With the summer break now upon us, it gives The Checkered Flag an opportunity to take a look at the drivers in the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and to review their season so far.
Already shaping up to become a classic season for the BTCC, we have seen eleven different winners which included three drivers take the top step for the first time.
This review will go driver-by-driver and we will start with the championship leader heading into the break.
Colin Turkington – First in the championship – Best result 1x 1st
What can be said about the Northern Irishman that hasn’t been said before in BTCC terms? Despite only one victory so far in 2018, consistency has seen Colin top the championship since Oulton Park opening out a gap of nineteen points to the driver in second. This position couldn’t have been envisaged considering the woeful Donington Park weekend which saw the Team BMW man having to retire from the second race and finish a lowly twenty-first due to reliability issues. Colin has been the man to prove that there is still life in the old guards yet in the BTCC. Write him off at your peril, he’s going to be very tough to beat for the remainder of the season.
Rob Collard – Twelfth in the championship – Best result 1x 1st
Already tying with his 2017 win record, Rob still continues to solidly score points and gain a victory here and there like he has done so for many years. Qualifying is still the achilles heel of the Hampshire driver and considering the demon starts that a rear-wheel drive BMW tends to get off the line, one can only imagine the success Collard may get if he had a decent starting position. The front row start for his only win so far in 2018 at Oulton Park highlights this.
Tom Ingram – Second in the championship – Best result 2x 1st
The first driver to score two victories in 2018 and incredibly quick when the Toyota Avensis is set up to perfection, Tingram is still on course to be in contention for overall honours by the time the season reaches its climax. Despite not visiting the podium until Croft after his victory in the second race at Donington Park, a mid season slump akin to 2017 must have been the worry for him and the team. All fears were put aside with the two podiums in Yorkshire which also highlighted the speed and racecraft that this driver possesses. Colin Turkington is going to be hard to beat, but as we saw last year. He can be.
Halfords Yuasa Racing
Matt Neal – Third in the championship – Best result 1x 1st
What was that about the youngsters taking over? Colin in first and Matt in third shows that most pundits and fans were already too presumptive after just a couple of rounds. With a new car that is improving round after round, Matt has been steadily climbing the table towards the top with consistent points finishes and three podium visits. The best result being race one victory at Thruxton when starting from pole after a stupendous qualifying lap. Not many would have seen this following the inconspicuous start that he had at Brands Hatch but the car is starting to become agreeable for its drivers.
Dan Cammish – Thirteenth in the championship – Best result 1x 2nd
Cruelly denied pole position on his début, Dan-Cam has been steadily gathering points in his first BTCC experience. Still learning about the racing that tends to take place in the championship, it won’t be long until he is up front and scoring his first victory. The car is getting better and the results will come, patience is going to be key going forward. Dan currently leads the Jack Sears Trophy with two-hundred and two points but that was to be expected considering the machinery he inheirited when he was chosen to fill the boots of Gordon Shedden. So far it seems, Team Dynamics made the best choice.
BMW Pirtek Racing
Andrew Jordan – Fourth in the championship – Best result 1x 2nd
A podium in round one before a string of four pointless races made it seem that Andrew Jordan was going to be on the fringes of the BTCC title race again. Strong results since that poor run has seen AJ become a title outsider and a win in 2018 can’t be too far away the way he is going. Heroics at Thruxton to score points in the first two races despite being horrendously ill that it hospitalised him highlights that he isn’t going to be stopped in gaining valuable points despite certain circumstances. A second season with the BMW has been fruitful but if he’s to make a mark on the BTCC in 2018 he needs to be spraying the champagne more consistently.
Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher
Tom Chilton – Fifth in the championship – Best result 2x 2nd
A slow start to the year despite pre-season promise, only recently has the Ford Focus RS begun to get the results that the pace of the car deserves. Celebrating every podium like it’s a victory, Tom Chilton certainly excites but looking at the championship table he isn’t too far away from the top. Tom has usually been the driver finishing in second behind a first time BTCC winner in 2018 and if this trend is to continue, there are only twelve more drivers to take their first foray onto the top step of the podium and after that the Ford man might finally win a race this season. Joking aside it seems that Motorbase have finally found a sweet spot with the car and early season title expectations are firmly on track.
James Cole – Fifteenth in the championship – Best result 2x 5th
Also getting to grips with the Focus RS, James Cole has been steadily gathering points with the strongest weekend undoubtedly being his home event at Oulton Park. Thrown in at the deep end as the replacement for Mat Jackson over the Winter, James is having to prove himself to Jackson fans that he is deserved of that seat. Cole does acknowledge the potential that the car has but he does have to string a strong qualifying session and set of results together to truly back that up. He has won a race in the past and this Focus is his best chance to surprise again.
Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport
Adam Morgan – Sixth in the championship – Best result 2x 1st
A strong points gatherer in the third race of a weekend, Adam Morgan made a welcome return to the top step of the podium after a winless 2017. Even leading the championship at one point, fans of the Mercedes-Benz man started to ask questions of whether he and the team has enough to take it all the way. A best result of fifth since his victory at Thruxton means he hasn’t shown the consistency that a title-elect shows. But he wil undoubtedly score victory once again later this season.
Adrian Flux Subaru Racing
Ashley Sutton – Seventh in the championship – Best result 2x 1st
As title defences go, it wasn’t a very successful one until the Subaru Levorg GT reached Croft. With two victories and being the only driver to take more than one win during a weekend in 2018 it seems that the hand of God is turning the tables around for a successful second half of the season. Although this controversy about the boost of the car may rumble on for quite a while. Mind you, despite the car not really being at its best at the start of the season. Ash certainly put himself forward as a capable driver when he scored points regularly with a best position of fourth until he reached Croft. Title outsider? The season started too slowly for him. However, if vehicle conditions remain the same he could possibly do what he did last season again.
Jason Plato – Twenty-sixth in the championship – Best result 1x 2nd
Despite his first points last time out at Croft, it’s difficult not to wonder whether this will be the last season for Plato in the BTCC. So close to a hundred race victories and the fact the Subaru has come good may swing his decision to staying but he’s still not got an answer to the quality Ash Sutton has shown with the same car. A driver of that calibre doesn’t lose their talent overnight and one must wonder how he would have fared in a front-wheel drive car this season. Will very probably score his one victory a season again at Knockhill.
That’s part one of The Checkered Flag’s look at the drivers of the BTCC halfway through the 2018 season. Part two will come out tomorrow.