Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher celebrated a return to the rostrum during rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, with Tom Chilton claiming his fourth podium of the season during an action-packed weekend of racing at Rockingham Speedway (August 11/12).
The seventh meeting of the season delivered mixed fortunes for the Motorbase-run squad. After a strong start for Chilton with a third placed podium and a further top ten finish, unfortunately James Cole suffered a difficult opening two races and the duo ended the weekend on a low note, recording DNFs for both Ford Focus RS machines after opening lap contact.
Starting from P7 for Sunday’s opening race, Chilton made a lightening start off the line charging up into 2nd place as Cammish and Tordoff collided coming into the first hairpin – bringing out the first safety car of the day. With the imminent threat of rain, Chilton held position on the restart from Sutton’s fast-charging Subaru. A defensive masterclass from the Gallagher-backed driver held off the reigning BTCC champion for an incredible 8 laps before he eventually succumbed, dropping back to take third at the flag and claim the team’s 4th podium of the season.
Having trialled a new set-up on the #20 Focus in qualifying, Cole had a tough ask to move through the pack from P25. The Liverpool-backed racer did well to avoid the opening lap melee and survive the mid-field tussles to bring RS home relatively unscathed in P19.
Race two was a classic BTCC elbows-out scrap. Wrestling with 57kg of success ballast on-board, Chilton got bogged down off the line and struggled to keep pace with the lighter horde. After a big side-ways moment and contact on lap 5 that dropped the #3 Focus RS down the order, the 33 year-old battled his way back through to claim 10th.
Cole endured his own fight in the mid-pack during the safety-car interrupted race. After contact on the opening lap dropped him back to 29th, he managed to pilot the #20 Focus back through the tight pack to make up an impressive 10 places to take a credible 19th as the flag dropped.
With the reversed grid draw slotting Chilton into pole position for the final race of the day, the odds looked good for a 2nd podium visit of the day. Running on the less favourable Dunlop option hard-compound tyre – just as the intermittent rain returned – the Reigate-racer got a superb start off the line and had built up a decent gap to Simpson’s following Honda. Disaster struck however as they headed into the first hairpin with the #3 Focus sliding wide on the greasy track before being collected as it re-joined the track; causing race-ending damage and the halting the team’s hopes of a maiden race win of the season.
With numerous other cars caught out in the changeable weather conditions, Cole’s day was also brought to an abrupt early end. Having avoided the first turn chaos, the 29-year-old was ruled out of the running after suspension damage from a heavy side-ways shunt at the chicane – leaving Cole to rue what might have been from a very a challenging weekend.
In spite of the mixed results and missed opportunities, the weekend’s results have helped to improve the squad’s position in the series’ standings. Tom Chilton has moved up into 7th place overall and 2nd in the Independent Drivers Championship. Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher has also jumped up to 4th in the overall Teams’ standings – as the highest placed Independent Team – and sits just 25 points off the leaders in the Independent Teams’ Championship, with 9 rounds remaining.
Knockhill in Fife in the next on the calendar for Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher, as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship enters its closing stages for rounds 22, 23 and 24 on the August bank holiday weekend (August 25/26).
Team Principal David Bartrum:
“I’m not sure how else to describe this weekend – other than yo-yo! Tom did a good job in qualifying to get P7 and to go on and get that podium in race 1. The second race was tough all round but we stayed in fight and we were looking good for a strong finish to the day with the reverse grid draw.
“I actually thought our luck might have been changing after getting draw on pole. The extra green flag laps gave us more time to get some heat into the hard tyres as the rain came and then it was all over by the first corner!
“Highs and lows all weekend. We qualified well, we raced well, the car has the pace but yet again it just hasn’t gone the way it should have gone. It’s very frustrating but we’ll lick our wounds, get the cars sorted and try again in Scotland.”
#3 Tom Chilton:
“We nearly had 2 more podiums this weekend. Sadly we only managed one in the end, but I guess it’s quite nice to be disappointed with a podium!
“I got a cracking start in the last race but then I got massive oversteer on the banking, went wide and then the contact ended our race. The team have done a great job this weekend. We’ve developed the car again and moved up in the Championship.
“I’m gutted for everybody that I didn’t get a 2nd podium and that magical win.”
#20 James Cole:
“Since Snetterton, myself and my engineer James Mundy have been developing our car in a different direction. We had a car that was great in the first half of the year, but we tried to push to see if we could improve our results and challenge for wins. Sadly it didn’t work, and after qualifying it was apparent that we weren’t going the right way to get the best result at the moment, so we went back to what we knew.
“Sometimes to take a step forward you end up taking a step back. We found some improvements in the car but it’s a lot harder to drive and actually in hindsight going back to what we knew at the start of the season was the right thing to do. We went back to that for race 1 and the car felt good. Unfortunately we got caught up in accidents again in all three races and it dropped us out of any points contention. Making radical changes in the mid-season is a risk and unfortunately it didn’t pay off for us. To be 6 tenths off in qualifying when the field is competitive is as is it this year, comes back to bite you.
“The Motorbase crew did a great job on the car, and I have to say a big thank you to the mechanics for putting the changes in place. I’m just sorry that it didn’t pay off. But without risk, there is no reward.”