BTCC 2016: Oulton Park


From the depths of despair at Thruxton to the winner's step at Oulton Park: it's been quite the few weeks for Silverline Subaru Team BMR Racing in BTCC. Colin Turkington's race one victory in glorious sunshine proved the thrill of sticking it on pole the previous day was no fluke: it seems the potential that encouraged him and team-mate Jason Plato to sign for the team back in the winter is now starting to reveal itself.

Estate car wins at BTCC!
Estate car wins at BTCC!
After all the turmoil of the previous rounds, it was a pretty easy lights-to-flag victory for Turkington too, using the Levorg's rear-drive traction to see off a challenge from Sam Tordoff's West Surrey Racing BMW from the line and then even stretch out his lead by the chequered flag. Team-mate Jason Plato underlined a dream Oulton race one performance for the team by finishing third, behind Tordoff, proving this was no Levorg one-off.

Needless to say, Turkington was full of praise for the team. "This result is good for me, but it's even better for all the guys who have put in so much hard work and until now got nothing back. To give them a victory and double podium is a great reward." Perhaps ominously for the other BTCC challengers, he added: "The performance of the car has really progressed since the first three weekends; we've found the Subaru Levorg's sweet spot and the whole package is really moving forward."

If Tordoff was slightly disappointed after race one, amends were made in race two: like Turkington previously, he shot off the line and this time beat the Northern Irishman, for his own lights-to-flag victory - in doing so, becoming the ninth driver to win a 2016 BTCC race. Cue more high-fives from Alan Gow and the rest of the BTCC suits. Cue more high-fives from Subaru too though: Turkington finished second and Plato, yes, finished third again, for two double-podiums that nobody could have predicted a few weeks ago.

Sam Tordoff took the win in race two
Sam Tordoff took the win in race two
In race three, it was Matt Neal gifted pole in the reverse-grid draw. Despite having a front-wheel drive car on a rear-drive circuit, and despite starting on soft tyres that would require nursing to stay the course, he made a stellar start (the tiny hint of creep was deemed OK by the race stewards) and led into the first corner. Josh Cook's MG was second, but not for long after Neal's Honda team-mate Gordon Shedden muscled past when Cook had an almighty slide (cue a wonderful save). He was on a charge, but one tempered by the fact it was Neal up front: Shedden in a sense made it easier for Neal, giving him the breathing space to protect those tyres.

How ironic that it was a puncture that ended Shedden's race with less than two laps to go: it was caused by hitting a kerb but Neal didn't know this, so spent the final rounds easing his pace and 'hearing things' in the car. Maybe it was the chaos behind second-place Tordoff. After stoically holding off MG's Josh Cook for the entire race, things boiled over for Tom Ingram in the Speedworks Toyota. He and Cook rubbed doorhandles, Ingram scrabbled briefly onto the grass and guess who was there to pounce with an audacious move around the outside? Why, that man Jason Plato. Three races, three podiums.

Podium visits for both Turkington and Plato
Podium visits for both Turkington and Plato
Cook was clearly incandescent, giving Ingram a right old shove on the slowing down lap. It was a little bit school playground stuff, but Ingram took it. After all, this was his third Independents' victory of the day, making him the 'winningest' driver of all at Oulton. Oh, and props to Rob Collard for being the most 'overtakingest' driver of the day. Having stormed through the grid heroically three times over at Oulton he was rewarded by his efforts only in the final race, where he drove from 25th to sixth and pipped Turkington on the line by 0.041sec.

By the close, it was Sam Tordoff who took over the BTCC 2016 Drivers' Championship points lead from Matt Neal (albeit by just a single point, thanks to stealthy points-gathering by Neal), something that clearly delighted him. "I'm a bit lost for words wihow well it's gone. We came here targeting a big points haul to move up the standings, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we would do as well as we have done." Tordoff and Neal now have a healthy 25-point lead over Collard. As for the Independents, it was Ingram's day but Andrew Jordan still leads the championship, by 14 points.

Really though, the day belonged to Subaru. Thruxton was its nadir; since then, the team has fitted redesigned engine parts and components and, more significantly, carried out an intensive two-day pre-event test. All seem to have done the trick in turning the rear-wheel drive Levorg into a racewinner. Whether it will continue at the next round at Croft remains to be seen: Oulton is, remember a circuit that suits the rear-drivers. After Team BMR's unbelievably consistent performance though, there's no reason to suggest they won't be up there. For Subaru, at last it's game on.

Highlights video here.


Results:
Oulton Race 1:
1st: Colin Turkington (Team BMR Subaru)
2nd: Sam Tordoff (WSR BMW)
3rd: Jason Plato (Team BMR Subaru)

Oulton Race 2:
1st: Sam Tordoff (WSR BMW)
2nd: Colin Turkington (Team BMR Subaru)
3rd: Jason Plato (Team BMR Subaru)

Oulton Race 3:
1st: Matt Neal (Dynamics/Honda)
2nd: Sam Tordoff (WSR BMW)
3rd: Jason Plato (Team BMR Subaru)

Drivers' championship
1: Sam Tordoff (139 points)
2: Matt Neal (138 points)
3: Rob Collard (113 points)
4: Gordon Shedden (112 points)
5: Adam Morgan (108 points)

Independent drivers' championship
1: Andrew Jordan (163 points)
2: Adam Morgan (149 points)
3: Mat Jackson (145 points)
4: Tom Ingram (138 points)
5: Aron Smith (125 points)

Jack Sears Trophy for rookies
1: Ash Sutton (201 points)
2: Michael Epps (172 points)
3: Chris Smiley (146 points)
4: Matt Simpson (139 points)
5: Daniel Lloyd (94 points)

Previous rounds:
BTCC Brands Hatch Indy (rounds 1, 2, 3)
BTCC Donington (rounds 4, 5, 6)
BTCC Thruxton (rounds 7, 8, 9)

   
   

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