Toyota, BMW and Honda all claimed victories in the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship meeting at Snetterton.
Last season’s runner-up Tom Ingram, defending champion Colin Turkington and the impressive Rory Butcher claimed top prizes on a super day of racing.
However, that wasn’t the main narrative to some thrilling action, as the series returned from its traditional summer break.
Old rivals Ash Sutton and Jason Plato clashed while dicing for the victory honours in the reverse grid race.
Sutton came off worse in several incidents and he was livid afterwards, calling his old teammate “brainless” and “dangerous.”
Terrific Toyota shine on return
Qualifying saw a Toyota Corolla on pole position for the first time in the BTCC since 1982. Back then, it was Win Percy at Oulton Park. This time, it was Ingram who clinched the top spot.
He broke the track record to pip Dan Cammish to pole by a mere 0.002 seconds. Despite carrying maximum ballast on a circuit that doesn’t commonly suit rear-wheel drive cars, Turkington was fifth fastest.
That put him two places ahead of his main title rival, Andrew Jordan ahead of a raceday with a difference.
For Snetterton, all drivers were forced to use all three types of tyre compounds offered by Dunlop across the three races. It was the first time this would ever happen in the championship’s history.
Throughout the day, this meant a real mixture of tyre selections. However, the top four on the grid for Round 16 would all begin on the soft tyre.
Tremendous Tom controls proceedings
Ingram drove a perfect opening race to convert his pole into a dominant victory. His 11th career win saw him finish over three seconds ahead of Cammish.
He had won the reverse grid race at Donington earlier in the season, but this felt like a major breakthrough victory for the Toyota/Speedworks Motorsport alliance.
The top three on the starting grid locked out the podium positions but Sam Tordoff did benefit from good fortune for his third place.
Beaten off the line by Tom Chilton, the Motorbase driver looked clear in third until disaster struck at half-distance.
Going through Coram, he suffered a front-left puncture and went straight on across the grass and into the barriers.
It was a huge blow for Motorbase, who had topped the timesheets at the recent tyre test at the track.
Turkington drove his usually assured race to finish fourth but Jordan was right behind him, forcing his way past Plato’s Vauxhall who came sixth.
The other Motorbase entry of Ollie Jackson came home eighth. He was slightly lucky though to finish after clobbering Matt Neal on the second circuit. The contact put Neal out of the opener with steering damage.
200 BTCC podiums for BMW & WSR
Race two saw Turkington once again demonstrate his sheer class. He clinched another masterful victory and a 10th success for a BMW machine in 2019.
His rear-wheel drive start advantage helped him leap straight into second from fourth on the grid and onto Ingram’s gearbox.
Now full of success ballast after his opening victory, Ingram became something of a roadblock. Turkington, Cammish and Jordan all ganged up on him.
Eventually, it was Jordan’s bravery that opened the door for Turkington to take the lead.
Busy defending from the Pirtek Racing driver, Ingram left a gap at the turn two hairpin for Turkington to sneak through.
Later, it had become clear that there had been contact forced by the series leader but he was past and on his way to a convincing victory.
A loss of power dropped Ingram out of contention, allowing Cammish through for second, with a frustrated Jordan third.
Jackson’s improvement continued with a fine fourth place ahead of Tordoff with Plato finishing sixth again.
Turkington’s win meant the BMW/WSR combination has amassed 200 BTCC podiums now as a package since joining forces in 2007.
It is a great accomplishment for a team that always seems to strive for excellence and perfection.
Ash’s fury as Butcher profits
Chris Smiley’s BTC Racing car got pole position courtesy of the reverse grid draw. He would finish on the podium but took a backseat as one of the tastiest battles in recent BTCC memory took shape.
Plato grabbed the lead from third on the grid, pushing past Smiley at the hairpin. Sutton moved into second spot as he looked to profit from his turn to use the softer tyre compound.
Initially, the battle between the ex-teammates was hard but fair. Sutton harried Plato throughout but his lack of general straight-line speed hurt the 2017 champion.
The Subaru couldn’t get on-terms with the Vauxhall Astra and Plato showed his wily experience to hang onto his lead.
On lap five, Sutton did briefly take the lead after some superb wheel-to-wheel racing which lasted nearly half a lap. Plato’s response was to push the Subaru wide and out of the lead at Agostini bend.
More was to come. With other soft tyre trended runners coming through including Jake Hill and Butcher, Sutton realised he needed to strike.
On lap nine, he pushed himself alongside Plato onto the long back straight. Meanwhile, Butcher saw his chance and made his opportunist attack into the Esses on both.
He grabbed the lead as Plato left his braking too late, hit Sutton, spinning the Subaru around. Bruised and battered, Sutton dropped to 20th but Plato lost his podium chance too.
He was delayed by his rival’s spin, enabling the BTC Racing pair of Josh Cook and Smiley through to complete the rostrum. Plato eventually came home fifth, behind the sister Vauxhall of Rob Collard.
It was a joyous AMD Motorsport team who cheered home Butcher as he crossed the line first. It was his second win of the season but his first on the road. He’d inherited a win in the stewards’ room at Brands Hatch in April.
Jordan took a few points out of Turkington, finishing sixth to Turkington’s 10th. However, the lead at the top was extended to 34 points by the close of proceedings.
Jordan, Butcher and Cook all claimed good results to stay within touch but Turkington still looks a clear favourite for a fourth BTCC title.
The series heads back to Thruxton for its second visit of the season in a fortnight’s time.