Fortune Favours the Bold.

Race Report: BTCC 2019.
Round 4 (10 October 2019).
Bristol Road Course.

One of the more closely contested classes in 2019, the BTCC championship saw Darren take a slender six point lead over Steve into the final round. With Lee only a point further back in third, the Bristol Road Course would play host to a spectacular title showdown. With a spate of autumn holidays reducing the field by half, the racing was as fast and furious as ever. With each driver only having three races each, there would be little room for error, and our championship hopefuls would need to be bold on their single race with the Option tyre.

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Defending champion, Darren, would start from pole in race one, which also meant running on the option tyre. This meant he’d have superior pace in the early stages of the race, but his advantage would fade later, and would need to nurse the car home to pay for any earlier exuberance. Running the eBay BMW, Darren was, indeed, very quick, but the handling of the 125 was twitchy at best, and an early lead evaporated within a handful of laps as crashes let both Steve and Anthony by.

Distant

Steve stepped gratefully into the lead after Darren’s misfortune, and – having shaken off an early challenge from Anthony, went on to take the win. A further crash for Darren on the start line saw him lose a lap, and a distant third was all he could muster, while a win meant Steve had started to chip away at Darren’s championship lead.

Race One Result: 
1st Steve – BMW 125
Laps: 40; Tyres: P; Grid: 3
Fastest lap: 5.036
2nd Anthony – VW Passatt
Laps: 40; Tyres: P; Grid: 2
Fastest lap: 5.281
3rd Darren – BMW 125
Laps: 38; Tyres: O; Grid: 1
Fastest lap: 3.316*

*Time probably anomalous, caused by a missed lap. Darren still awarded point for fastest lap as no-one could be bothered to argue about it 🙂

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For race two, it was Steve’s turn to start on the Option tyre, thought the opportunity to make hay while the sun shone didn’t materialise when Lee made an over-enthusiastic attempt to pass on the opening lap. Punting Steve off into the armco, Lee did the decent thing and allowed Steve to close up, but a further crash allowed Lee back through into the lead. Now concerned about the degradation of the option tyre, Steve started to run at a more conservative pace, but arguably he was being over-cautious.

Too Late

Back at the front, Lee carried on, steadily building his lead – his VW looking swift on the straights and planted in the corners. Before long, he’d pulled out a two lap lead over Steve and Anthony. Steve, perhaps realising he didn’t need to conserve his tyres as much as he thought, stepped up the pace in the final ten laps. He’d left it way too late, though, and despite clawing back a lap, second (and fastest lap) was to be his reward. A win for Lee in his opening race also meant he had made inroads into Darren’s championship lead.

Race Two Result: 
1st Lee – VW Passatt
Laps: 40; Tyres: P; Grid: 2
Fastest lap: 5.238
2nd Steve – BMW 125
Laps: 39; Tyres: O; Grid: 1
Fastest lap: 4.999
3rd Anthony – VW Passatt
Laps: 38; Tyres: P; Grid: 3
Fastest Lap: 5.370

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After struggling with a borrowed VW Passatt for his first two races, Anthony switched to a borrowed Honda Civic for his third and final race of the evening, and was to see an immediate improvement. Indeed, he was to put leader Lee under serious pressure in the opening dozen-or-so laps. As the race neared half distance, however, Lee began to pull away.

Improved

Running alone in second place, Anthony made some early attempts to get back on terms with Lee, but crashes on the 23rd and then again on the 26th lap dropped him two laps behind. While he dropped back, he was still safe from third placed Norman who, despite putting in a much-improved performance in the MG, was too far back to trouble the Honda runner.

Race Three Result: 
1st Lee – VW Passatt
Laps: 40; Tyres: P; Grid: 3
Fastest lap: 5.161
2nd Anthony – Honda Civic
Laps: 38; Tyres: O; Grid: 1
Fastest lap: 5.221
3rd Norman – MG 6
Laps: 34; Tyres: P; Grid: 2
Fastest Lap: 5.824

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Returning to action after a double-stint in high-vis, Darren made a hesitant start from the front row, allowing Lee to make the perfect start on the option tyre. For lap after lap in the first half of the race, Lee pounded round the Bristol Road Course, pulling out a mighty lead. As the option tyre faded, Darren began to close up on Lee’s VW, and by lap 25 had started to pile on the pressure. On lap 29, the pressure finally told, and Lee crashed going into the esses. Darren swept by into the lead.

Stricken

At the front of the field for the first time in the round, Darren perhaps let the excitement get to him, and a lap later had put his car into the barrier at the end of the start-finish straight. This time it was Lee’s turn to sail by his stricken adversary, and this time he was able to hold on to take a crucial third win of the evening and, with it, the 2019 championship!

Race Four Result: 
1st Lee – VW Passatt
Laps: 40; Tyre: O; Grid: 1
Fastest lap: 5.217
2nd Darren – BMW 125
Laps: 40; Tyre: P; Grid: 2
Fastest lap: 5.261
3rd Norman – MG 6
Laps: 32; Tyre: P; Grid: 3
Fastest lap: 6.064

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No-one had done the maths in-between races, so as the fifth and final race of the evening got underway, Steve still believed that he could still win the championship. He therefore did everything he could to ensure that happened, though Darren too would drive a good race, perhaps in the belief that a race win might be enough to seal the runner-up slot.

Sterling

Steve was to control the race from the start, however, and – also setting fastest lap on his way to the race win – never relinquished the lead throughout the 40 laps. And, despite taking maximum points, when the calculator came out after the chequered flag fell, it was revealed that Lee had taken the 2019 title; leapfrogging both Steve and Darren in the points with a sterling performance.

Race Five Result: 
1st Steve – BMW 125
Laps: 40; Tyre: P; Grid: 2
Fastest lap: 5.177
2nd Darren – BMW 125
Laps: 40; Tyre: P; Grid: 3
Fastest lap: 5.304
3rd Norman – MG 6
Laps: 33; Tyre: O; Grid: 1
Fastest lap: 6.244

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Round Four Result: 

1st Lee – 102
2nd Steve – 97
3rd Darren – 83
4th Anthony – 82
5th Norman – 75

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Final Championship Positions:

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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