With battles all through the field and several big battles at the front it was the most exciting race we’ve had so far this season.
Power Maxed racing’s Josh Cook started the race from pole. It’s only his sixth touring car race ever but he drove as if he’s been in the BTCC for years. Initially Rob Collard of WSR took the lead but Josh refused to give up and by the third lap he was back in front.
Behind the top two, Jason Plato, Andrew Jordan, Adam Morgan and Aron Smith were fighting hard for third. But just when everything seemed to be going Cook’s way, the safety car had to be scrambled on lap six after Sam Tordoff’s BMW and Jack Goff’s MG collided and went off at the Roberts chicane, the final corner of the lap. Both cars were towed out the way by a forklift allowing the race to continue. It ended a difficult weekend for Goff.
Aron Smith’s VW had got into third just before the safety car and found his way past Collard into second on the restart. He then pushed Josh Cook hard for the lead for several laps before a collision in the Craner Curves put both cars across the grass. Smith somehow re-joined in front of all but put Cook sadly dropped to fifth.
Collard was now leading but now Neal was on a charge and after making contact with Jordan he set off after Collard. He eventually squeezed through with Jordan and Shedden making it past as well. Shedden had come all the way from fourteenth on the grid to secure the final podium spot.
So it was Neal, Jordan, Shedden for the podium and despite Jordan pushing Neal hard by the end they would stay in that order but behind things were still going on. Collard held onto fourth but Aiden Moffat got past Aron Smith for fifth, having earlier passed Josh Cook. It was a very significant fifth as with all the four cars in front not entered as independants this year, fifth was enough for him to take the independent championship win and earn a place on the podium alongside the top three.
Behind sixth placed Aron Smith came Josh Cook. He got some consolation for his valiant fight as his combined finishes from the weekend earned him the Jack Sears Trophy for Rookie Drivers which he got to collect on the podium. From his expression it was obvious he would have swapped it for the win!
Jason Plato was eighth just ahead of Martin Depper in his Eurotech Honda Civic. ninth is Depper’s best ever BTCC finish. Tom Ingram was tenth in his Speedworks Toyota Avensis rounding off an up and down weekend for the young driver.
Dave Newsham had looked set for a points finish but a coming together at the final chicane with Mike Bushell saw both drivers retire. Bushell has had an awful weekend with three non finishes and he goes from leading the Jack Sears trophy down to fifth. Josh Cook is the new leader from Kieran Gallagher and Stewart Lines with Alex Martin in fourth.
Colin Turkington was hampered by success ballast this time and finished in eleventh just ahead of Adam Morgan’s Mercedes. Thirteenth was Jeff Smith unusually separated from his team mate, Depper with the two’s pace being similar. Fourteenth was Hunter Abbott salvaging something from a difficult weekend after his Saturday shunt with Jack Goff. Fifteenth was Warren Scott in his BMR VW CC.
Matt Neal goes away from Donington leading the drivers championship from Colin Turkington with Gordon Shedden in third. Andrew Jordan is now fourth and Jason Plato moves up to fifth. Former Joint leader Goff drops to sixth after his unfortunate weekend.
The next rounds are at Thruxton in Hampshire on the 9th and 10th May. Advance tickets are available from the Thruxton website.
With five different winners from six races, this year’s championship is looking like one of the most open ever. With it’s fast corners and a surface that’s hard on tyres, Thruxton always provides excitement and we look sure for another three exciting races. By Marc Waller