Rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship provided fantastic entertainment for the thousands of spectators in attendance at Brands Hatch this weekend (26/27 June) and the many more who watched the action live across the ITV television network.
Tom Oliphant, Tom Ingram and Adam Morgan claimed a win apiece around the tight and twisty 1.2-mile Indy layout, whilst consistency proved key for reigning champion Ash Sutton as the Laser Tools Racing star cemented his position at the top of the standings.
Team BMW’s Oliphant took a hugely impressive victory in the opening race, having made a stellar getaway from the second row of the grid, before going on to fend off three-time champion Gordon Shedden.
Halfords Racing with Cataclean’s front-row lockout immediately unravelled as pole-sitter Daniel Rowbottom bogged down off the line, while Oliphant was storming through to P1.
MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square’s Jake Hill was slightly held up by the sluggish starting Honda Civic Type R of Rowbottom, as the Infiniti Q50 of Aiden Moffat scampered through into second.
Shedden and Moffat made slight contact on lap five with the former grabbing the position through Druids, which also allowed Hill and the recovering Rowbottom to get by the Laser Tools Racing man.
Moffat was further shuffled down the order late on as the battle for the lead built towards a tense climax.
Shedden produced the fastest lap of the race as he began reeling in Oliphant’s BMW 3 Series, but it proved too little too late as the #15 car held on, despite being bulked by a backmarker on the final lap.
It was a richly deserved victory for Oliphant, the second of his BTCC career so far.
The Team Dynamics duo completed the rostrum with Rowbottom securing his first-ever podium in the BTCC after his battling drive back through the order.
A second win of the season for Ginsters EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com’s Ingram followed, further underlining his undoubted title credentials.
The Hyundai man produced a last-lap lunge to secure victory in the second bout, as long-time leader Oliphant eventually lost out during a pulsating contest.
Oliphant led for more than 26 of the 27 laps as the race one winner desperately tried to hang on with maximum ballast onboard his 330i M Sport.
A car-sized gap was left open going into Paddock Hill Bend for the final time, and the Ginsters-backed Hyundai i30N of Ingram immediately filled it. Slight contact followed with Ingram completing the pass going into Druids.
Sutton also eyed his opportunity as the Infiniti Q50 ran side-by-side with Oliphant’s BMW across the start/finish line, with the former snatching second by just 0.038s.
Adam Morgan then claimed the ninth victory of his BTCC career and the first for the new Car Gods with Ciceley Motorsport BMW 330i M Sport, as the Lancastrian led from start-to-finish in the final race at the famous Kent venue
Team HARD. with Autobrite Direct’s Jack Goff – securing a maiden rostrum for the all-new Cupra – and Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat completed the podium with the pair having swapped positions twice during the contest.
With several of the BTCC’s main contenders further down the grid and carrying significant success ballast, the reverse grid race was a relatively routine affair with Morgan, Goff and Moffat producing a hugely popular podium.
Jason Plato nearly dragged his Adrian Flux with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall into the silverware-paying positions as he attacked Moffat’s Infiniti on the approach to the chequered flag, but the Scotsman held on by just 0.012s.
Sutton now leads Ingram in the Drivers’ standings by three points, with BTC Racing’s Josh Cook in third and Team BMW’s Colin Turkington in fourth – the latter having endured a relatively dismal day in Kent.
BMW still hold sway in the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Championship, whilst Laser Tools Racing top the Teams’ order.
Independent Drivers’ honours remain with Sutton, but it’s Ginsters EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com that boasts a narrow advantage in the quest for Independent Teams’ silverware. Rowbottom extended his lead in the Jack Sears Trophy.
The BTCC now enjoys a five-week break before returning to action at Oulton Park on the weekend of 31 July/1 August.
Tom Oliphant said: “I’ve had terrible luck this year. We’ve had some great pace and I’ve loved driving the car, but I didn’t expect to win this one. I just got such a good start and then the first five laps I was in quali mode. I got the gap and just managed the tyres.
“I was just trying to control the race and not make any mistakes. Gordon [Shedden] is a very experienced racing driver and as soon as he got past and into second, I knew I was going to have to work for it in the end.
“The last two corners weren’t enjoyable, I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen. I couldn’t put myself at risk trying to overtake [Rick Parfitt] on the outside so I think as soon as he noticed I was right with him, he did move out of the way and it didn’t cost me a win so that’s absolutely fine.
“But having Gordon hunting you down for 24 laps is nerve-wracking enough! I’m just over the moon. The car’s been brilliant all weekend, so I’m really pleased to bring it home for my car crew and my engineers who did an amazing job.”
Tom Ingram said: “It was great fun; those sorts of races are just about taking your time and seeing what’s going on. Tom [Oliphant] was crazy fast! With 75kg [of success ballast] in, they’ve done a brilliant job with that car because he was hard to catch. I had half of what he had and I was struggling, really struggling. Full respect, they’ve got a very, very strong car there.
“It took me a while to catch him. I could see that the only two places I was quicker than him – coming through Clearways and then going into Paddock. I was just biding my time and trying to see where Tom was quick, where he wasn’t, where I had a little advantage. It was a bit of cat and mouse over the course of the whole lap.
“I got a fantastic run coming through Clearways on the final lap and Tom left a gap and that’s where I didn’t need a second invitation. He left plenty of room down the inside, which I didn’t need a second invitation to fill.
“Two wins in two weekends is fantastic. At some point in the middle of the week I woke up and thought ‘I fancy race two this weekend, I can see how it’s going to map out, being heavier in race one and then taking a bit of weight out for race two’, and it just worked really well.”
Adam Morgan said: “It’s amazing. When we finished qualifying yesterday we were down in P21, and to start any Sunday in 21st, you know it’s going to be a very difficult challenge. We were very lucky with the reverse grid draw and from there it was just a case of managing the race. When Aiden got behind me, I thought he was going to be all over me, but I just kept my foot down and kept it nice and smooth.
“We’re making improvements everywhere we go and just a massive thank you to Car Gods with Ciceley Motorsport. It’s our third race weekend and not only are we on the podium, we’ve got a race win for it.
“We’re itching to get to Oulton Park for the Goodyear tyre test. We had some testing early on in the season, but you’re on tracks that are ten degrees cooler, they have no rubber on them. So you can think you’ve got a good setup but then the race set-up’s just not quite right. Then you’re tweaking it through Free Practice and Qualifying. But we’re learning and progressing every time, so I think there’s a lot more to come.”
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