Team Shredded Wheat Racing with DUO took three hard-fought top ten finishes during a tumultuous weekend of action for rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill (August 12/13).
The Scottish circuit provided plenty of drama for the Wrotham-based outfit as it looked to extend its Independent title lead. Sadly an early retirement for Mat Jackson derailed the squad’s weekend plans, before a spirited fight back from the newly-formed trio of Jackson, Rory Butcher and Martin Depper salvaged five point-scoring finishes to help keep the Independent Champions’ title hopes alive.
A strong performance during Saturday’s opening free practice sessions looked set to reward the Motorbase-run squad with a front row qualifying position. Starting in very wet conditions, Mat Jackson sat in P2 for over half of the afternoon qualifying session before a sudden change in track conditions saw the grid scramble across to slicks. Unluckily – in spite of briefly taking pole – Jackson was caught on the wrong side of the tumbling times in the closing minutes and slipped back to 12th, ahead of team-mates Rory Butcher in P25 and Martin Depper in P31.
Sunday’s opener was a race to forget Team Shredded Wheat Racing with DUO. Jackson suffered a mechanical issue on the #3 Ford Focus ST during the warm-up lap and was forced to watch the race from the pits whilst his Motorbase crew raced to repair the stricken machine. Butcher survived his maiden BTCC run relatively unscathed after being forced off track on lap 15. The move cost him three places, but the 30-year-old did well to recover back to P25 whilst laden down with the 45kg of late entry ballast – closely followed across the line by tem-mate Depper in P27.
Starting from the back of the grid, Jackson pulled off a stunning start leap-frogging the Focus up the order before a huge first corner melee brought the racing to an abrupt end. Up ahead, Butcher and Depper both got caught up in the ensuing chaos with the majority of the grid having to take evasive action into the gravel. Butcher’s #6 Focus picked up damage on the front-left-hand wheel; however, the extended red flag period allowed the Motorbase crew enough time to complete repairs and the Scotsman re-joined the race for the restart.
Ballast-free and running on the soft tyre, Butcher delivered a sterling drive in the #6 Focus, charging through the pack as the laps unfolded, leading the way for team-mate Depper who followed the Fifer as the pair carved their way up the order. Butcher eventually brought the #6 Focus across the line in P10, an outstanding result for his 2nd outing in the BTCC, closely followed by Depper who ended in P12. Jackson’s outstanding race-craft saw the Warwickshire-man make up an incredible 14 places on the grid to take 17th at the chequered flag, sadly falling just outside the point-scoring zone.
The day seemed to be heading for a fairy-tale ending for Butcher’s debut weekend when he was drawn on pole for race three’s reverse grid. Sadly, the celebrations were short-lived when Josh Price was excluded from the race 2 result, promoting Butcher to P9 (and Depper to P11) which alas resulted in an amended grid for the final race, and Butcher moved back to P2.
Butcher’s initiation into the BTCC continued in race 3 with the Scotsman experiencing the full force of the fierce door-to-door racing that the championship is famed for. Coming under pressure from the charging pack, Butcher dug deep and after losing places in the opening laps, battling hard to take 9th at the flag. Butcher’s brace of top ten finishes earned him the Jack Sears Trophy honours as the highest-scoring rookie from the weekend – an impression accolade on his debut weekend.
The final race of the day also netted a best-placed finish of the weekend for Jackson. Starting from P16, Jackson delivered a flawless drive, expertly weaving the #3 Ford through the field and into the top ten by the 4th tour of the circuit. The 36-year-old continued to push forward, and in spite of two further safety car periods hindering his charge, crossed the line in 7th. Another solid performance from Depper was also rewarded with 12th place and his second points finish of the weekend on the Scottish circuit.
Team Shredded Wheat Racing with DUO leave Scotland sitting in 2nd place in the Independent Teams Standings – just 10 points off the current leaders – but having moved up into 6th in the overall Team championship standings. Despite a difficult weekend, Mat Jackson retains his 2nd place position in the Independent Drivers’ standings and 8th placed spot in the overall championship.
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship now has a short, two-week break before heading to Rockingham Speedway in Northamptonshire for rounds 22, 23 and 24 on August 26/27.
Team Manager Oly Collins:
“We were looking great in qualifying with not long to go and then it all turned on its head with the drying track and didn’t quite work out as we hoped. Coupled with the engine issue at the start of race 1 for Mat, it was always going to be a tough weekend. Race two showed the cars’ pace a little better however, and a sterling drive from all 3 drivers got us back up there.
“Martin had two great drives for points finishes in races 2 and 3. Rory was outstanding on his debut with his brace of top tens, and for Mat to come from last on the grid after the DNF to finish the day in P7 just shows what could have been.”
Mat Jackson #3:
“We arrived with a very strong car. We were up at the front in both free practice sessions and went into qualifying fairly confident. Unfortunately the session was a mixed bag. It was very wet and then dried so we knew we had to put a banker lap in early on in the rain. We managed to hit P2 but then the circuit dried really quickly and I just got caught in traffic on the last two laps and we ended P12, which doesn’t really tell the full story – the car was a lot quicker.
“We didn’t make the start of race 1 unfortunately because of a mechanical issue. That was our strongest chance really on the soft tyre to make some good headway but it left us at the back of the grid. We struggled in race 2. I managed to get up to P16 but the car didn’t quite have the pace of everybody else around us. We made some changes to the car and they worked really well in race 3, and we managed to come through to P7 but missing that opening race killed our weekend really. Overall we’ve come out with a car that’s fast; it’s just frustrating that the start of the weekend put us on the back foot.”
Rory Butcher #6:
“Coming into my first BTCC weekend in a brand new car there’s no way I would have expected to come away with two top ten finishes! We had good pace in free practice but then coming through, we didn’t really get the best out of qualifying. I got beaten up quite a bit in race 1 which was an eye opener! I managed to get my elbows out and fight my way into the top ten in race 2 and that got us on to the front row and it was awesome racing with all the guys at the front, especially my brother-in-law Gordon [Shedden].
“I think this weekend has been amazing considering that the car has just been built. The guys have put in an amazing amount of effort. We only shook the car down for the first time on Wednesday and survived all 3 races and to come away with some points and 100% finishing record this weekend is mega.
“Massive thanks to David [Bartrum], Alex from DUO and the guys at Shredded Wheat for giving me this opportunity. Also to the fans for being so good and showing so much support for me this weekend, it definitely fired me up!”
Martin Depper #30:
“Knockhill turned out to be a much better weekend for me in the end. We’re still fine-tuning the Ford for me and I still need time to get up to speed. At the moment that time for me is in free practice which loses us some time on the Saturday, but when we do get it in the window, we can get the results and I can do what the boys need me to do.
“The last thing I want to do is let the team down so it’s nice to get some a few good finishes under your belt and push forward. Race 1 was hard as we didn’t really have the pace compared to some others on the grid. The changes we made in race 2 with the soft tyre made a big difference and gave me a lot of confidence for race 3 as well.”