Written by Emily Sands, Edited by Ishani Aziz
The first round of the British Touring Car Championship started last weekend at Donington Park. The weekend saw a mix of weather conditions, making the races very interesting to watch. The silly season wasn’t too hectic for most of the teams as the top six drivers from 2022 all lined up with the same teams and machinery for the 2023 season. But that didn’t hamper what turned out to be an exciting race for spectators.
For starters, the return of option tyres will cause some differences to the field this year, as well as the changes to the regulations surrounding hybrid usage. We have a new Toyota engine for Rory Butcher’s car, whilst ‘One Motorsport’ (formally known as BTC Racing) now have the Dynamic Hondas as their power plants. There’s enough to shake up Tom Ingram, as he looks to protect his champion status with Excelr8 Motorsport.
In the midlands of England the rain appeared for most of the weekend. Leaving qualifying to be run in damp conditions. Some drivers played it safe, like Ash Sutton which caused him to finish in P2 with his Ford Focus ST. Jake Hill was listed as one of the favorites this year, but he only managed P3 in qualifying, claiming that the Ford’s were super quick and he was thrilled to be the lead BMW for the start of the season. Dan Rowbottom rounded off qualifying by getting the third pole position of his career for his debut with NAPA Racing UK.
On Sunday morning, we had more rain which led to a few of the big names in separate incidents. Ash Sutton (NAPA Racing UK), Colin Turkington (Team BMW) and Josh Cook (One Motorsport with Starline Racing) were the first to run into trouble immediately off the line.
The pole sitter Dan Rowbottom had an awfully slow start, with both Hill and Sutton immediately eyeing an opportunity to surge into the lead. Hill drove down the middle, in-between both Ford Focuses and as Sutton moved across there was contact involving the three cars. Sutton was launched onto the grass and he ended up retiring due to water pouring from his car.
Hill took the lead ahead of Cammish, whilst Colin Turkington was running through the gravel as things bulked up behind later in the lap. A safety car came out to slow down and recover the action. However, Cook then ran off track as he went straight on at Redgate due to cold tyres and a greasy surface causing problems throughout the order.
Things finally started to then calm down with rookie Andrew Watson becoming the story of the race. Watson had already made his way up to sixth by mid-distance. He chased down the top three, who were already in the midst for victory, which eventually went to Cammish.
Ingram settled for third as he defended from Watson, with Rowbottom and Collard completing the top six.
However, Jake Hill received an official reprimand and was penalised by means of a three place penalty in Round two for an incident involving Ash Sutton.
This was certainly a challenge for the majority of the drivers as the rain was in full swing. It all came down to pivotal tyre changes in the fight for podium positions as Chilton cleverly chose to switch to Goodyear wet tyres early on. The vast majority of front-runners started on slicks, but they were soon dropping down the order as the rain began to fall.
Adam Morgan and Tom Chilton were the first to power through the field and it was the latter that got the better of things amidst the slippery conditions.
Ronan Pearson had seemingly made it a double podium celebration for BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 as he crossed the line in third on his debut BTCC race weekend. However, Pearson’s car failed post-race ride height checks and was subsequently disqualified from the race result.
This meant that NAPA Racing UK’s Sam Osborne scored a first ever podium in the BTCC.
Mikey Doble and Nicolas Hamilton swapped places on a number of occasions during the closing laps. It was to be a race of personal bests with Osborne, Doble and Hamilton all enjoying their best ever results.
Nicolas Hamilton in-particular was roared home by spectators, family and his team in what proved to be one of the proudest moments of his incredible story and career.
Dan Cammish had an amazing weekend at the opening round as he gained pole position again in race three. As he whizzed ahead of the rest of the field, his team-mate Dan Rowbottom became bogged down off of the line from the front row of the grid as the rest of the cars swarmed all over the Ford Focus on the run down to Redgate for the first time.
With Cammish off into the distance it left Tom Ingram (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8) to fight off Colin Turkington (Team BMW), Ash Sutton (NAPA Racing UK) and Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) for the other podium positions, and the reigning champion defended expertly.
Sutton finally attacked Turkington for third in the closing stages and pushed through at Mcleans, whilst Hill followed at the final chicane. Cammish crossed the line for his second victory of the day while Sutton sent his car forcefully down the inside of Ingram’s Hyundai in a last attempt for second place. Ingram held on while Sutton pipped Hill by just 0.113s to complete the podium.
Unfortunately for Dan Rowbottom, he got a three place grid penalty for the next round of the Championship for an incident involving Aiden Moffat.
Overall, what an amazing start to the season of BTCC. Dan Cammish won double, Tom Chilton claimed his first BTCC triumph in four years, whilst debutant Andrew Watson and Nic Hamilton also starred with his best ever finish.
The championship, as it stands, sees Dan Cammish (NAPA Racing UK) in P1 with 48 points. Tom Ingram (Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8) in P2 with 40 points and in P3, Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) with 32 points.
The next round of BTCC is at BrandsHatch for the Indy circuit on the 6th - 8th of May.