BTCC: Donington Park 2019 Preview

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BTC Racing's Josh Cook currently leads the Drivers' standings in the 2019 British Touring Car Championship. © Ian Cutting & Prescott Motorsport

The most unpredictable series in British motorsport charges into Donington Park, for round two of the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship.

Often, the BTCC provides more questions than answers, but can the established pecking order make its mark this weekend?

Bonkers Brands Hatch

The opening round of the championship took place at Brands Hatch and didn’t really provide any serious pointers towards form for the upcoming season.

Unpredictable weather conditions in the first race meant we won’t know who has the fastest car.

Josh Cook’s decision to go on slick tyres from 10th on the grid paid off as he claimed the first win of the season.

There were further victories that afternoon for 2013 champion Andrew Jordan in his Pirtek Racing BMW and the independent Honda of Rory Butcher. For Butcher, it was his first taste of victory but he only received this success in the stewards’ room.

This was after Tom Chilton was handed a post-race time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage whilst overtaking.

Reigning champion Colin Turkington had a difficult start, as did runner-up Tom Ingram in his brand new Toyota.

2017 champion Ash Sutton also failed to make an impression despite starting on the front row of the grid.

Vauxhall’s Jason Plato didn’t trouble the scorers due to accidents and a jump-start in race one.

Now the paddock heads to Donington, where we are normally guaranteed a great weekend of bumper-to-bumper action.

Classic Memories

Matt Neal (centre) celebrates his victory at Donington Park in 1999; the first for a Independent entry in the history of the British Touring Car Championship. © PSP Images

Home to the famous 1993 European Grand Prix, Donington is still one of the most iconic circuits in British motorsport. 

However, the Derbyshire-based circuit has had to rebuild its reputation in recent years. 

The circuit organisers lost a lot money after their failure to host the British Grand Prix. They then subsequently lost the British MotoGP round to Silverstone.

It might be a short lap, but there are some fearsome corners and which cause regular contact points.

Such examples include the steep drop from Redgate, down the formidable Craner Curves into the tight Old Hairpin.

Power down the straights will also be important.

This includes the exit of Coppice, on the approach to where the old Dunlop Bridge used to be located at the final chicane.

Donington Park has given the touring car fans plenty of great memories over the years.

It was where Nigel Mansell made a dramatic impact as a guest driver in a TOCA shootout race in October 1993.

He had an unfortunate brush with Tiff Needell and made a mess of his Ford Mondeo.

Five years later, Mansell returned to BTCC in wet conditions and used his driving skills to put on a show.

Despite starting from the back of the grid, the former F1 champion finished fifth, while most of the front runners had spun off.

There was a cracking final race in 2006 where Fabrizio Giovanardi was denied Vauxhall’s 100th victory in the championship by some late braking from Colin Turkington in an MG in the final chicane.

In 1999, Matt Neal became the first independent in BTCC history to win an outright round and claim a cool £250,000 from series director Alan Gow.

And who can forget Derek Warwick’s debut in 1995 which ended with a trip into the barriers.

This lead to Murray Walker coming out with a great line:

“And he’s lost it into the gravel trap, into the tyre wall, he’s broken our camera lens! That will be six grand please Derek!”

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Form Guide

In recent years, Ingram will fancy his chances at Donington, having won in each of the last two years.

And after gaining some solid points and useful data at Brands Hatch, expect his Toyota to be near the front of the grid.

Adam Morgan enjoyed two pole positions last year and a comfortable race three victory for Ciceley Motorsport.

He’s another driver with a good record here, and would be surprising not to see him on the podium.

Having won his maiden race twenty years ago, Neal will always have fond memories of Donington and looked quick last time out.

If he stays out of trouble, he’s likely to have a say, as will his Yuasa Honda team-mate Dan Cammish, who’s been fast, but inconsistent.

And don’t count out Turkington. This has never been a BMW circuit, but he’s a class act so should be in the mix, especially in qualifying where he won’t have success ballast to hold him back.

Let’s hope for some more gripping action at a track that usually delivers, with more changeable weather possible this weekend. 

So we could be set for another round with mixed results and inspired tyre strategies.   

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