Following a frenetic Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship meeting at Rockingham, West Surrey Racing‘s Dick Bennetts and Jack Goff said would welcome harsher penalties for repeat offenders.
The BTCC’s most recent meeting at Rockingham saw a suspended race ban issued to Team BKR‘s Mark Howard, following a brace of incidents with the WSR BMW 125i of Goff that lead to the latter’s retirement in races two and three of the weekend.
The series currently employs a ‘three strikes’ system to penalise drivers across a season, whereby those who pick up three reprimand for indiscretions are sent to the back of the grid for the following race.
While the system does punish drivers for repeat offences, it had sparked debate as to whether it correctly punishes drivers that find themselves already lower in the pecking order in qualifying.
Colin Turkington became the first championship contender to be sent to the back of the grid following his second and third strikes of the season at Rockingham, a penalty that will be taken in race one at Silverstone. Turkington will be joined at the back of the grid by Howard, who holds an average qualifying position of 30.25 thus far in his rookie season.
WSR team boss Bennetts was the latest senior figure to offer his support for clamping down harder on poor driving standards, coming off the back of strong comments made by numerous competitors after recent meetings at Snetterton and Knockhill.
“I feel sorry for Jack [Goff]”, Bennetts told The Checkered Flag at Rockingham. “He had a rough time. [Alan] Gow made a public statement that there’ll be heavy penalties and you could be excluded from a meeting.”
The New Zealander issued his support for such penalties, adding: “This needs to be done soon, because that was a costly day. [Goff’s] car needs a new side on it.
“When it’s drivers towards the back of the grid, you can’t put them to the back of grid when they already qualify there.”
Following a costly weekend in Corby, Goff also said that he would welcome more forceful penalties during a season, telling TCF: “I’m not the only one who’s race has been ruined this year.
“There comes a point where they need to implement this rule where people that are driving badly should to be looked at and then make a call on this.
“It’s damaged the car a lot this weekend. Race two wasn’t Josh Cook’s fault and I was the unlucky one, but the others were just unnecessary.”
The situation reached a head during the sixth meeting of the season at Snetterton, when two sizeable accidents during the visit to Norfolk after the summer break prompted several drivers and teams to question driving standards.
Hunter Abbott was one of those unfortunate enough to be involved in both incidents that weekend, the Power Maxed Racing driver agreeing that more severe penalties should be considered.
Abbott told TCF: “For me, I’ve always been a strong supporter of coming down on things like that more heavily. I’d be very happy with that if moves were questionable.
“There is the perception that ‘rubbing is racing’ in touring cars to a certain extent, which is why it’s so popular on TV. But, it’s when that turns into something else [it becomes an issue].”
While Turkington, Howard, Jeff Smith and Rob Austin joined Matt Simpson as the only five drivers to incur a drop to the back of the grid so far this season, title contenders Rob Collard and Matt Neal both sit on two strikes with six races remaining, as well as Subaru’s Jason Plato.