Interview: Tom Chilton on being third in the BTCC and looking ahead to 2019


Tom Chilton BTCC
Credit: btcc.net

Tom Chilton ended the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship third overall with six podium finishes that included victory in the third race of the day at Knockhill.

The Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher driver was keeping up appearances in this finishing position as he also finished in third the year before in the World Touring Car Championship.

Tom also finished second in the Independent drivers standings just behind Speedworks Motorsport driver Tom Ingram. Falling short following a valiant attempt to overcome the Toyota driver’s advantage at Brands Hatch.

Looking ahead to 2019, excitement about the pace of the Ford Focus RS is there and following lengthy talks about next year with his bosses at Motorbase. Overall honours and more race victories will be what the thirty-three year old is looking for.

The Checkered Flag spoke to Tom about his perfomance during 2018 and what we might expect next year from him and the team going forwards.

The Checkered Flag“Third overall in the BTCC, you must be very pleased with that.”

Tom Chilton“We are over the moon with that. Very happy considering is was not a perfect year by any stretch of the imagination. It’s amazing, you can have some mistakes and people hitting you off and still finish third which just shows you if it all went our way we could have won the bloody thing.”

TCF“The second half of the season was superb for you. But, which would you rather have, this form at the start of the year or the momentum continuing into 2019?”

TC “That’s a good one that. I never dwell on the past, I’m always a guy who looks forward to the future so I’ll say carrying this momentum forwards into next year is the key.

“I’ve already had a very long phonecall yesterday with the boss and the team manager saying that we can’t afford to go ‘Ah, our car’s good let’s just leave it, polish it and pull it out at Brands [Hatch]’ no no no, it needs to be worked on because everybody works on their cars every year over the Winter and as soon as you stand still you lose the momentum going forwards.

“The car’s setup is always changing through lots of variables. One is when your chassis, aero and engine is changing that changes what you need to get out of your tyres, but also when the tyre hits the ground, if the circuit even four degrees different in track temperature than when you were on it last year, that also changes the handling of your car.”

Tom Chilton BTCC
Credit: btcc.net

TCF“Colin Turkington said something along the lines of you being the best driver in the second half of the year, that must be quite the honour.”

TC“Is that what Colin said? Aww!”

TCF“I heard it during the coverage on TV, can’t remember who said it but it was along those lines.”

TC “I’m touched mate, that was such a nice thing for him to say. I respect Colin he’s a great driver and he does work very hard at it and I’m actually very happy he won the championship.

“I’m happy for Tom Ingram also, I think he performed very well this year and it just shows you what consistency does. Because when you’ve got the same car year on year, you can refine it ever so slightly everytime you go out.

“This was my first year at Motorbase and we worked very hard over Winter on the car and we made it very fast. But, fundamentally it was my first year in it and I do feel carrying on the momentum into next year we will be strong.”

TCF“How was Brands Hatch for you? Three top ten was great but I bet you were hoping to finish the year with a podium.”

TC“I was indeed. On the last lap I did get up the inside of Rob Austin for third place and I was in third at the beginning of the race too. I was really, really close to it  but I just didn’t have the legs on them. I was only carrying a little bit of success ballast but it was just enough to slow me up so I didn’t have that much of an advantage to get on the podium.

“It’s so close our racing as you know which is why it’s pretty much the best championship in the world. Success ballast does what it’s supposed to do and it slows you up and it slowed me up haha!

“I was only 1.1 seconds off first and I finished fourth it was very closely matched around Brands GP, very enjoyable I loved it.”

TCF“It was probably my race of the season with the battle between Josh Cook and Ashley Sutton for the lead as well”

TC“I had a good seat! I was watching it all unfold.”

TCF“Were you secretly hoping that they might take each other off or go wide at some point so you can slip through?”

TC“I was… No, I was thinking ‘should I be this close to Rob?’ because if they all bunch up I want to be slightly further back so I can get a run on them to take them on the straight.

“But I was thinking it’ll probably be three abreast and I’ll be on the grass anyway and I might get hit off and get a DNF. Maybe even finish fourth in the championship so I was like ‘maybe I should stay where I am’.

“You have to start thinking about things because it could go wrong very quickly. Andrew Jordan finished fifth and Sutton was fourth but either one of those boys could have overtaken me and I might have ended up fifth at the end of the weekend.”

Tom Chilton BTCC
Credit: btcc.net

TCF“We touched on this earlier, 2019. All plans in place to go for championship honours?”

TC“That’s what I’m going for. I’ve had a third in the FIA World Touring Cars overall last year, I’ve had third overall this year in the British Touring Cars and I feel like I’ve gotta go for first now.

“Shame I couldn’t have done it for the sixtieth anniversary because it would have been special. But, I’m still young mate I could win the seventieth haha!

“Forty-three years old, no problem!”

TCF“Anything in particular you are looking forward to next year?”

TC“We’re going back to Thruxton twice, I love Thruxton it’s really fast, exciting and some great racing. It wasn’t our strongest circuit this year probably even our worst for the Ford Focus but that is one of the reasons why we need to develop the car.

“It was clear to me that it wasn’t the best car out there. As much as Thruxton is fast and everybody thinks it’s all about your engine and aero package, it’s not. I’ve qualified on pole there a few times before with cars which weren’t quick down the straight, I was just good through the corners.

“What was interesting was that in the Winter testing at Thruxton I was P1 but when we got there for the race weekend I think I qualified ninth or something. It was not where we were supposed to be, I was like ‘We’re not first, what happened?!’

“We’ve got to work hard on the car for Thruxton next year but I am very excited that we’re going there twice because it’s going to be a challenge and I love challenge.”