British Touring Car Championship
Rockingham - Free Practice - 27/8/16
With three meetings remaining on the 2016 BTCC calendar, Sam Tordoff arrived at Rockingham having regained the lead in the Drivers' Championship at Knockhill two weeks ago. Matt Neal is just 9 points behind in 2nd place with Tordoff's team-mate Rob Collard 23 points further adrift. Defending champion Gordon Shedden is a mere 8 points further down the standings with Mat Jackson, Colin Turkington, Jason Plato, Andrew Jordan, Jack Goff and Tom Ingram completing the top ten. With a maximum 67 points available from each of the last three meetings, any of these drivers could be lifting the Drivers' Championship trophy in October.
Inverness-based Dave Newsham is again standing in for Kelvin Fletcher in the Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet Cruze as Fletcher is expecting the birth of his first child. With Michael Caine out of action with a back injury, Team HARD boss Tony Gilham stepped into the breach to drive the team's TLC / RCIB Insurance Racing Toyota Avensis. Gilham, who has not raced for the best part of 12 months said: "It would be nice to notch a point maybe, I'll see what I can do. We'll find out if there's still a bit of life in the old dog yet!"
The championship leaders were the first to take to the Northamptonshire circuit for the first of the two 40-minute free practice sessions. Once the usual round of tyre rotations had taken place it was Ashley Sutton who posted the first meaningful lap time however it wasn't long before Jeff Smith posted a 1:25.137 to top the time sheet in his Eurotech Racing Honda Civic Type R. The lap times continued to tumble with Adam Morgan the first to break the 1:25 barrier only for Smith to go faster and regain the top slot. The session was red-flagged with 28 minutes remaining for the recovery of Jake Hill's Toyota Avensis as the clock continued to count down.
The session resumed after 4 minutes with Adam Morgan immediately posting the fastest lap so far. With 19 minutes remaining, Andrew Jordan topped the time sheet with a 1:23.045 before another red-flag period was declared to attend to Sam Tordoff's Team JCT600 with GardX BMW 125i M Sport. The session resumed with 14 minutes on the clock however a third red-flag period a few minutes later halted proceedings yet again. The clock was reset to 10 minutes for a final shoot-out which ended with Andrew Jordan topping the time sheet for Motorbase Performance. Tom Ingram finished 2nd for Speedworks Motorsport with Adam Morgan 3rd fastest ahead of Josh Cook, Mat Jackson and Gordon Shedden.
With the sky brightening, the drivers took to the track for the second practice session. Silverline Subaru BMR Racing's Colin Turkington was the first driver to set a representative lap time of 1:23.642 in his Levorg GT, improving yet again on his next lap with MG Racing RCIB Insurance's Josh Cook just behind. Turkington went on to post a 1:22.914 lap time - the fastest of the day so far. Ten minutes into the session, Turkington was still the only driver to have broken the 1:23 barrier. As the lap times settled down, Rob Austin in the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis went 3rd fastest behind Turkington and Tom Ingram.
Half way into the session, Halfords Yuasa Racing's Matt Neal went 2nd fastest with 1:23.237 with team-mate Gordon Shedden going 4th fastest shortly afterwards. With fewer than five minutes of the session remaining, Tom Ingram posted the 2nd fastest lap time before yellow flags in sector one prevented any real improvement in lap times. The session ended with Colin Turkington at the top of the time sheet - the only driver to post a sub 1:23 lap time. Tom Ingram again finished 2nd fastest with Matt Neal 3rd, Gordon Shedden 4th, Rob Austin 5th and Andrew Jordan 6th. The next BTCC action from Rockingham is the qualifying session to determine the grid for the first of tomorrow's three races.
Published 27 August 2016