After a pair of lack lustre meetings at Silverstone and Snetterton Airwaves BMW driver Steven Kane returned to form, and to the podium, during the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) races at Knockhill.
Even Saturday's qualifying session ended well for the Northern Irishman, lining up fifth – incredibly his best starting spot of the season to date – for the first of the three races. He lost a place at the drop of the green flag, Tom Chilton nipping past in the opening laps. However, the twisting 1.3 mile track played into Kane's hands – the need for good acceleration on the main straight out of the hairpin favouring the rear-wheel drive car, especially late in the race.
The twisting track also means that opportunistic passes are a rule, rather than exception. Kane took fourth in one such move, Chilton balked by fourth placed Jason Plato as he tried to pass him, allowing Kane past the Ford and onto the rear bumper of Plato's Chevrolet, which he dispatched a lap later, putting his superior traction to good use to complete the pass on the run past the pits.
Grip again was main factor as Kane completed his strong run to take third from Matt Neal in the closing laps, taking advantage as Neal ran wide at Scotsman corner to take third.
He could easily have had another podium in the second race, were it not for the events of a handful of corners late on in the race. Having held onto third for much of the race an impatient Plato pushed Kane wide at the hairpin allowing Chilton to return the opportunistic pass favour as he pulled alongside down the pit straight. Unlike the BMW driver in the first race, however, Chilton was unable to complete the pass and the two dove into the SEAT Curves side by side, Chilton clipping the Airwaves car as he jostled for position behind.
The spinning BMW clipped Paul O'Neill, who was running in sixth, though a distance behind the battle before the incident. Kane recovered to score six points for finishing fifth before his weekend came to an anti-climactic end, pulling into the pits at the end of the formation lap of race three with differential failure.
“It's a real shame things went as they did in that last race as a podium was there for the taking, I'm not sure if Chilton's knock earlier caused the diff failure, but either way the car was out of the running after that,” explained Kane. “18 points from the weekend is respectable for me, but I would have liked to go into the last two races with a few more.”
Mat Jackson – in the other Motorbase Performance run car – had suffered that brand of poor luck throughout the weekend. A driveshaft failure in qualifying had left him down in 12th for race one – facing a day of fighting up through the pack to score meaningful points. His charge in race one made it as far as the lowest reaches of the points positions before he was pushed wide at the chicane by Tom Onslow-Cole and again at the following corner by Paul O'Neill. Jackson briefly fell to eleventh, but has able to clamber back to tenth to claim the final point.
A trouble free sixth place in the second race should have given Jackson a perfect opportunity to add to his sole win this season, as the reverse grid gave him a second place start alongside Tom Onslow-Cole.
The pair raced side by side, but cleanly, through the opening corner before attempting to stay locked in battle as they approached the chicane. The pair touched and Jackson, on the outside for the first element of the chicane was thrown sideways, arriving at the second apex surely destined to spin infront of almost the entire field. However, Jackson maintained control of the car, avoiding any major damage and rejoining in seventh.
The contact had caused some minor damage, reducing Jackson to following the leading pack, picking off rivals as the made mistakes. Gordon Shedden, James Nash and Andrew Jordan all made their own mistakes at the chicane, Jackson gratefully taking advantage to climb to fifth at the checkered flag. Onslow-Cole finished second.
“I went to pass Onslow-Cole on the first lap, in hindsight I should have waited so I'm gutted about that,” said Jackson. “On another day I could have ended up landing in the right direction but today I didn't, and it lost me a lot of places. I'm frustrated with myself but I scored some points which I will think about before Donington.”
“A fantastic podium for Steven in race one started the day off really well, but of course we're disappointed after the potential of race three,” admitted team manager Oliver Collins. “Steven was so unlucky to suffer a differential issue on the outlap which forced him out, Mat went for an early overtake and unfortunately in didn't pay off today and he damaged his car, making his fifth place very respectable. Other than that a positive weekend with some good points but we didn't quite get the rub of the green.”