Heading into the last meeting of the year as outside contenders, the Kent-based squad narrowly missed out on both Independent Titles with a spirited performance on home soil, claiming 4 top ten finishes from the concluding three rounds of the UK’s premier racing series.
Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session was a Honda lock-out, with the Japanese marque securing the top 5 spots for Sunday’s opening race. In-spite of setting a time just 5 tenths off pole position, Tom Chilton was highest-placed of the 3 BTCC title challengers, claiming P15 with 57kg of success ballast on-board with team-mate James Cole close behind in P16.
An outstanding start from the Motorbase-men saw Cole make up an impressive 4 places off the line with Chilton also making up spots to move up to P12 by the first tour of the circuit. Holding off a fast-charging Turkington – Chilton delivered a first-class defensive drive to keep championship-winning BMW at bay. Contact on lap 10 between the duelling duo produced a heart-in-the-mouth moment for the championship battle, but Chilton held-strong with help from Motorbase stable-mates Cole and Tordoff to bring his #3 Focus RS home in P9; to keep his title hopes alive.
With a welcome return to form, Cole delivered a flawless drive to close off the top ten and collect a great haul of points for the Independent Teams’ championship campaign.
After closing the gap to the Independent Drivers’ Title to 16 points and the Teams’ deficit to just 6 points, Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher headed into race 2 with high hopes. A frenetic race unfolded with plenty of door to door drama to keep the crowd on the edge of their seats.
Chilton – running on the soft option tyre – got off to a great start to take 8th on the opening lap. Sadly, Cole got bogged down amongst the soft-tyre running pack and dropped down the order to P15. After enduring a 3-way battle with Independent rivals Ingram and Lloyd – Chilton eventually scythed his way up to take 6th at the chequered flag. Regrettably finishing just two places behind Ingram, but ruling him out of the Independent Drivers’ title fight as Turkington tied up the overall honours.
A scrappy mid-field struggle on the hard-option tyre kept Cole busy as he avoided multiple on-track forays to bring the #20 Focus RS across the line in P16 – just outside the points.
Starting from P5 by virtue of the reverse grid draw, all hopes were on a strong end to the season for the Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher pairing. With one eye firmly set on the Independent Teams’ Trophy, an 11 point gap to leaders Speedworks was a huge task for the Wrotham-based outfit to pull off in the final race of the year.
Carrying 33kg into the finale, Chilton stormed off the line to take 3rd and put himself into podium contention as the lead pack sprinted down towards Paddock Hill. With the race lead changing order as the laps unfolded, Chilton’s determination saw him hold position until lap 6 when Sutton’s Subaru stole past. A late, brave lunge on Austin’s Alfa on the closing lap came tantalisingly close to rewarding the Reigate-racer with a rostrum place, but sadly the move was just out of reach with the #3 Focus claiming 4th as the final flag dropped, with team-mate Cole picking up his 2nd points finish of the day in P14.
The weekend signed-off a convincing season for the Motorbase-run outfit. Tom Chilton ended his maiden season with the squad in 3rd place overall, with 1 race win and 5 podiums to his name, also claiming 2ndplace in the Independent Drivers’ standings.
Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher finished a credible 4th overall in the Teams Standings – as the highest-placed Independent Team – also claiming 2nd in the Independent Teams’ championship with the newly-developed Ford Focus RS marking a solid debut season with 2 Independent race wins and 11 podiums.
Team Principal David Bartrum says:
“We came into this weekend with a chance of winning the Independents’ Teams and Drivers titles and a mega outsider on the overall championship, but to be honest that was always out of our reach. Our goal was to try and get Tom to secure 3rd and we achieved exactly what we set out to do. Overhauling Ingram in both championships was a big ask and getting close to Turkington was a step too far. We didn’t quite manage the Independent Teams and Drivers, but I’m very proud of our 4th place overall in the Teams standings and as the highest-placed Independent outfit behind the manufacturer teams.
“Overall I’m really pleased with how we’ve ended the year. We started the season with pretty-much a new car and a brand new driver line-up and with no continuation from last season. So, to come out of the end 3rd overall is a great result. It’s been a good end to the season. The team have worked hard this year; they’re like a well-oiled machine and have consistently delivered. I’m very proud of our achievements.
“Congratulations to Speedworks on their title wins. They are a great bunch of people, I know Christian and Amy well and I’m really chuffed for them. I’m envious as well, but pleased for them and also for Tom Ingram.”
Tom Chilton says:
“It’s been a fantastic year. Considering that we got off to a slow start, all the stars aligned. The team has been amazing, I just had to keep kicking the gears and scoring points. I’m a bit frustrated that I didn’t manage to win the Independents’ championship, that’s the only downer from the season. But if I’m honest, 3rd overall is epic. I’ve come off the back of finishing 3rd in the FIA WTCC against some of the best drivers in the world and come into the BTCC in its most competitive season and finished 3rd again.
“I do feel that we’ve had a lot of bad luck this year and I believe that with some more development we’ve got a fantastic package to take forward into next season. If we can finish 3rd with bad luck, what can we do when it all goes our way.
“I’m feeling very happy here at Motorbase and in the car. I love my team-mates to pieces, I owe James and Sam one and if they ever need me when it comes down to the wire like it did today, I will be there for them both, 110%.”
James Cole says:
“The second half of the season didn’t really go our way so our aim this weekend was to get back into the points and top ten where we believe we should be, and we managed to do that. Being in a position to help Tom out in his quest for the independent title was a bonus as well. It was great for the team to know that we are all working together with the same aim.
“That feeling and continuity is one that I’m sure any team would love to keep. From a result perspective, we gained points this weekend which is no easy thing to do in this championship. Here’s to 2019!”
2018 Championship Standings:
Overall BTCC Championship
Tom Chilton – 3rd – 266 points
James Cole – 21st – 67 points
Overall Teams’ Championship
Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher – 4th – 318 points
Independent Drivers’ Championship
Tom Chilton – 2nd – 368 points
James Cole – 13th – 150 points
Independent Teams’ Championship
Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher – 2nd – 388 points