Down to the Wire.

Race Report: BTCC 2019.
Round 3 (1 June 2019).
Falcon Raceway GT.

The previous round of the BTCC saw Scott put the cat among the pigeons with a performance that saw him leap up the standings. Round three was a case of back to business as usual in many ways, with the two main title protagonists reasserting their championship credentials. By the end of the round, one of them could reasonably claim to have one hand on the trophy, but with one more round to go, the title race would definitely go down to the wire.

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With the sun shining for race one, the front row pair of Cliff and Anthony shod their car with the soft compound ‘Option’ tyres. This meant they would have more speed in the opening laps, but less grip later in the race. It was a scrappy start throughout the field, with collisions and spins a-plenty. No-one seemed to have the edge in the opening laps, but once the race settled, it was Steve who eased his way through into the lead, pulling away to take the first win. Behind him, Scott got his afternoon off to a solid start, beating Anthony in the race for second.

Race One Result
(Drivers’ fastest race laps and tyre compound in brackets, winner of extra point for fastest lap in bold):
1st Steve – BMW 125 (P)
20 laps (8.697)
2nd Scott – BMW 125 (P)
18 laps (9.875)
3rd Anthony – Honda Civic (O)
17 laps (9.512)
4th Cliff – BMW 125 (O)
17 laps (9.330)
5th Martin – VW Passatt (P)
17 laps (10.580

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For race two the dry weather once again prevailed, so pole man Martin and second placed Darren were to use the Option tyres. The start this time was much cleaner; Darren immediately passed Martin for the lead and – using the extra pace from the soft tyres – started to pull away at the front.

Striking Distance

Starting from the back of the grid, Steve set about carving his way through the field, and by mid-distance was running second. As the laps ticked down, the gap to leader Darren steadily shrank, and – by the last lap – Steve was almost within striking distance. Perhaps, if the race was a few laps longer, he could have got by, but he would have to settle for second this time.

Race Two Result: 
1st Darren – VW Passatt (O)
20 laps (8.974)
2nd Steve – BMW 125 (P)
19 laps (8.669)
3rd Anthony – Honda Civic (P)
18 laps (9.461)
4th Scott – BMW 125 (P)
17 laps (9.490)
5th Martin – VW Passatt (O)
17 laps (10.331)

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More dry weather greeted our racers for the third race of the afternoon. Scott would therefore start from pole on the soft tyres with George’s BMW alongside him. The second row was occupied by two of the championship leaders – Darren and Steve. With the lights out, the field launched into action, and right away, Darren was harrying the leading pair, and by the second lap, had taken the lead. Behind him, Steve and George were now scrapping over second, while Scott fell back into a fight for fourth with Anthony.

Mobile Chicane

Both Steve and George had their turn at trying to catch Anthony. One would take second, set off in pursuit of the leader and then meet with the same unexpected obstacle. Darren was now getting help from his unofficial team mate, Anthony! Both Steve and George were held up by the orange Civic, running at a much slower pace, and delaying the chasing pack to allow Darren to pull away. Neither could find a way by, so Darren took another race win. George then, whilst running second late on, crashed and handed second place back to Steve.

Race Three Result: 
1st Darren – VW Passatt (P) 
20 laps (9.086)
2nd Steve – BMW 125 (P)
19 laps (8.768)
3rd George – BMW 125 (O)
19 laps (8.828)
4th Anthony – Honda Civic (P)
18 laps (9.461)
5th Scott – BMW 125 (O)
17 laps (9.282)

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Steve and Lee lined up on the front row for the fourth race; dry conditions meant option tyres were deployed for the leading duo. Once the race got going, it was largely a repeat of race three. Again, Darren got into the lead, and pulled away. Steve and Lee fought briefly over second, before Steve pulled away in pursuit of Darren. Then, his pursuit of the leader was slowed by the blocking tactics used by Anthony to assist Darren. Steve finally found a way to pass and lap Anthony, but by then he had worn out his soft tyres so was forced to settle for second.

Race Four Result: 
1st Darren – VW Passatt (P)
20 laps (9.152)
2nd Steve – BMW 125 (O)
19 laps (8.822)
3rd Lee – Honda Civic (O)
18 laps (9.178)
4th George – BMW 125 (P)
18 laps (9.039)
5th Anthony – Honda Civic (P)
17 laps (9.765)

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For race five, Anthony started on pole alongside Cliff. The two made clean get-aways, but immediately came under pressure from Darren. By the third lap, the lead was his, and both Anthony and Cliff fell away from the lead pace. Cliff’s BMW, getting its first racing under its belt today, needed some fine tuning to bring it up to speed. Anthony, meanwhile, was locked in battle with Lee over third. It was a battle which would ultimately end in the latter’s favour.

Switch

The main challenge for the lead came from George. He had started the race from the back of the grid and had now switched to his MG. He had good pace, and came close to matching Darren’s fastest lap time, but like Steve in race two, he ran out of laps as he closed on the Volkswagen.

Race Five Result: 
1st Darren – VW Passatt (P)
20 laps (9.100)
2nd George – MG 6 (P)
19 laps (9.170)
3rd Lee – Honda Civic (P)
17 laps (9.259)
4th Anthony – Honda Civic (O)
17 laps (9.625)
5th Cliff – BMW 125 (O)
15 laps (9.682)

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Darren lined up on pole for race six; this would be his last race of the day, and a win would secure a clean sweep. Darren didn’t disappoint, leading away from pole and going unchallenged from lights to flag. Behind him, two battles raged. George and Lee fought over second, which gave Darren the opportunity to pull away at the front. Behind them Martin was locked in battle with Cliff over fourth, with the VW eventually taking the place and pulling away.

Race Six Result: 
1st Darren – VW Passatt (O)
20 laps (8.882)
2nd George – MG 6 (P)
18 laps (9.007)
3rd Lee – Honda Civic (P)
17 laps (9.347)
4th Martin – VW Passatt (O)
17 laps (10.110)
5th Cliff – BMW 125 (P)
16 laps (9.478)

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There were a couple of drivers switching cars in race seven, with Scott now running his Volkswagen, and George changing back to BMW. It proved to be a wise move, for the latter, as he secured his first win of the day. Indeed, this was the only race not be won by either Darren or Steve in the BTCC class today.

Rejuvenated

George had started from pole alongside Scott, but both came under immediate pressure from Lee with the rejuvenated Honda. Breezing past Scott on the back straight on lap one, Lee set about pressuring George for the lead. Lap after lap, the Honda harried the BMW, but the telling factor was how the leaders negotiated their way by the backmarkers. With Scott, Cliff and Martin all engaged in their own battles, George was able to find a way through the traffic with minimal delay. Lee, meanwhile seemed to lose more time and ultimately had to settle for second.

Race Seven Result: 
1st George – BMW 125 (O)
20 laps (8.795)
2nd Lee – Honda Civic (P)
19 laps (8.979)
3rd Scott – VW Passatt (O)
18 laps (9.109)
4th Cliff – BMW 125 (P)
17 laps (9.477)
5th Martin – VW Passatt (P)
16 laps (10.418)

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The final race of the day saw the heavens open, giving us our first wet race. This was great news for Steve and Lee, who would start on the front row and – by using the wet weather tyres – not have to worry about the degradation of the Options. Steve was particularly pleased. On a day where he had been unable to finish ahead of title rival Darren in any of their races, a win in race eight would hopefully keep him in touch in the championship.

Punt

The race began, and both Steve and Lee were quick out of the blocks. Steve had the inside line going into turn one and took the lead, moving into the right-hand lane on the run down to turn two to defend his lead. Lee was a little late on the brakes on the approach to turn two, punting Steve off into a spin. Once he was back up and running, Steve chased Lee down and made a clean pass to retake the lead. There he would remain for the rest of the race to take his second win of the afternoon.

Race Eight Result: 
1st Steve – BMW  125 (W)
20 laps (8.547)
2nd Lee – Honda Civic  (W)
19 laps (8.960)
3rd Scott – VW Passatt (W)
18 laps (8.985)
4th Cliff – BMW 125 (W)
15 laps (9.556)
5th Martin – VW Passatt (W)
15 laps (10.439)

Round Three Result:

1st Darren – 102
2nd Steve – 96
3rd George – 81
4th Lee – 79
5th Scott – 71
6th Anthony – 67
7th Cliff – 61
8th Martin – 57

Damage Limitation

With a dominant performance in round three, Darren is in a very strong position in the championship standings. By posting the fastest lap in each of his races, however, Steve has minimised the damage to his own championship challenge by scoring an additional five points. The gap between first and second going into the fourth and final round is seven points, with Lee a further three points back in third. Round four on 10th October looks like being a classic!

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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