The BTCC’s second visit to Thruxton produced a trio of exciting, eventful races as Last Lap finds out who gained and lost from the weekend.
Many drivers made the most of this weekend to come out as ‘winners’ in their respect, and vice versa for those who were not so lucky.
Last Lap picks four from each side of the matter…
Winner – Jake Hill
MB Motorsport’s star driver took on an impressive points haulage at the weekend.
But most notable from him was the pace extracted and asserted from his Ford Focus ST.
He looked positive in Free Practice, so to say, but qualifying was where it took a stance. Hill was just under 0.086s from Dan Rowbottom’s qualifying time.
It only looked up from his front-row start when he fantastically fended off Tom Oliphant in the BMW to finish exactly where he started.
The pace was well-extracted to keep off the strong contenders like Josh ‘King of Thruxton’ Cook, even if Hill lost a few positions in the second race.
He kept cool during the final race due to the three safety cars interrupting Thruxton’s usual swift running and claimed another top-five finish.
Most crucially, he asserted consistency from Knockhill despite that day ending in a DNF.
We have the likes of Colin Turkington simply struggling to cope with the weight ballast this season when he sees the front, but that has not affected Jake Hill to put him fourth in the standings.
Loser – Jade Edwards
Just as her maiden full-time BTCC campaign was starting to look positive after 19th in qualifying, her day ended in the worst possible.
An unfortunate phase of déjà vu put her into the tyre barrier at Turn 1 yet again, this time by the works of Gordon Shedden.
The day had not gone swimmingly due to her losing spots in the opening two races, but the third was the nail in the coffin at Thruxton.
With a storm of online negative hate to Andy Neate when that accident happened at the opener, it is fair to not state any blame in the more recent crash.
It looked like a racing incident as Shedden had a strong getaway but a slightly clumsy entry into the first corner, kicking a flick of oversteer, sent them both into the wall and out of the race.
Edwards will look to Croft to recover and retrieve the pace she started to bring in qualifying.
Winner – Ash Sutton
The two-time champion already stamped his title-defence intentions at the season opener, but he put on a signature performance that still left him top of the standings by 30 points.
Consistency is key in the BTCC and the weight ballast measures attempt to counteract this philosophy.
He’d left Knockhill after demonstrating one of his classic charges up the field albeit at a circuit that is tight, narrow and favours his rear-wheel drive saloon package.
As the championship leader, he carried the maximum 75 kg of ballast which made his seventh-placed qualification look impressive, so the target was to keep as much as he could.
Despite the weight, he finished two places high (indeed Rowbottom’s start was a helper to gain one spot), but this does not diminish his ability to get the weight working for him to maneuver Thruxton’s high-speed bends.
In less than four laps during the second race, he was already upfront in P2 after some three-wide action.
Josh Cook had just collected a win earlier in the day, so the ballast took its toll on the Honda Civic lapping more than four-tenths slower than a chasing Infiniti Q50.
On Lap 11 out of 16, he conducted an overlap on Cook at the chicane to gain a better exit and passed him on the start/finish straight.
His outgoing 13-point lead on Tom Ingram increased to 30 points after Thruxton, crowning him the best winner on this list.
Loser – Team HARD Racing
It hurts to put a team with four entries onto this list, but they were amongst the worst to emerge from this weekend.
Pace was a mere dream but other circumstances hindered their efforts like Aron Taylor-Smith encountering mechanical issues, and both he and Nicolas Hamilton going off-track.
Both Jacks struggled to put down their pace, Goff unable to put down one of his points-pursuing performances this weekend. And Mitchell found difficulty with the Cupra Leon’s balance on his first race at Thruxton since the 2014 Ginetta Junior Championship.
More on Taylor-Smith’s woes, it was misery in all three races: A puncture, followed by a driveshaft failure on the formation lap, and finally contact with another competitor which caused overheating and a trip to the pits.
A difficult weekend at Knockhill puts them further back on the drivers’ and independents’ standings after what looked like a strong run for the new Cupra – and still can be.
Croft will be a place with redemption in mind for Team HARD Racing.
Winner – Adam Morgan
From the moment Ciceley Motorsport turned to the contemporary BMW, success has turned their way mainly thanks to Adam Morgan – and it was precisely that yet again at Thruxton.
He continued a string of good qualification performances to definitively outpace my expectations of the team and how they would acclimatise with a new, seemingly championship-worthy car.
Morgan demonstrated a strong turn of pace on Sunday as the car showcased his abilities to keep top names like Colin Turkington and Senna Proctor at bay.
Race 3 was his highlight of the weekend.
Some may argue his pole-position granted by the traditional reverse grid draw already put him a winning place, but the disruption that followed diminished his chances of running away at the front. This meant he was being pursued by Turkington.
At the first restart on Lap 6, Adam Morgan had cleverly chosen a spot after the chicane to kickstart the field again in order to prevent a risk of costly wheelspin on exit.
However, it could be seen as a dubious place to do such a thing so close to the start with an initial acceleration followed by a harsher quickenning.
Was it an odd thing to do? Yes, because of the scramble it caused behind in the midfield as drivers were racing nearly side-by-side before the finishing line.
But it was not illegal; it was everyone else who were simply taken by surprise.
Nevertheless, he outperformed a works BMW and moved from 10th to 6th in the standings.
Loser – Aiden Moffat
He finds himself on the list due to his underwhelming weekend as a whole.
Whilst Moffat is not quite on Ash Sutton’s pace, he is capable of the pace to run in the upper midfield as he’s shown thus far in the season, with the Infiniti Q50.
Knockhill was a good example of this but he was not able to bring in the momentum like Sutton to score a mediocre series of points finishes.
Sutton needs Moffat close-by to fend off people like Turkington, Josh Cook and so on…
Instead, he was hanging around the middle of the field and struggled to push his way up.
It feels harsh to put him as a loser, but his usual running in the top-10 is a mark of his true pace and that weekend was not the best from him.
In the opening race, he did not place high enough to score points.
And for the other two races, he barely ticked over any points – crucially damaging when in a close points margin to the others in the standings.
Winner – Rory Butcher
This Scotsman did his wonders again to carry the Speedworks name in the upper order, making life hard for them – particularly Tom Ingram.
The way he handled the Corolla GR Sport on Sunday was a joy to watch, almost Sutton-like in the sense he is truly acclimatised with his new-for-2021 car.
Amongst the various battles he got himself into, seeing him use the Corolla’s traction on the exit of the chicane was a marvel in the sense it made life harder for those wishing to overtake him.
In Race 2, him and Ingram had a thrilling battle.
Ingram knows the Corolla package more than anyone else, but it was being driven by Rory Butcher who has already impressed with his adaptability to his new car.
Side-by-side racing put the duel on edge and Butcher was doing his most to ensure Ingram did not make his way past.
Butcher may not be in the upfront title fight currently, but he has shown no sympathy to give anyone a free pass.
Ingram knew how to use the Hyundai to get closer as seen in the way he positioned himself during the flat-out last sector before the Club chicane.
He did dive past into that chicane, but Ingram had put himself for a bad entry where he would understeer slightly off the circuit – he still kept ahead right till the final corner.
Frustratingly, the Hyundai driver had a front-left puncture just metres before the finish.
Butcher did a great job making life hard for Ingram and doing so lap-after-lap in relentless style.
Loser – Team Dynamics
For a team who underperformed at Knockhill, Thruxton was anything but an ideal weekend on both Honda Civic Type Rs.
‘Flash’ needed to get back up the sharp end of the field with no podiums at the very least since his comeback.
He struggled to put down the capable pace of the Honda during the first race, finishing in a poor 13th spot.
However, the mechanical issues plagued him for the second race, and we all know what happened in the third.
🎥 BTCC on ITV4 | Race 3 LIVE: We're underway with the final race of the day from Thruxton. And a bad start for @gordonshedden
— BTCC (@BTCC) August 29, 2021
As mentioned earlier, it was best to see it as a racing incident but Shedden was quite aggressive and knew that his strong getaways were not going to be matched by the people at the back of the grid.
Dan Rowbottom managed to secure his second pole position which is a great achievement for someone who woke up with “a horrible pain” behind his eyes (describing a migraine).
Unfortunately, he was reporting issues on the formation lap just like Taylor-Smith and dropped down the order in dramatic fashion.
The silver lining in the dark cloud of Thruxton was the fact he made up 12 positions in the final race, respectively assisted by the safety car periods packing the field together.
It was just two points earned and not the amount he would have imagined, nor Matt Neal wanted this weekend to become after the high on Saturday.
What did you make of this selection? Would your list be any different? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!