Colin Turkington took a major step towards clinching his second career BTCC title with a double victory at Rockingham Motor Speedway. The eBay Motors BMW driver won the first two races in dominant fashion, and finished fourth in the finale despite carrying the most success ballast of any driver. In race three Rob Austin led home from Alain Menu to record his first win of the season, while the Honda Yuasa Racing pair of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden endured a tough weekend.
BTCC Rockingham Review
A small and twisty track, Rockingham’s infield course has developed its own reputation as a circuit that demands a lot from the tyres. Degradation needs to be managed acutely, and as a result there is always an abundance of close racing in the latter stages. Rotek Racing’s Rob Holland summed up what it’s like to drive at such a demanding venue:
“We didn’t have much fall-off from the soft tyres. The biggest thing here is obviously that all of the guys are really close to you so it’s really getting aggressive out there – there’s no way of getting around people without pushing and shoving, so we just need to get the elbows out and push. It’ll be much better on the hard tyres than we originally thought. We’ve been having a lot more fall-off than we thought so we were surprised with that.”
The dynamic 1.94 mile circuit initially appeared to favour the MG pair of Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff, with Tordoff going quickest in practice and qualifying.
However, Turkington’s rear-wheel drive BMW thrived on the Sunday. In race one he made a quick start and got the better of Tordoff going into Turn 1, the fastest corner on the calendar. While the pair banged doors several times in the heavy braking zones at Deene and Yentwood it was Turkington who held on to record his seventh race victory of the season.
As Turkington took the spoils in Race 1, the stand out performance came from Swiss veteran Alain Menu. No-one would have believed that it was the two-time series champion’s first BTCC visit to Rockingham judging by his pace on the soft tyres: he carved his way through the field from the fifth row to earn himself a deserved fourth place finish, which was his best result of the 2014 season (until race three, at least). Plato rounded out the top-three in what was an assuring race for the MG Kx team.
Turkington backed up his race one win with another stellar drive in race two. The Northern Irishman burst ahead from pole position and left the rest of the field in his wake, with the MGs settling in behind, unable to exert any pressure. Andrew Jordan produced a remarkable late surge on soft tyres in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic, overcoming Menu and Mat Jackson to finish fourth. The result was a relief for Jordan, who has endured a torrid recent run of form following incidents at Snetterton and Knockhill that effectively put him out of contention for the title.
While Jordan was experiencing improvement, it was a day to forget for Honda Yuasa Racing. Matt Neal had a relatively quiet weekend, spending most of his time in the midfield. In addition, Gordon Shedden’s title chances were dealt a severe blow as he finished an unspectacular eighth in the first two races. He then retired on the first lap of the final race following an incident with Hunter Abbott and Marc Hynes going into Pif-Paf. The Scot’s Honda Civic Tourer had sustained terminal damage, but the damage inflicted on his championship hopes proved to be far more significant. He now lies 64 points adrift of Turkington, with his title chances all but gone.
Austin has the last word
The late afternoon sun swept over Rockingham as the final race got under way, with Alain Menu benefiting from the reversed grid to start from pole. However, his hopes of making a return to the top step of the podium were dashed just seconds into the race as crowd favourite Rob Austin charged ahead into Turn 1.
Austin kept Menu in check for the entire race (despite Menu’s decision to opt for the quicker soft tyres), but a more intense battle was brewing behind them for the final podium spot.
Andrew Jordan led a gaggle of cars for the entirety of the race, with Plato, Jackson and Collard all going bumper to bumper. Collard’s BMW looked racy in the closing stages, but couldn’t quite overhaul Jackson’s Airwaves Racing Ford, despite momentarily getting past on the approach to Brook.
But, the evening belonged to Austin. The outspoken and charismatic Audi A4 driver stormed to victory in front of the jubilant scores of spectators that had packed into the Rockingham grandstands. It formed a repeat of his maiden BTCC win the same venue a year ago, and was his first of this year’s campaign.
Menu crossed the line in second place almost three seconds behind, while Jordan held off the rest of the top-ten to complete the podium. Simon Belcher then received one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon as he saved his Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis from a last lap altercation with the speedway’s concrete wall by pirouetting a full 360 degrees following a tap from Tom Ingram.
Driver of the Day: Colin Turkington
If anyone was in doubt that Turkington could reel in his second BTCC title this year, they have now been answered. The Ulsterman delivered three championship-winning performances that place him in good stead with just six races remaining. Despite having the heaviest car in the final race he still managed to stay competitive in the fight for third, adding valuable points to his tally while title rival Shedden slipped up. Few could argue that it was the drive of a champion.
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