Regardless, the result put Hill top of the points pile. “I can’t honestly believe it,” he said. “We’ve had a fantastic weekend and the car has been mega. I wondered if we’d made the wrong call at the start in race three, but it just came to us after a few laps. It’s funny as when you’re building tyre heat everything is fine and comfortable, but it’s when the tyres are in the right window that you don’t really know when you can push to the limit. It was a case of letting the can dance and taking what I could from it, rather than trying to drag a result out of it.”
Spoken like the impressively mature and instinctive driver he’s fast becoming. Watch this lad.
Champions in trouble
While Cook and Hill stole the plaudits, some familiar faces suffered more mixed weekends. Let’s start with Shedden, whose triumphant return to the BTCC suffered a rather harsh reality check after just a few corners.
“I had my head in my hands, just thinking ‘oh Flash’…” was Matt Neal’s response to seeing the Civic buried in the barriers at Noble on the first lap of the season.
Gordon Shedden suffered a tough start back in the BTCC, with a race one crash setting him back. fourth in the finale was inspired, though
Having qualified a respectable eighth in a damp session, Sheds was looking to make early progress and was right in the slipstream of Ollie Jackson’s Ford entering Noble when the pack slowed marginally for Goodwood, Sheds dipped a wheel on the grass outside and was sent spinning hard to the left, collecting Smiley’s Hyundai on his way into the tyres.
That caused heavy damage to the Honda, which Dynamics managed to mostly repair in time to get the Scot back out for race two. But all was not well. Shedden struggled to make progress from the back, and could only manage 18th, and there was even a clumsy nudge on Adam Morgan into Club that sent the BMW into a spin.
Redemption would come in the finale though. Shedden was late to the grid after Dynamics identified a few issues and worked wonders to get the car better straightened out, and Shedden rewarded the team with a superb drive to fourth place. While Shedden had his issues, his team-mate Dan Rowbottom enjoyed a great start to his Dynamics career, with strong drives to seventh and fourth respectively in the opening two races. Only the tyre lottery of race three denied him a hat-trick of top 10s.
And then there’s Turkington. Thruxton traditionally has been an indifferent circuit for the BMW – its fast sweeps and lack of slow corners removing much of the traction advantage the car enjoys. A third place in qualifying was great. His tip of Sutton at Campbell not so. That earned him a 17-second penalty, demoting him from fourth on the road to 10th – behind Sutton – post-race. That was followed by a quiet drive to seventh, and then a solid sixth on wets in the finale. Not ground-breaking stuff, but it banked the sort of consistent points that always keep Turkington in the hunt later in the year.
After that disappointment in race one, Sutton almost had a nightmare in race two when he was forced to make a quick pit stop to fix a small engine issue. Fortunately, the race’s fractured nature – a long red flag and then safety car – allowed him to stay on the lead lap and he cruised his way through to ninth on full power. Victory in that tight finale put him back on track.
“We needed that,” he said after race three. “It’s not been the perfect day for us, but being only 10 points behind in the championship is all that matters.”
Not so Neate
Andy Neate copped a £2000 fine and penalty points for his part in the accident that halted race two
Having been excluded from this event last season for questionable driving, Andy Neate landed himself in hot water again for his part in the three-car accident that halted race two, and his subsequent explanation for it.
Neate had enjoyed a good start for the second race, but then slammed into the rear of Glynn Geddie’s Cupra at the apex of Allard, forcing both cars off and taking the unfortunate Jade Edwards’ Civic with them. Geddie’s car then hit the barrier and rolled across Edwards’ bonnet, causing significant damage to all three that would eventually put them all out of the running early.
While all three drivers thankfully emerged unscathed, Neate put his part in the clash down to ‘a mechanical issue’. However, due to the absence of any brake lights at the point of impact, plus the car’s data not showing any form of ‘mechanical issue’, Neate was later slapped with a £2000 fine and three penalty points for “driving in a manner incompatible with general safety, or departing from the standard of a reasonably competent driver.”
Geddie’s car in particular suffered massive damage, with Team HARD boss Tony Gilham saying: “It was completely avoidable. It’s quite clear to see what happened. We built five brand-new cars over the winter, looks like we’ll be building a sixth one now…”