03 August 2020
Josh Cook led the scores for the Brackley-based squad, securing 3rd place in the weekend finale. New team-mate Tom Chilton collected a solid haul of points from all three races showing impressive pace out of the box, with Michael Crees’ dream Honda debut netting him the Jack Sears Trophy honours.
Chilton set an early pace in Saturday’s practice sessions, before getting caught on the wrong side of the red flag, traffic, and changing weather conditions. Despite being just 8 tenths off the pace, P16 was his starting position, closely followed by team-mate Crees in P18. Cook fared better, lining up in P8 after setting a best lap time of 1.09.411; beating Plato’s 2014 qualifying lap record – showing the strength of the BTCC grid this year.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves this weekend. We’ve shown resilience to come back from the back of the grid to take a podium in the last race."
The 2020 season opener delivered all the excitement expected from the BTCC, with high drama from lights out. After making a strong start off the line, Josh Cook was tipped into the gravel as the lead pack charged into McLean’s. Managing to save the #66 Civic from the barriers he was forced to re-join the grid in dead last. An epic fightback ensued with Cook picking off positions as the laps unfolded, and he eventually crossed the line in P13.
Chilton’s steady hand and refined race craft saw the Reigate-racer bide his time to take advantage of a mid-pack coming together on lap 9. Having initially worked his way up the field in the early laps, the #3 Type R stole into P10, opening the 35-year-old’s points tally.
Losing a couple of spots off the line, Michael Crees quickly made amends as he found his feet in the Clever Baggers-backed Type R. Running as high as P13 and holding off challenges from experienced BTCC stalwarts, he, unfortunately, picked up damage in the closing laps and he finished just outside the points in P16.
Race two delivered a full complement of points for the BTC Racing trio. Trading places as they battled in the lead pack, both Chilton and Cook looked set for a top-eight finish with promising pace on show. Unfortunately, contact for Chilton 13th tour of the circuit pushed the #3 Civic wide dropping him down to P13. Cook held fast in the running battle, managing to claim a top ten finish in the #66 Type R.
A solid performance by Crees in The Clever Bagger with BTC Racing Civic was rewarded with a 14th place finish, collecting his first points of the season on only his second competitive run in the #777 machine.
Starting from P3 by virtue of the reverse grid draw, Josh Cook had to take immediate evasive action to avoid coming together with Jelley off the start line before the safety car was called into play.
Lapping fastest on lap 4 the former Jack Sears Trophy winner put on a stunning display as he closed down the race leaders whilst defending from Morgan. Taking advantage as Jackson and Smiley tangled for the lead, Cook dived into P2. Coming under immediate pressure from the lighter and fast-charging pack a frenetic battle unfolded with Smiley as Sutton stole into the lead dropping Cook back to 3rd. A final push to the finish line almost paid off as he chased down Smiley to the final flag, but it was just out of reach with the #66 coming home in P3, securing a maiden BTCC podium of the year for the BTC Racing squad.
Chilton endured a frustrating end to the weekend. Struggling to unlock the full potential of the Type R on his first weekend in Honda, the 14-time BTCC race winner had to settle for P13, collecting his third set of points from the opening weekend of the 2020 season.
A weekend best position of P13 in the final race of day netted a delighted Michael Crees his first BTCC silverware since joining the grid last year. Securing top honours in the illustrious Jack Sears Trophy, the Clever Baggers and Rich Energy-backed racer showed promising pace and a clear head to take his second points score of the weekend and now tops the Standings with an eight-point lead.
The weekend’s results leave BTC Racing 4th in the Teams’ Standings with just a few days’ turnaround before the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship heads to the iconic Brands Hatch GP circuit next weekend for rounds 4, 5 and 6 on August 8-9.
Bert Taylor, Joint Team Principal:
“It was quite a tough weekend for us, but we’ve come away with points in all three races and two trophies so we’re very happy. It could have gone better, but all in all, I’m pleased with a podium and exceptionally happy to win the Jack Sears Trophy with Michael on his first outing.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves this weekend. We’ve shown resilience to come back from the back of the grid to take a podium in the last race. All three drivers scored points and brought the cars home safely as well, which is a task itself in this championship.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what forward to seeing what the boys can do on the GP circuit next week. We went from the back to the front there with Josh last year and finished 2nd in the last race of the season. So we have lots of good memories. It’s Tom and Michael’s local track, so a little bit of home advantage we should see them both further up the grid. I want us to achieve nine finishes firstly, and keep banking the points for our championship challenge.
“Credit where it’s due as well, TOCA, MSV, and ITV did a mega job to put on a great show for the fans this weekend.”
Josh Cook #66:
“Being taken out in race 1 put us on the back foot for the rest of the weekend. Without the option tyre, it makes it quite difficult to come through the field. You no longer have a race where you have an advantage. Not the ideal start to the weekend, but we managed to claw our back up to get into the reverse grid draw for race 3.
“We faced a lot of challenges we didn’t expect. We struggled with temperature management, so we just had to make sure that we brought the car home and played the long game. We had the pace to challenge for higher up I think, and in clearer air, we would have pushed harder. I’m pleased with how it went overall. It’s a solid set of results to start the season and puts us in a good place heading to Brands Hatch”
Tom Chilton #3:
“Out of all the cars on the grid, I was the fastest out of the box in free practice. But then your whole weekend hinges on a strong qualifying result. We got caught in traffic, then a red flag, and then it rained so I never got to set a fast lap. Starting from 16th it’s always going to be hard work. I moved forward in race one and we were on for a top-six finish in race two before I got pushed out wide which would have been perfect for the reverse grid.
“I’ve come away with points in all three races on my first weekend with the team, the first weekend in the Honda, and with my new engineer. I’ve learned an awful lot about the car. I’m feeling confident that I’ve got to grips with the Type R and where we’re going to pick up from at Brands Hatch next weekend.”
Michael Crees #777:
“When I started in the Ginettas three years ago, I never thought I’d be on the BTCC podium winning the Jack Sears trophy. It’s incredible. It means so much to me. It was the perfect end to my first weekend in the Honda with the BTC Racing Team. I made a few mistakes early on, but I got my head down and came through.
“Although Brands GP is my home track it’s never been my favourite. I’ve just got to keep focused on bagging the points and winning the Jack Sears Trophy. This weekend has given me a lot more confidence in the car and my abilities.”
Qualifying: Tom Chilton #3: P16, Josh Cook #66: P8, Michael Crees #777: P18
Round 1: Tom Chilton #3: P10, Josh Cook #66: P13, Michael Crees #777: P16
Round 2: Tom Chilton #3: P13, Josh Cook #66: P10, Michael Crees #777: P14
Round 3: Tom Chilton #3: P12, Josh Cook #66: P3, Michael Crees #777: P13