The 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship roars back into life this weekend after two weeks off following another dramatic weekend at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
Reigning champion Colin Turkington once again heads the standings going into Oulton Park, 16 points ahead of 2017 Champion Ashley Sutton. Another consistent weekend for the Team BMW man see’s him once again carrying maximum ballast into qualifying and the opening race of the weekend.
On maximum ballast last time out at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, the Northern Irishman qualified an impressive fifth before finishing race one in second place. He went on to win race two before finishing fifth in race three whilst fellow championship contender Dan Cammish suffered mechanical gremlins after winning the opening race, benefiting from Rory Butcher’s front left puncture.
Turkington has started the season in impressive fashion, winning twice and finishing no lower than 10th in any of the six opening races.
His teammate Tom Oliphant comes into his home weekend full of confidence and optimism, fresh from his first ever BTCC win at Brands Hatch, where he once again scored very well across the weekend’s three races, despite a bit of a hairy moment in the first race of the day.
“To get my first BTCC win at Brands Hatch was incredible; I’m still on a high from it now,” beamed Oliphant. “I only grew up a couple of miles from Oulton Park so I definitely consider it my home circuit, and to come here as the newest race winner and third in the points feels awesome.
“Having 48kgs of success ballast in practice and qualifying is new for me, but we’ve done most of our testing with ballast to prepare for this, so it won’t be totally alien. As a team we’ve worked so hard to get into this position, the BMW’s are as fast as any other and very reliable, and none of us want to let this go now. I think it’s going to be an interesting weekend.”
Another man who will be full of confidence heading into this weekend will be Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters driver Tom Ingram. He secured his first podium finish of the season last time out, with a second-place finish in race two, which was also followed by his first DNF of the season too.
Ingram currently sits in fourth in the driver’s Championship and will carry 42kgs into Oulton Park – where he has failed to finish on the podium in any of his previous 18 attempts. He is desperate to get rid of that statistic this weekend and hopes heading into qualifying and the first race with a slightly lighter car will make the difference.
“In recent seasons we’ve generally gone there with a decent chunk of weight inside the car, and if there’s anywhere on the calendar that you don’t want to be carrying much ballast, it’s Oulton,” he explained.
“Not only does the extra weight hurt your qualifying form due to the nature of the lap, but it’s also extremely difficult to overtake there and work your way through the field, so it can condition your whole weekend – as we know from painful experience. Three years ago, we turned up at Oulton leading the championship and scored just a single point, so in a roundabout sort of way, losing a bit of ground in race three at Brands Hatch might have been a blessing in disguise.
“It’s a unique circuit – really full-on and incredibly technical – and with every corner feeding into the next you can’t afford to make even one mistake, because it will cost you the whole way round the lap. That’s a challenge I’ve always enjoyed.
“Overall, I think we go there in good shape. We made a lot of changes over the weekend at Brands Hatch that resulted in a big step forward, and whilst we missed out on another decent points haul in the final race through no fault of our own, hopefully we’ll be able to recover some lost ground on Speedworks’ home soil.”
This weekend will also see the return to action for Power Maxed Racing, who will run only one of their Vauxhall Astra’s rather than their usual two. The team will give a number of up and coming drivers the opportunity to sample the car in the final seven rounds of the season. First up, is the ever-popular Mike Bushell who will race both at Oulton Park and Knockhill next weekend.
Bushell will also be engineering the car for the remainder of the season and also act as a driver coach too.
“PMR have proved themselves as a force to be reckoned with since they started racing in 2015, and I’m excited to be working with them this season,” said Bushell. “Martin (Broadhurst) and his team have put together a great car, as proven by multiple race wins, and I’m looking forward to both driving and engineering the car, as well as working with the great driver line up’s they are putting together. I’ve had my eye on some of the names for a while, and I think this programme gives them a unique opportunity to peddle a front running car in the world’s best racing series.”
You can catch all the races from the Touring Cars as well as the support categories live on ITV4 this Sunday.
Header image courtesy of BTCC/Jakob Ebrey
By Jordan Hollands.