Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher fought back from a tough start to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship 60th Anniversary celebrations at the weekend, with a battling performance to secure a top 5 finish in the Diamond Double contest at Snetterton (July 28/29).
The Motorbase-run squad headed into the historic sixth meeting in strong form following the mid-season break. Regrettably an engine failure for Tom Chilton during Saturday’s afternoon practice session and a run of on-track bad luck for team-mate James Cole prevented the duo from fighting at the sharp end of the grid.
Following a momentous effort by the Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher pit-crew to change engines in the #3 Ford Focus RS after the final practice session, Chilton missed the opening half of Saturday’s crucial first qualifying session. With just over 11 mins remaining, and with 39kg of ballast on-board, Chilton set an impressive pace to take P16 from just 5 laps of the circuit. After setting a competitive time in the #20 Focus RS, James Cole unwittingly fell victim to track limits on his flying lap and had his best time removed – ending the session in P24.
The 2nd special Diamond Double qualifying session of the day proved more fruitful for the pair. With all cars running on base-weight in the shortened 15 minute session, Chilton stated his intent early on to secure P3 for the double point race on only his 6th flying lap of the day. Cole also bounced back from his previous disappointment, with a strong P12 grid spot for the 20 lap race.
Torrential conditions played its part in Sunday’s opening race, with treacherous racing conditions making progress almost impossible. Both Chilton and Cole managed to stay clear of a number of opening lap incidents to bring the Ford’s home in-tact and having moved forward to take P13 and P17 at the flag.
A dry race 2 opened up more opportunities for point scoring, with the entire grid heading out on the Dunlop option slicks. Free of his earlier weight, Chilton made a great start and hustled his way up into 10thby the first corner. Unfortunately contact with Lloyd’s Honda on lap 4 saw the Gallagher-backed racer drop back to 11th – just missing out on a top ten finish. Cole also made steady progress in #20 Focus, and the Liverpool-based racer made up 5 places to cross the line in 18th.
With double points on offer and the threat of another downpour, the special anniversary Diamond Double race was a frenetic affair. A less than perfect start on the greasy track saw Chilton drop three places off the line, but a battling performance from 33-year-old kept the crowds entertained as he duelled with 2013 Champion Jordan for much of the 20 lap race for 4th place. Despite his best efforts and a sterling drive in the 60 mile test, Chilton eventually crossed the line in 5th – adding 22 points to his championship haul.
Conversely, Cole’s weekend was brought to an abrupt end on lap 5. After charging into the top ten with a lightning start off the line, contact with Austin’s Alfa Romeo forced the #20 Focus RS in to the pits with race-ending steering damage – ruling the 29-year-old out of a strong points finish to end his weekend.
The weekend’s results leave Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher in 5th place in the Overall Teams’ Standings, with Chilton and Cole in 8th and 18th respectively. The Independent Title battles are still very much alive, with the squad currently 3rd in the Indy Teams whilst Chilton and Cole both hold 3rd and 10th place spots in the Championship points.
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reconvenes at Rockingham Speedway in Northamptonshire on August 11/12 for rounds 19, 20 and 21.
Team Manager Oly Collins:
“Celebrating 60 years of the BTCC this weekend and we had it all! All weather conditions thrown at the teams and drivers made it tricky for all of us on track, but great to watch, which sums up the BTCC in one day!
“Unfortunately the engine issue for Tom on Saturday prevented running in a crucial session pre-qualifying so we went in to Q1 a bit blind. James then missed out on a top 10 after his time was disallowed. That unfortunately shaped the first part of race day with their starting positions.
“Q2 put us back in the positions where we’d expect to be. Both of them drove very well in dreadful conditions in Race 1, brought the cars home unscathed and moved forward. Tom kept his Championship challenge alive in race 3 with a good top 5 finish with double points and James was doing a great job in the top 10 until he was taken out of the race.”
#3 Tom Chilton:
“Overall the weekend was up and down for us. A few things went wrong which was a bit of bad luck, and some of our own making too. The Diamond Double was the biggest race of the year and I was in the sniff of podium but I just didn’t get the start right in the last race and it dropped us back. It’s the first race that I’ve gone backwards in all year, so I’m feeling frustrated.
“Q2 was a complete turnaround from where we were in FP2! We scored more points in the last race than if we’d won the race before so it was a good result. We’ve had the pace again this weekend but not got the points out of it. It seems to be the story for us all this year. Motorbase are giving us a fantastic car, we’re just due some luck.”
#20 James Cole:
“Qualifying started well but sadly I lost my lap taken away for a minor infringement in Q1 which was a shame. Q2 was a good place to start from in P12 and a good benchmark against the rest of the grid.
“Race 1 was hard in really tricky conditions; the visibility was really poor so we couldn’t really do much. To come through the field and survive a race like with the car in one piece is an achievement. Our pace was good in race 2 again; we moved forward but sadly just missed out on a points finish.
“We got a good start in the final race, up into 10th and the car felt good and then too much eagerness from another driver ruined our race. I took a big hit on the right rear and had to finish early. A guaranteed top ten and chance of double points was taken away by someone else’s mistake – but that’s how it goes. Hopefully we can take our pace forward to Rockingham in a couple of weeks’ time.”