Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher endured a tough weekend at its local Brands Hatch circuit this weekend (April 7/8) as the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship kicked off in spectacular style. A promising start and impressive pace sadly went unrewarded following on-track incidents which marred what could have been an impressive start to the Motorbase-run outfit’s 2018 campaign.

The new Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher line-up made a strong start to the weekend with the new Focus RS posting promising times during Saturday’s free practice and qualifying sessions, resulting in a fourth row start with Chilton in P7 for race 1. Cole ended the session in a solid P14 – albeit just 0.341s off pole position – showing the exceptional competitiveness of the grid this year.

Sunday’s opening race delivered a decent haul of points to get the campaign off the ground. Both drivers got a great start off the line with Chilton stealing into P5 as the pack headed through Druids. Likewise Cole showed true grit, piloting the #20 Focus RS up into P7 by the end of the opening lap before an early safety car appearance. An excellent battle ensued following the restart with the duo trading places with Ingram and Cammish as the pack wrestled for 4th spot. Unfortunately Cole eventually succumbed to Sutton’s fast-charging Subaru and Smiley’s Honda in the closing laps to end the race in P9, with Chilton managing to hold on to take P5 at the flag.

Tricky racing conditions on a wet and greasy, but drying track saw the grid a mix of wet and slick tyres for race 2. Opting for the Dunlop Blue Response wets, Chilton and Cole both charged off the line moving up into P4 and P9 by the first corner. A brave challenge on Goff by Chilton as the pair headed into Paddock Hill Bend paid-off for the Gallagher-backed racer and a first podium of the season looked to be on the cards as he held position until the half way point.

Images by Matt Sayle

A drying track, coupled with the added safety laps however, soon put paid to the pair’s hard work as the slick tyres came into the play and the both quickly dropped down the order. With tyre degradation so severe, Chilton was forced to pit late in the race to avoid a puncture and despite his best efforts, could only muster a P28 finish with team-mate Cole taking P19.

The final race of the day unfortunately followed suit for the Motorbase-run squad. Early pace shown by both drivers was short-lived with Cole taken out of the running with race-ending damage to the front of the #20 Focus RS. Chilton’s gallant efforts to move up through the order to P21 proved fruitless when a heavy rear-end shunt forced the #3 Focus to pit for repairs to a back-right puncture and the Surrey-based driver ended the race in P27.

Although it was a disappointing start to the championship challenge for Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher, the new Focus RS showed podium-worthy pace over the weekend and the squad remains up-beat heading into rounds 4, 5 & 6 at Donington Park on April 28/29.

Images by Matt Sayle

Oly Collins Team Manager:
“We had a great start to the weekend with a strong qualifying and a solid race 1 result for both Tom and James. Unfortunately the safety car in race 2 enabled the circuit to dry just that little bit too early for us to get the wets to last in the drying conditions, and then race 3 was just out of our hands with contact. The car performed very well on pace and we look forward to Donington. Hopefully with a bit more luck.”

#3 Tom Chilton:
“So many should’ve, would’ve, could’ve scenarios for us this weekend. We should have had a podium at least this weekend but somehow it didn’t play out our way.”

“I’ve been very happy with the performance of the RS this weekend and we’ve been consistently fast. We just need the luck in qualifying to put us at the right end of the grid and we’ll be challenging for podiums and wins. It’s just hard to come through from the back.”

#20 James Cole:
“The car is in a very good place. It’s been very quick all weekend, especially considering how close the field is.

“Race 1 was a great result, unfortunately race 2 was out of our hands weather wise and didn’t go to plan and then we got taken out of race 3. Not what we expected this weekend which is a shame, but moving forward to Donington the car is really strong and we should be on for some decent results there.”

Images by Matt Sayle