In continuation of parts one and two from the past couple of days. The Checkered Flag is looking at the field of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and putting forward an opinion about how we feel their 2018 is going so far.
AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing
Rory Butcher – Nineteenth in the championship – Best result 1x 6th
A case of driver outperforming the car. The MG6 GT is becoming a bit long in the tooth but both of the MG drivers are pushing it to the absolute maximum. Butcher has had a couple top ten finishes under his belt in 2018 and one wonders how he would have done on the preferable tyre when on reverse grid pole at Donington Park. Butcher has already put himself forward as good value if any of the “top” teams require a capable driver for 2019. Expect more strong results later this year.
Tom Boardman – Twenty-seventh in the championship – Best result 1x 4th
Only two point scoring finishes doesn’t exactly show the true speed of Boardman so far this season. But whether he is suffering from the “Nash Effect” (See part two) is unknown. Fourth in the barmy second race at Brands Hatch was being in the right place at the right time to capitalise. There’s still time to improve. However, he doesn’t really want the second half of the season to go by anonymously like the first half.
AmD with Cobra Exhausts
Ollie Jackson – Twenty-second in the championship – Best result 1x 3rd
The dream podium in the first weekend must have been a huge surprise. The Audi S3 Saloon is still seemingly improving round after round and a very racy Jackson battled hard with title elect Tom Ingram at Oulton Park a few weeks out. Certainly not afraid to get his elbows out, Ollie is probably one of the best people to get the S3 into the points. To even get this car into the top ten is worthy of a special mention and he has done this twice so far this year. He may do it again once or twice if all the conditions fall into the right place.
Sam Smelt – Thirtieth in the championship – Best result 1x 17th
Sam wasn’t expected to set the championship alight but ever so slightly he is improving. Seventeenth was due to calm and measured driving to stay out of trouble and a top twenty result was a good reward. Overtaking double champion Jason Plato at Thruxton must have been incredibly surreal moment in his journey through the first half of his rookie year. The only way is up for the twenty-one year old and he deserves another foray into the top twenty. A point might be possible.
Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing
Jake Hill – Twenty-third in the championship – Best result 1x 2nd
Another to score a dream podium in the second race at Brands Hatch, Jake has been shackled, along with three other drivers, with the incredibly tempramental Volkswagen CC. Whenever he has scored points this year it has been within the top ten but whenever it hasn’t gone well he’s in the very lowly twentieth finishing spots. He is leading the Dunlop #ForeverForward though so he has that going for him. When the car is working better we may be able to see what Jake is truly capable of.
Mike Bushell – Twenty-fourth in the championship – Best result 1x 5th
A new improved Mike Bushell we keep being told and with three top ten finishes we can believe this. But, the reigning Renault UK Clio Cup champion has also been hit with an incredible amount of bad luck. Quick in testing and in practice at certain weekends it just doesn’t seem to translate into qualifying or Sunday performance. Thruxton was his best chance to score big but his car let him down which must have been incredibly frustrating. Team HARD will undoubtedly keep on pushing the development of the VWs and Bushell will be the key ingredient to future success.
Tom Oliphant – Twenty-fifth in the championship – Best result 1x 9th
Steadily improving, the Cheshire driver has been one of the better Mercedes-Benz drivers in recent weekends. Taking home the award for the best livery in the championship has nothing to do with his capabilities but Tom is certainly beginning to set out a stall for himself with points finishes. To keep up this consistency will be his main goal and to remain in the series for 2019 will also be at the top of his wish list.
Team Parker Racing
Stephen Jelley – Twenty-ninth in the championship – Best result 2x 16th
A return to rear-wheel drive BMW machinery actually did excite this author in the hope that Jelley could spring a surprise here and there. However, an older engine in the car hasn’t exactly been competitive. With a change ahead of Croft it seemed the luck had turned and an eighth placed grid slot was his reward after qualifying. He found himself in the gravel at the first corner… Jelley has the tendency to attract other drivers who like to nibble at his BMW and the amount of rear bumpers that Team Parker Racing must replace each weekend must outweigh teams with three or four cars in their fold.
Autoglym Academy Racing
Josh Price – Thirty-first in the championship – Best result 1x 18th
Often the forgotten Subaru man, he does get affected by the same issues that both Plato and Ashley Sutton suffer from. But, he’s just not as capable as those two. Progress was being made at the tail end of 2017. However, all this engine business has brought him all the way back again. You can’t be harsh because he’s still learning the BTCC ropes but you feel another year or two in the Clio Cup might be beneficial.
Team HARD with Trade Price Cars
Michael Caine – Thirty-second in the championship – Best result 2x 19th
Unlucky Volkwagen issues must be behind such a poor showing so far this season. With a driver of his experience it’s odd to see him relatively struggling. However, he just might not be gelling well with NGTC machinery. To remain pointless the whole season will be incredibly unfair because the car is capable of points. If it does stay the same, this author doesn’t see Michael stay for 2019. Now, a lot of people don’t know that.
Bobby Thompson – Thirty-third in the championship – Best result 1x 19th
Rookie getting used to the BTCC, we have seen this story plenty of times before so it’ll be unfair to judge him on the lack of points. Speed is there, but he needs to be a bit more forceful to get his car further forward. I wouldn’t say there is any pressure on him for this season but the positions have been pretty mediocre. There is still a long way to go for more attempts to impress but he really doesn’t want to remain dead last come the end of the season.
That should be every driver covered who has driven in the 2018 BTCC so far. You or they may not agree with what has been said or you may be thinking this author knows absolutely nothing. But, there is plenty of time in the remainder of the season to improve performances and race races that might totally overhaul their seasons. With the unpredictable nature of the championship, anything can happen.