A Rock and a Hard Place.

Race Report: BTCC 2019.
Round 2 (9 May 2019).
Rockingham.

Round two of our BTCC championships was a case of ‘All Change’ in more ways than one. First of all, there was a change for scenery, with a new circuit inspired by the now defunct Rockingham track. Rockingham was used in the real-world BTCC championships for many years, and our version followed its combination of a fast oval section leading into a twisty in-field. And, by the end of a dramatic night’s racing, we saw a new championship leader, and significant changes elsewhere in the standings.

The new Rockingham track took a while to rubber-in; running on the new sections in free practice had been akin to driving on a skid pan. So, race one saw the cars tentatively pull away, and there were plenty of spins when the runners got round to the Sport track section for the first time. It was Scott who asserted himself into the lead early on, and there he would remain for the entirety of the race. Cliff had started from pole, and alongside him, Steve was keen to make a good start and take advantage of his front row starting position. The two of them were to tangle in the infield section, crashing out whilst negotiating their way through the tight Gambon corner.

Pressure

Scott was the grateful recipient of the lead and set about building a cushion back to the rest of the field. Steve was to fight his way back up through the order to second place, but was to come under pressure from George in the latter half of the race. The pressure was to tell, and Steve crashed again, but ultimately held on to third behind George.

Race One Result:
(Drivers’ fastest race laps and tyre compound in brackets, winner of extra point for fastest lap in bold)

1st Scott – VW Passatt (P)
25 laps (11.708)
2nd George – BMW 125 (P)
23 laps (12.226)
3rd Steve – BMW 125 (O)
22 laps (12.539)
4th Norman – MG 6 (P)
20 laps (13.975)
5th Cliff – Honda Civic (O)
18 laps (13.392)

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In race two, the front row pair were to fair much better than in race one. George and Anthony lead away, and enjoyed a close battle until Anthony crashed out in Gambon corner, allowing Steve through into second. Scott too was able to take advantage of Anthony’s woes, and enjoyed another battle with Steve over second place.

Duel

The duel between Steve and Scott allowed George the breathing room he needed to pull away at the front and he would go unchallenged for the race win. Steve was to emerge victorious in the battle for best of the rest, with Scott falling away and ultimately being passed by Anthony for the final podium place.

Race Two Result:
1st George – MG 6 (O)
25 laps (12.291)
2nd Steve – BMW 125 (P)
24 laps  (12.126)
3rd Anthony – Honda Civic (O)
24 laps (12.706)
4th Scott – VW Passatt (P)
24 laps (11.490)
5th Norman – MG 6 (P)
21 laps (13.622)

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Race three saw our first rain of the evening, so the first two on the grid would not have to worry about looking after their option tyres. Both pole man, Norman, and fellow front-row starter, Darren had a troubled start to the race however, crashing out early on and handing the lead Scott. He had company, though, and Steve was to fashion a pass on lap two.

Back in front

The battle for the lead between Steve and Scott raged for the whole race. Things very nearly went wrong for them both when Steve was to crash in the increasingly troublesome Gambon corner. Blocking the outer lane, and with Scott stuck behind him, Anthony – who had been running third – was able to duck into the inside lane and take the lead. Both had the pace to catch and re-take the Honda. A further for spin for Steve gave Scott some respite, but ultimately Steve was to find himself back at the front when it mattered most.

Race Three Result:
1st Steve – BMW 125 (P)
25 laps (11.824)
2nd Scott – VW Passatt (P)
24 laps (11.714)
3rd Anthony – Honda Civic (P)
24 laps (12.713)
4th Darren – BMW 125 (O)
23 laps (12.328)
5th Norman – MG 6 (O)
21 laps (13.606)

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The dry weather had returned for race four, and another close battle between Steve and Scott was again the talking point. This time they would be joined by Lee – who by now had switched to his VW Passatt, and was quick to take advantage of its swifter pace and smooth handling.

Delayed

Lee would ultimately drop back, however. Delayed by a spin, he would end up in a scrap with Anthony over third. At the front, Scott would take the win from Steve. Meanwhile, championship leader, Darren had another disappointing race; damage to his BMW rendered it largely impossible to drive in already challenging conditions.

Race Four Result:
1st Scott – VW Passatt (O)
25 laps (11.797)
2nd Steve – BMW 125 (P)
24 laps (11.540)
3rd Lee – VW Passatt (O)
24 laps (11.797)
4th Anthony – Honda Civic (P)
23 laps (12.291)
5th Darren – BMW 125 (P)
22 laps (12.087)

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Steve made a good start away from pole in race five, and was swift to take advantage of the fact that the entire field crashed in the Chicago hairpin on the opening lap, enabling him to build a huge lead while the marshalls did their work. By the third lap, Steve was coming up on the back markers to lap them.

Carnage

Lee was first to emerge from the opening lap carnage, and spent the race chipping away at Steve’s lead. Steve, meanwhile, was about to hit trouble. As the racers became better accustomed with the new Rockingham circuit, it became apparent that there was only one really quick line around the twists and turns. Stepping out from this line to pass anyone was tricky. With 5 laps to go, Steve arrived under the rear wing of Cliff’s Honda, but just couldn’t find a way by. Cliff was very quick on the oval section, and with Lee now closing rapidly, a move in the twisty stuff was looking risky. Impatience got the better of Steve on the final lap, when he tried to pass Cliff, crashed into him, and allowed Lee through to take the win.

Race Five Result:
1st Lee – VW Passatt (P)
25 laps (11.719)
2nd Steve – BMW 125 (O)
24 laps (11.622)
3rd Anthony – Honda Civic (P)
23 laps (12.381)
4th Darren – VW Passatt (P)
23 laps (11.983)
5th Cliff – Honda Civic (O)
22 laps (12.460)

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Race six saw a three-way fight for the lead in the opening stages, with front row pair, Anthony and George joined by Lee. A spin for Anthony dropped him back, and he gradually faded from contention. George too was to run into trouble a few laps later, spinning off, and – despite his efforts – was unable to get back on terms with Lee, who was now running unchallenged at the front.

Strange Sounds

At the back, Anthony struggled to sustain his early-race pace and was to come home fourth. Behind him, Darren was having another race to forget. A switch to his VW had not paid off, and the strange sounds emanating from the Passatt suggested all was not well with this car either. The main beneficiary of Anthony and Darren’s troubles was Cliff, who was to come home third.

Race Six Result:
1st Lee – VW Passatt (P)
25 laps (11.833)
2nd George – MG 6 (O)
24 laps (11.877)
3rd Cliff – Honda Civic (P)
23 laps (12.429)
4th Anthony – Honda Civic (O)
22 laps (12.433)
5th Darren – VW Passatt (P)
21 laps (11.913)

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After a quick bit of car maintenance, Darren fared a little better in the penultimate race of the evening. Starting from pole, he managed to convert this into a race lead that he held for a handful of laps. Lee was shadowing him all the way, however, and pounced when Darren lost grip heading into the infield.

Muscle

Darren was now focused on George, who had also got by during his minor off. He was able to pass George, retaking second for a while, but George would ultimately muscle his way back onto the podium’s second step. So, third place might be something of a come down for Darren after his performance in round one back in January, but it was an improvement on the disappointments of earlier this evening.

Race Seven Result:
1st Lee – VW Passatt (P)
25 laps (11.828)
2nd George – MG 6 (P)
24 laps (11.919)
3rd Darren – VW Passatt (O)
24 laps (11.983)
4th Norman – MG 6 (O)
20 laps (13.126)
5th Cliff – Honda Civic (P)
12 laps (12.702)

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Race Eight started on a damp track, but with rain forecast for later in the race, both Lee and George took a gamble and started on full wet tyres. The rest of the field were taking a chance that the rain would come late enough to be worth starting on the intermediates. As it transpired, the rain came around half distance, and Lee and George’s wet tyres were worn enough by the time the heavens opened that the grip they provided was comparable to those of the inters.

Tyres

Lee lead the race throughout, though he was challenged by both Scott and George. A spin on lap 5 delayed the leader, but he was able to rejoin in front and remained there til the chequered flag, though Scott did close right up towards the end of the race when Lee’s wet tyres faded.

Race Eight Result:
1st Lee – VW Passat (O)
25 laps (11.345)
2nd Scott – VW Passatt (O)
24 laps (11.596)
3rd George – MG 6 (P)
23 laps (11.712)
4th Norman – MG 6 (P)
19 laps (13.463)
5th Cliff – Honda Civic (P)
17 laps (12.566)

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Round Two Result:

1st  Lee – 98
2nd Scott – 90
3rd Steve – 88
4th George – 86
5th Anthony – 71
6th Darren – 63
7th Norman – 61
8th Cliff  – 59

Championship Standings:

Round 1: Round 2: Round 3:Round 4: Total
1
Lee

83

98

79

102

283
2
Steve

85

88

96

97

281
3
Darren

89

63

102

83

274
4
George

81

86

81

XX

248
5
Anthony

85

71

67

82

238
6
Norman

59

61

XX

75

195
7
Scott

XX

90

71

XX

161
8
Cliff

XX

59

61

XX

120
9
Alex

57

XX

XX

XX

57

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