10 August 2020

It was a case of what might have been for the BTC Racing squad during a challenging second meeting of the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch GP circuit last weekend (August 8-9).

The impressive pace shown by Tom Chilton, Josh Cook, and Michael Crees during rounds 4, 5, and 6 went relatively unrewarded with a series of mechanical woes and on-track incidents ruling the Brackley-based outfit out of podium contention on the world-famous GP layout.

Despite the soaring heat conditions, The BTC Racing trio appeared to be on top of the temperature control woes that plagued them at Donington Park during Saturday’s free practice and qualifying sessions. With only 0.023 seconds separating the two, Josh Cook and Tom Chilton lined up side-by-side on the 5th row for race one, in P9 and P10 respectively. A best-ever top-10 position for Michael Crees was sadly snatched away with the local Kent-racer losing his fastest lap time for exceeding track limits and he ended the session in P18.

“It doesn’t look great on the board, but the guys and girls have worked so hard this weekend. It’s mega considering what we’ve gone through as a team.”

A strong start to the weekend opener for by both Cook and Chilton saw the duo leap up into P7 and P8. Setting the fastest lap on the second tour of the circuit, Cook was battling side-by-side with Ingram for 6th as they charged through Westfield when contact occurred. Pitching the #66 Civic into a sideways slide onto the grass, he dropped back to 10th. With the threat of the engine overheating, Cook was forced to pit to allow the BTC Racing crew to clear the debris and re-joined the race dead last.

Chilton’s charge up the field continued with the 35-year-old touching mirrors with Ingram as the pair duelled during the closing laps. Defending hard from a fast-charging Sutton on the final loop, he held-fast to bring the #3 Honda home in P5.

An excellent start to the day for Clever Baggers-backed Crees in the #777 saw the Broadstairs-racer push forward into the points with a P12 finish, whilst maintaining his position as the highest-placed Jack Sears Trophy challenger.

Blasting off the start line and with 36kg of ballast on-board in race 2, Chilton made a brave lunge past Jackson at Paddock Hill Bend to steal into 4th, before setting his sights on the lead pack. Further back his BTC Racing team-mate Josh Cook had made up incredible seven places on the opening lap to take P13 on the opening lap. Regrettably, the squad’s good fortunes ended there.

While challenging against Jack Sears Trophy protagonist Thompson on lap 3, the #777 Honda and Audi S3 tangled, and Crees was pitched off track into the gravel, and out of the race with broken front suspension. A power steering pump failure for Chilton on lap 10 forced the #3 FK8 back into the pits, with Cook following shortly after with an overheating issue on the #66 Civic.

Working against the clock with just over 2 hours before the final race, an outstanding effort by the BTC Racing crew saw all three cars line up at the back of the grid. A new engine for Cook, and extensive repairs for Chilton and Crees, saw the threesome start the day’s final contest from the back of the grid from P21, P22, and P25.

All three racers charged off the line, with Cook leading the pack, making up no less than nine places by the end of lap 1. Almost immediately, however, the #66 Civic picked up damage sustained from contact with Hill and he was forced to pit once more.

Re-joining a lap down, a heroic drive from the Bathonian set the fastest lap time of the race as he pushed the FK8 back up to take P17 as the final flag dropped.

Chilton meanwhile continued his assault on the pack, picking off places as the laps unfolded to work his way up through the field to cross the line in P8, collecting another strong haul of points for the championship challenge. Likewise, the day ended on a high note for Crees, who shone out on track in the #777 Civic, taking no less than 13 spots to claim P12, his highest-ever finish in the dry.

Bert Taylor Joint Team Principal:

“If you look at the pace we’ve had this weekend; the results don’t reflect that. Two fastest laps for Josh, Tom was in with a shout of a podium in race 2, and Creesy gets taken off and comes back again. We’ve had three pretty bruised cars, and couldn’t have asked any more of the drivers and the team in these conditions.

“For Michael to come and race today after his heart-breaking family news and still put on a solid performance as he did is a real testament to him. Nobody knows what Michael’s potential is yet. He’s not had the chance to show what he’s capable of, but I feel sure that it’s coming. He’s got a long way to go.”

“It doesn’t look great on the board, but the guys and girls have worked so hard this weekend. It’s mega considering what we’ve gone through as a team.”

Tom Chilton #3:

“The team did a great job on the car to make it faster after Donington Park. Straight-line speed is hurting us at the moment. We have the best chassis on the grid. We’re picking up fastest laps but slowest through the speed traps. I’m pleased with a 5th and 8th; just gutted that I missed out on a podium in race 2. It was down to a power steering pump failure. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just one of those things.

“I’m starting to feel at home with the team and the car. Working well with my new engineer and we’ve gone quicker every race. Oulton Park is up next, which is a chassis circuit so it should suit us well.”

Josh Cook #66:

“What can I say? It’s was a weekend to forget for us really. I got taken out in race one, lost an engine in race two, and then taken off again in race three. My two fastest laps show that we clearly have the pace in the car. They seem to be about the only points I’m scoring at the moment.

“We just need to put this behind us now, and look ahead to getting our campaign back on track at Oulton Park in two weeks’ time.”

Michael Crees #777:

“The pace in the car was mega all weekend, but we were still struggling with managing the temperature again. Race 3 was especially frustrating, to be honest not being able to push harder. But P11 is my highest-ever finish in the dry. Overall I had a solid weekend on track.

“I feel that we had the pace to be running higher all weekend. It could have been a whole different story if we’d kept the P10 in qualifying. We’ve proven to ourselves that we can do it now, and we’ve held on to our lead in the Jack Sears Trophy.”

“Personally it was one of the hardest weekends of my life, which made it extra tough to go out there. I’d like to thank everyone who sent me and my wife Jodie messages this weekend. It’s been a great support to us both.”

The weekend’s tribulations sadly dropped BTC Racing down to 7th in the overall Teams and 6th in the Independent Teams’ standings. However, Michael Crees maintains his lead at the top of the Jack Sears Trophy standings ahead of the next race meeting at Oulton Park, Cheshire on August 22-23.