Triple Eight Racing BTCC
MG Racing RCIB Insurance endured a tricky weekend at Snetterton circuit in Norfolk as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) recommenced after its annual summer break for the second half of the season.

The weekend started with the free practice sessions that saw Ash Sutton setting the third quickest time in the first session and Josh Cook being seventh quickest.  For free practice two Ash dominated the times for a while and finished the session with the second quickest time with Josh struggling to get in the groove and being down the order in twenty fifth.

The afternoons qualifying session saw Honda’s Gordon Shedden secure his first pole position since Donington Park in 2014 with Ash setting the setting quickest MG time in eighth and Josh set to start the first of Sunday’s three races in twelfth.

With huge crowds flocking into a sunny Snetterton on Sunday, the first of the day’s three races got underway with both of the MG6’s getting a good clean getaway Ash made up a remarkable four places and into fourth by the time the cars reached the halfway point of the first lap with Josh matching his team mates success by making it up to eighth position from twelfth.   

With Shedden and the Subaru of Turkington fighting for the lead up front Adam Morgan in the Mercedes nipped up the inside of Ash dropping him back to fifth.  Both drivers then held their positions for several laps until disaster struck for eighth placed Josh when he received a puncture to the front left tyre of his MG and forcing him to pit for a tyre change.  Ash then received the same blow on lap ten with him too having to pit.  Both drivers re-joined the race but finished well down the order in twenty fifth and twenty sixth ending their chances of a solid haul of championship points for the weekend.  Turkington took the race victory in the Subaru.

With both cars starting the race towards the back of the grid the MG Racing RCIB Insurance duo had a huge task in front of them to get through the field to try and score some points.  As the lights went out both drivers made great starts but as they headed down the Bentley Straight Ollie Jackson in the Audi ran wide and made contact with Dan Welch kicking up a cloud of dust as the duo speared across the track.  Unfortunately an unsighted Ash ploughed into the accident ending his race and several drivers including Alex Martin and Hunter Abbott were also caught up in the collision which blocked the track bringing a red flag to the proceedings.  Thankfully although the cars were a bit worse for wear all of the drivers escaped without injury.  The marshals and officials then had the mammoth task of retrieving the damaged cars and repairing the barriers ready for a restart.   With Ash’s car now out of the race the team set to work on the car to try and get it repaired for race three. 

As there was less than a lap contested the remaining cars on the grid would line up in the same order as they originally started.  As the lights went out for the second time the remaining MG of Josh Cook got off to a good start and was immediately up to seventeenth place.  With more contact up front Josh was through to thirteenth place by lap three where he held his position and brought the car home scoring valuable points for the team.  Mat Jackson took the win.

Remarkably the MG Racing RCIB Insurance boys did a stellar job of repairing Ash’s car in time for third race of the day and with the officials hoping for an incident free race after the drama earlier on but unfortunately the worst was yet to come. 

As the lights went out for what was set to be the final time of the day Josh made a clean getaway when disaster would strike for his competitors for a second time. On the main straight as the cars towards the rear of the field went past the pit garages, contact was made between Howard and Martin forcing several cars to take to the grass in avoidance.  Hunter Abbot tried to sneak through a gap but clipped the side of Howard’s VW that forced his Chevrolet into a violent series of rolls, whilst he was rolling an unsighted Ollie Jackson hit Abbott’s car mid roll pushing it up onto the barriers and into the ITV camera crew tower sending it and the camera man toppling in the process.  Luckily for Ash he saw the events unfolding in front of him and slowed up to avoid any involvement.  The race was immediately stopped and remarkably the cameraman had a very lucky escape as did all of the drivers involved in the incident.  The circuit officials then had a huge operation in front of them to clear the start line of the stricken cars and repair the barrier.

With the remaining cars re-joining the grid yet again in their original grid positions, pole position man Sam Tordoff was missing from the start line with a component failure.  The lights went out for the now shortened ten lap race with Josh and Ash getting a great start off the line with Josh making it up to eleventh the end of the first lap and Ash up to seventeenth.  The cars showed great pace throughout the race and Josh made up two more places and into ninth with Ash storming through the field and up into fourteenth where both cars held their positions bringing the cars home with more points for MG Racing RCIB Insurance.  Honda’s Sheddon took the win.

Ash now sits twelfth in the drivers standings with Josh sitting thirteenth.  The team are third in the Manufacturers – Constructors table, fifth in the overall team’s championship and Ash is still topping the Jack Sears Trophy standings.

Racing resumes north of the border at Knockhill in Scotland on the weekend of 13/14 August.

MG Racing RCIB Insurance quotes:
Ian Harrison commented:  "All in all a weekend to forget for us. It was the worst one so far this season in terms of performance in qualifying and results in the races, but we will aim to bounce back at Knockhill. It is compounded by getting caught up in other people's accidents which has become a regular feature in the championship. Unless you are in the top 15 on the grid, you are at massive risk of being taken out by drivers who are unpredictable in their on track actions, and who are frankly not experienced enough to be there. From the outside the championship has started to look like some kind of hot rod series, but I have complete confidence that the championship organisers will address the issue and sort it out sooner rather than later."

Ash Sutton commented:  “'Snetterton hasn't been kind to me this year. We went into the meeting aiming to continue our progress over the season so far. This unfortunately wasn't the case, I didn’t quite manage to hook up the lap in qualifying which meant I was further down the grid after aiming to stay in the top five.

“Race one, I managed to get a great start and was into fourth before turn tree. We were sitting pretty and in a comfortable place until with two laps to go I picked up a puncture which forced me to pit, meaning I ended up twenty fifth.

“Unfortunately a few drivers upfront had an incident onto the back straight, I made contact with Dan Welch's Proton as it was stationary in the middle of the circuit. The impact speed was around 100mph and the scrutineers described the accident as one of the worst they had seen in the BTCC after seeing the state of the cars.

“For me it really didn't look like I was going to make it out for race three. The car was in no state to be out on track but hats off to the Triple Eight guys, they didn't let it hinder them one bit and cracked on with it. It was great to see them work as a team and in their element. Watching a wreck unfold and then seeing the jigsaw pieced back together was something else. They managed to get the car out on track with thirty seconds spare. The craziest thing is they still gave me a car that was fast enough to race through the field, it quickly got strung up to make sure it was roughly pointing in the right direction and sent it on its way. After all their efforts I managed to get my wounded MG up to fourteenth after a few issues during the race. Snetterton is a meeting to forget but we will come back stronger”.

Josh Cook commented:  “Snetterton wasn’t a great weekend for us a team.  For me personally qualifying didn’t go well we were off the pace of where we have been in previous years and we failed to find the sweet spot, the balance was good but the pace wasn’t there.
“For race one we had a good track position but with both Ash I receiving punctures it kind of set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

“Race two for me was about trying to make my way up through the grid and for race three we made a big improvement performance wise but we didn’t really get a chance to show it.
“Coming off the back of a tough weekend from Snetterton we are ready to bounce back, the guys are extremely busy getting the cars repaired and ready for Knockhill.  Knockhill isn’t a circuit that’s suited to long wheel base cars but I just hope we can bag as many points as we can.  I’m not expecting it to be great for the car but then that’s what we thought at Thruxton and we had a good weekend so we will wait and see.”

Written by Maddy Turner