative idea which allows fans to get closer to racing action as Brabham Racing return to the track. My visit to Autosport International wasn’t complete without attending the Live Action Arena which was loud and exhilarating. As anyone who has attended a live motorsport event will tell you, you cannot beat the smell of burning rubber and fuel and the sound of tyres squealing and the Live Action Arena did not disappoint.

People travel from all over the country – and other countries! – to attend Autosport International, Europe’s largest indoor pre-season motorsport event. Here are just some of the things other first time visitors thought of the show.

It was “awesome!” and “well-organised”

Andy – who attended the show with his seven year old daughter – explained that the show is “an eclectic mix of stands, people and personalities from enthusiasts to World Champions across all sorts of motorsport”.

Fellow first time visitor Charlotte was impressed with how well-organised and well put-together the whole show was: “High quality supplementary materials such as the paddock pass and high quality signage around the event meant the show felt extremely professional and well worth the ticket price. The mix of exhibitors and stands was also a bonus!”

Accessible stars

Andy had the opportunity to meet David Brabham and discuss Project Brabham which aims to bring the historic name back to racing, starting with WEC. This opportunity may not have been possible otherwise.

Charlotte also enjoyed this aspect: “We stumbled across Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal who were kind enough to chat with us and let us take pictures with them. Meeting motorsport celebrities is good enough, but the fact they’re so grounded and genuinely nice guys is great!”

Social side

Alex travelled to the show by car from London on the Thursday and explained that his highlight was all about the social side. “I was meeting a number of people I am connected with through Twitter,” he revealed. “I would [return in the future] but more for networking than anything.”

Autosport International is certainly a great place for networking. It brings everybody together under one roof giving visitors the opportunity to meet up with people they have maybe only interacted with online. It also allows people to meet other people in their field of work – for example – if you are exhibiting or wanted to know something in particular about a certain topic. The access to thousands of like minded people is certainly not something you can experience on a day-to-day basis.

“Exceeded expectations”

As I mentioned at the start of the post it is hard to know what to expect before attending the show.

“During the run-up I had seen pictures on Facebook of the exhibitions being set up which got me really excited,” Charlotte explained. “Somehow even then my expectations weren’t high enough. What we saw and experienced on the day was above and beyond what I had anticipated. Yes, stationary cars were everywhere, but I’ve never seen such a variety, and if anyone thinks it’s just about the cars they’re quite wrong!”

For Andy, everything was “bigger, better and – in the live arena – louder” than he had expected.

Alex found the show “interesting”. “I am not interested in the engineering side of things but had a wander around there and was impressed at the amount of different, niche things on display,” he revealed. “I’m actually not too bothered about motorsport (beyond F1 and the occasional track day) so much of the stuff there wasn’t massively interesting to me but I still spent a long time looking around.”

Live Action Arena

One of the unique features of Autosport International is the Live Action Arena which features displays from stock cars to Rallycross, and drift champions to monster trucks. This year there was also taxi racing, and a stunt display by Terry Grant and WRC and World RX champion Petter Solberg.

Jens travelled from Germany for the show although it was not technically his first time, having first visited back in 1999. His highlight was the Live Action Arena. “HotRods and Stockcars are just awesome,” he said. “[My] highlight was the performance of the Oval Racing Series in the Live Action Arena!”

“I have been to a few car shows over the years and I find they all tend to be similar,” Alex – who just attended on the Thursday – explained. “I like the fact this one has the live element and would make an effort to catch that if I return.”

“It’s difficult to choose just one, so many aspects of the day will stand out for a long time,” Charlotte explained. “The live action show was a real highlight introducing us to many racing series we’d heard of but never had a chance to see in person – the stunt driving displays were everything anyone could want from a performance show.”

Other thoughts

While the Autosport International Show is certainly impressive, because there is so much to see and do, it may become repetitive.

In the past, Autosport has featured Formula One car launches and drivers such as Jenson Button, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil have been guests in the past. Obviously they have other commitments, but this year’s show distinctly lacked in current F1 drivers. This left some visitors, such as Darren (who has been twice before) disappointed.  “In previous years there have been current F1 drivers, legends of the sport and autograph sessions constantly throughout the day, but this year even though DC was a headline name, there wasn’t the same number of stars to see,” Darren explained. “I appreciate Autosport would’ve done everything they could to get more names, but it did leave me disappointed.”

He also went on to say that while the Live Action Arena was impressive it left him wanting more. This links in to the idea of things becoming repetitive if you see them every year as it is undoubtedly increasingly difficult to introduce new displays that people have not seen before.

While the focus is featured largely on Formula One and the British Touring Car Championship, some felt that further emphasis on other racing series such as WEC and Formula E – which is an emerging championship so may be more heavily featured in the future – would enhance the show.

Returning in 2016

Some people are already making plans to return next year. “We plan to arrive even earlier to make sure we can get round and see as much as possible,” Charlotte said. Jens added: “[I would] love to return in the future, maybe I will drop our German Motorshow in Essen in favour of the Autosport Show.”

The 2016 show will be held a weekend later, from the 14th – 17th of January. Let the countdown begin!