The BTCC support races were at Donington Park testing ahead of this weekends round, and we were trackside to catch the action.
In the F4 British Championship the combined classification of both practice sessions found Louis Foster topping the timings ahead of Carlin’s Zane Maloney, proving to be a taste of things to come with Foster taking the win in race one on Saturday, and making it to the podium in race two in third place behind Bart Horsten in first place and Joe Turney in second. Arden Motorsports Horsten made it his second visit to the podium across the weekend, after taking third place in race one with Josh Skelton taking second.
Race three compounded Fosters dominance at Donington as he took the win in an eventful race, where some great battles took place throughout. Foster is in his maiden season with Double R Racing and the F4 Championship, indeed his first season in single seater racing after a successful year in the Ginetta Junior Championship which saw him finishing his debut season as Vice-Champion and Rookie Champion.
Foster currently leads the Championship, seventeen points ahead of second place Sebastian Alvarez. Also joining the F4 British Championship this year alongside Louis Foster is Reema Juffali, the groundbreaking, female, Saudi Arabian driver who only made her racing debut in October 2018. The 27 year old faces a huge challenge very early on in her burgeoning career, taking her first steps into such a competitive championship, but Juffali is positive about her history making debut, keen to represent her country and pave the way for other female racers.
In the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship, combined classification found Dan Harper leading the way ahead of the weekend, going on to take the win in race one, George Gamble in second place and Josh Webster completing the podium. Race two found Josh Webster in first place with Lewis Plato in second and Dan Harper in third place. All of which means that as things stand Dan Harper leads the Championship. Harper is in his second year in the Championship after winning the PCCGB scholarship in 2017, being awarded a full time drive for two years. He completed the 2018 season in fifth place in the Pro Class.
The Ginetta races as usual, were a great watch, in the GT4 Supercup there was lots of action including an enormous, high speed crash involving multiple cars which brought the race to an early end. Miraculously no-one was seriously hurt and the rest of the programme resumed with minimum delay.
The final round of the British GT Championship takes place this weekend, with Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam topping the points table on 149.5 points, 27.5 points ahead of Barwell Motorsports Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw, who themselves sit only a point ahead of Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim.
With a huge advantage, history could be in the making for the Optimum Motorsport duo of Haigh and Adam, Flick would be the first woman to win the title outright and Adam would be the first competitor to win the title three times,
however the pair still have a 20 second success penalty to serve which along with expected wet weather conditions could add to the unpredictability of the race.
It has been announced that Sunday’s winner will be awarded the DPRAC Tom Wheatcroft Memorial Trophy. The cup is awarded by the Donington Park Racing Association Club to two and four wheeled Championships on alternate years, with previous recipients including Jason Plato, James Ellison, Matt Jackson and Marco Melandri.
There have been a few other GT3 announcements including the news that Rick Parfitt Jnr will be stepping down from racing. The Team Parker Racing driver has stated that he is not ruling out a return and if the right team and co-driver came along he would consider it but for now Donington would be his farewell race.
Another driver who we will be saying goodbye to is TF Sports Derek Johnston who retires after the Donington Decider. Johnston who was the 2016 British GT champion alongside Jonny Adam, started racing in 2007 in Radicals before eventually moving into British GT in 2013.
In GT4 Century Motorsports Jack Mitchell leads on 118 points, 10 points ahead of Century Motorsport duo of Ben Tuck and Ben Green.
The decider takes place at Donington Park on Sunday at 1.35.
As the series celebrates its 60th year the paddock descended on Donington Park for the BTCC 2018 season launch media day with a chance for a first glimpse at new liveries and some new team additions.
Eagerly anticipated was the Halfords Yuasa Honda Civic Type R in its stunning new livery. The team which said goodbye to Gordon Shedden earlier in the year welcomes former Porsche Carrera Cup GB Champ Dan Cammish alongside three times BTCC Champion Matt Neal “The Honda is a quantum leap forward, we’ve done some running, we’ve got to learn it’s sweet spots.”
While new team mate Cammish commented on following in Sheddens footprints: “I’m in a great seat in a fantastic team as a rookie which doesn’t happen very often, I’ll do the best job I can”.
Reigning champ Ash Sutton was on hand to unveil the handsome new Adrian Flux Subaru Racing livery, of his move to the Subaru last year; ”Moving to Subaru was the right thing to do all the stars were aligned” Sutton is firmly back to contest his title.
Teammate Jason Plato commented ”I’m keen to start afresh, it was new ground for me where stuff went wrong. But if it was easy there would be more names on the trophy”
Team BMW’s Rob Collard, Andrew Jordan and Colin Turkington took to the press conference stage, Turkington had a difficult finish to the season last year, when in the final race of the championship contact between Mat Johnson and him meant his race and championship was over: ”It’s difficult when you get so close to winning, runner up is the most difficult place to finish. The chin didn’t stay down for long, the motivation to come back for this season, it’s fortunate I’m on one of the best seats on the grid, hoping we can hit the ground running and be a force once again”
Collard commented ”I’m very pleased to retain my seat at WSR, my main aim is we see the whole season through and don’t end up in an ambulance! I wasn’t able to fight for the championship, Colin was so close at Brands Hatch, perhaps if I had been there we might have been able to clinch all three titles, we clinched two titles and that’s at least our aim this year, between the three of us aim for the drivers title”
The mic was handed to Andrew Jordan who went on “This year looks super, super competitive, the championship is at an all time high, and over the winter I signed a three year deal with Pirtek, which shows how strong the Championship is”
Rob Austin’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta was a popular unveiling and after topping the timings in the afternoons testing, despite it being the first time out in the wet, was a positive signal for the Duo Motorsport with HMS Racing driver. “Everybody wants to win, it’s no different for us and hasn’t been any different for me in 27 years of racing – we’ll be going to Brands looking to do the absolute best we can”, Austin added, “Realistically we don’t know what everyone else is doing, but we’re just going to concentrate on our job, focus on what we need to do and then see where we are at the first round.
“As I’ve said, we know others have more in the bag but so do we, so we’re in a good place as things stand. What I will say, this Duo Motorsport with HMS Alfa Romeo is the best package I’ve ever started a season with, so we’re definitely feeling confident for the new season.”
Sam Tordoff returns to BTCC with Team GardX Racing with Motorbase, after a year in British GT. Tordoff explained “I hate sharing a car,
I needed to go away and reset. I had a fantastic year racing GT’s but coming back here was always the end goal. I’m delighted to be back and excited to be driving the new Ford Focus RS.
Alan Gow kicked off the press conference talking about the 60th anniversary of the championship which is also the third oldest championship in the world. There are several plans throughout the year to celebrate BTCC’s Diamond Anniversary, not least the Diamond 60 mile race at the Snetterton round in July, where double points will be available in a winner takes all race. There are also plans to celebrate the 60th year at this years Silverstone Classic and there will be an adjustment to the rookie cup, the Jack Sears Trophy, which will also now find anyone who has not been on the podium eligible to lift the prize at the end of the season.
Gow also announced the new addition of a specially imported Ford safety truck which is equipped with the very latest and best in rescue and cutting equipment, and is the only one of it’s kind in Europe.
ITV will continue in its commitment to the Championship with its popular coverage and extensive highlights programme on ITV4.
Dunlops Ben Crawley
ITV’s Tim Harvey, David Addison and Louise Goodman
Ben Crawley, Dunlops European Motorsport Director spoke about Dunlops long term commitment to BTCC, now in its 15th year as tyre supplier. Crawley went on to announce how due to fan feedback this year they would be introducing a blue sidewall on the blue response wet tyre making the tyre easier for fans to identify on track.
MSV boss and Donington Park owner Jonathan Palmer was also in attendance where he spoke about the ongoing improvements to Donington which included new toilet blocks, offices, new grandstand, tarmaced paddocks and a new restaurant replacing the Pit Stop Diner. Improvements much needed to bring Donington Park back up to scratch.
The opening round of the season takes place at Brands Hatch on April 7th/8th.