The start of the season only seems like yesterday, however we are now midway through the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – with fifteen races left to decide who will take this year’s title.
The season started at a chilly Brands Hatch where teams up and down the paddock prepared for their assault on the championship. It was Jason Plato who showed the most promise in the MG KX Momentum Racing MG6, taking two out of the three possible race victories of the day, with Matt Neal securing valuable points for Honda Yuasa Racing to win the third reverse race ahead of team mate and 2012 Champion Gordon Shedden.
Brands Hatch also saw the newly formed Jack Sears Trophy competition come into action. All those drivers on track running to S2000 regulations would enter their own class championship, resulting in the driver with most wins at the end of the season to be presented with the Trophy – named after the BTCC’s first ever champion Jack Sears. AmD Tuning’s James Kaye and Addison Lee Motorbase’s Liam Griffin both shared the wins in its first weekend.
Other headline makers during the weekend came from Dave Newsham and Rob Austin, who were both involved in a heavy shunt in the final race of the day. Having spun his Speedworks Toyota Avensis coming out of Paddock, Austin tried to take avoiding measures however clipped the back sending him flying into the barriers and sustaining heavy damage to the RAR Audi A4 – however both drivers were unharmed.
The BTCC’s next stop was Donington Park, where a familiar face returned to the top step of the podium. Having made his return to the championship in 2013 with eBay Motors, 2009 Champion Colin Turkington took his first return win in the third race of the day – the first ever for the new eBay BMW 125i MSport. The sister Honda Civic’s of Gordon Shedden – who took a lights-to-flag victory from pole position – and Andrew Jordan also won their first races of the year.
In somewhat drier conditions to those experienced in 2012, Thruxton was the championship’s next stop on the calendar. The UK’s quickest circuit was Honda Racing’s territory, with Matt Neal taking two wins of the day. The first came after Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Honda suffered a puncture on the final lap, resulting in him limping over the line in eleventh. This win was also Neal’s 50th BTCC victory.
Gordon Shedden took his second victory of the year in the third and final race, leading a 1-2-3 for the Hondas, with Neal and Jordan following suit after the MG6 of Jason Plato suffered from a puncture.
Lea Wood had a successful weekend to take two wins in the Jack Sears Championship, putting him joint lead with third race JS winner Liam Griffin.
After a five week break, Oulton Park welcomed the BTCC back for the remainder of the first half of the season.
Jason Plato maintained his strong performance that had been shown over the opening rounds by taking the first two wins of the day. However, whilst running in the third race, his Triple 8 engineered MG6 spectacularly caught fire which forced him out of the race. Andrew Jordan claimed the third race victory after his leading team mate Jeff Smith in the second Pirtek Honda made a mistake with a handful of laps to go.
Sam Tordoff had had a good start to his first full BTCC season, and this was topped by taking second place in race one behind team mate Jason Plato – securing MG KX Momentum Racing’s first ever team one-two finish.
Before the summer break kicked into action, Colin Turkington wowed at Croft to take two victories for eBay Motors in the first two races of the day. The Irishman was close to taking three out of three, however had to settle for second behind a chasing Matt Neal.
Welch Motorsport’s David Nye took the second JS win – his first of the series – with class leader Lea Wood rounding out the day with his sixth win of the season.
During the six-week break, teams and drivers have all been getting to grips with improvements to their cars by taking part in testing sessions at Snetterton – including a two-day Dunlop tyre test. Other drivers also made appearances at the 20th Goodwood Festival of Speed event that took place mid-way through July.
The second half of the season kicks off at Snetterton on 3rd/4th August. By Nkki Thompson , Photos by Marc Waller