People will be talking about the third race at last weekend's Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship event at Donington Park for quite some time to come.
It was a race that had everything: a stand-out performance from newcomer Josh Cook in his Chevrolet Cruze; a huge scrap for the lead; plenty of pushing and shoving and a stunning win for Honda Civic Type-R racer Matt Neal (even though the results have yet to be finalised because stewards are looking into early-race contact with Andrew Jordan’s MG6).
One of the key elements to keeping that race tight and action-packed is the layout of the circuit. Donington has ‘long’ and ‘short’ configurations; BTCC series boss Alan Gow says that he generally prefers the shorter circuits, and it is a philosophy that works.
Apart from a couple of exceptions, the BTCC will race on shorter configurations of circuits where there is a choice – Donington, Silverstone and Brands Hatch for example.
Gow’s theory is that a tighter circuit keeps the pack bunched up throughout the race and the spectators get to see the cars come past them more often, giving them better value for money. And that has the knock-on effect of producing fantastic racing, such as there was at Donington Park.
At Donington, the Volkswagen CCs of Jason Plato and Colin Turkington sent out a warning shot to the rest of the pack. Each won a race – the third car driven by Aron Smith so nearly won the final race until an off-track spill – and have proved that the revamped Team BMR has certainly got a handle on the car.
Honda’s Civic Type-R of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal has proved a potent weapon too, and the team has shown that the car is adept at using the soft ‘joker’ tyre that racers have to use in one of the three rounds per weekend, and also at carrying the big levels of success ballast mandated this season.
WSR runs the BMW 125i M Sport cars of Rob Collard, Andy Priaulx and Sam Tordoff and they all struggled for straight-line speed at Donington. The team’s boffins have promised a thorough overhaul of the car before the series reconvenes at Thruxton in Hampshire on 9/10 May.
Andrew Jordan and Jack Goff, racing the Triple Eight Racing MG6 machines, had mixed fortunes and Jordan was enraged to have been nerfed off track in race three when he was on course for a victory. He has nevertheless climbed to fourth in the points standings.
They will all be desperate to make a mark at Thruxton, but the level of competitiveness in the category this year means that it will be impossible for anyone to break away at the head of the standings.