NEWS & FEATURES RACE 

BTCC | FINAL | BRANDS HATCH

After an exciting round at Silverstone which shook up the race for the championship the final rounds of the 2019 BTCC would be held on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, the Kent track now traditionally hosting the final races of the season. The dramas of Silverstone had left five drivers in with a mathematical chance of winning the championship. Ingram and Cook had an outside chance but the likelihood is the title would be between the reigning champ Turkington, Cammish who through consistent drives throughout the year hauled himself into second position after Silverstone and a determined Andrew Jordan in third who has battled his way into contention after early season disappointments.

Rain fell throughout the day on Saturday which meant a wet qualifying. The wet conditions potentially helping those with any success ballast as the conditions generally nullify the extra weight. Turkington set the early pace, at one point being half a second quicker than his title rival and team mate Jordan in second.

With a few minutes left Jordan caused the second red flag of the session, luckily he had set a few decent laps and retained third position despite his best time being taken away for causing the stoppage. Cammish would be the one to suffer most in the wet conditions, only managing twelfth spot on the grid.

The track had dried out in time for the first of the races on Sunday, Sutton beat Turkington into the first corner to take the lead. In the early exchanges Cammish made a determined start and moved up the pack whilst Jordan dropped a couple of places. Butcher was the first to pass and Jake Hill seeing an opportunity went through while Jordan was off line. Turkington hadn’t let Sutton escape up front and moved back into first passing Sutton on the inside at Druids, determined to make sure every point counted in the championship race. Drama came as the safety car was brought out as Matt Simpson went straight on at Paddock and into the barriers. The rain was slowly starting to increase during the safety car period and allowed some drivers to come in and take a gamble and go onto wet weather tyres. Butcher was relishing the slippery conditions and soon moved himself up into first as others struggled with the damp track.

Cammish was also loving the damp track and bravely put himself on the outside of Paddock to move up to fourth, then shortly after went past rival Turkington. Cammish repeated the earlier move on the outside of Paddock Hill around Butcher and took the lead after starting twelfth on the grid, and taking the win, closing the gap on the championship lead.

The gamble to change to wet weather tyres in the first race paid off for Matt Neal as he finished in second, and would be able to lend himself as a body guard to Cammish in the second race as the Dynamics duo would start first and second on the grid. Initially it didn’t turn out that way as Turkington jumped Neal to get into second at the first corner. There was drama behind as Goff, Oliphant and Morgan clashed and made heavy contact with the barrier. Nothing compared to the drama to follow as Neal tried to get himself back up the inside of Turkington at Graham Hill bend, tapping him into a spin and putting him in dead last. The move would later be punished by the stewards earning a five place grid penalty for the final round.

Sutton showed his credentials as a great wet weather drive as he went past Neal and Cammish to take the lead, and eventually the win. Jordan kept his championship hopes alive by getting past Neal after a bit of wheel banging just before the second safety car was called for.  A couple of laps later he eventually managed to battle past Cammish and earn himself second place, Turkington would end up in twenty fifth place and firmly hand the advantage to Dan Cammish in the title race, going into the last race with an eight point advantage.

The skies had cleared for the final race of the season, the reverse grid putting Sennan Proctor on pole, Cammish would start one place ahead of Jordan in eighth with a lighter car, and Turkington would start way down in twenty fifth. Jordan managed to get a lightning start and get ahead of Cammish, but the traffic meant he couldn’t gain any more places going around Druids. Turkington jumped up ten places by the end of the first lap and into the points. Jelley had initially taken the lead of the race, but Plato took the lead going into the third lap at Paddock Hill, and would go on to win his first race of the season.

Turkington was continuing to make progress and soon found himself just behind Cammish with about third of the race to go. Despite his best defensive efforts Cammish eventually had to relinquish his position to Turkington after getting stuck behind a slower Ollie Jackson going into Druids, also losing another place to Ingram. Although Turkington was in front it was still Cammish who would take the title at this point as neither Jordan or Turkington where far enough ahead. Disaster befell Cammish with just two laps to go, a brake failure saw him go off at speed and backwards into the barrier at a frightening speed. The final two laps of the season were the only two that he didn’t finish all season, his consistency had kept him in the title fight, but it was Turkington’s fighting spirit that regained him his title and his fourth overall.

Despite the initial prediction at the start of the season that the West Surrey BMW’s were going to dominate the entire season, the BTCC once again managed to muster up a spectacular final day of racing. The title fluctuated one way and another from one race to the next and was only decided within the last two laps of the season.

Rory Butcher had a great season picking up the independents title and also the Jack Sears trophy. There is likely to be a fair few changes before next season. There is a possibility that we will no longer see the Subaru’s on the grid, and along with Pirtek pulling out of sponsorship with Andrew Jordan, and the Shredded Wheat partnership coming to an end with Motorbase. As ever though no matter which teams and cars are on the grid I’m sure it will still be as entertaining as ever.

Words & Photos By: Kevin Henderson for Xlerate

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