For regular visitors to Thruxton, it’s always an exciting affair when the British Touring Car Championship rolls into town, and on a sunny August Bank Holiday weekend, the series’ second visit this season to the Hampshire airfield was no different.

With the 2022 season starting to reach its crescendo, the title picture had yet another shake-up, providing plenty of talking points for us to sink our teeth into.

six talking points from btcc’s second thruxton visit

Dan Cammish finally gets some luck

Dan Cammish is one of those drivers who has the unfortunate penchant of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His knack for catching the rotten end of the stick can be traced back to the 2019 season finale, when a brake failure saw him fly into the Brands Hatch gravel trap just a lap and a half away from winning the championship.

After having to sit out the majority of the 2021 season, Cammish’s return to the championship with the new NAPA Racing UK squad filled many of his fans with hope. Partnered with perennial title contender Ash Sutton, the duo were tipped for great things in 2022, but a fire in the opening qualifying session of the season offered a grim glimpse at what was to come, Cammish’s luck never other than bad. But that all ended this weekend. After some lacklustre times in practice, he leapt to the top of the time sheets in the session that mattered, beating the ‘King of Thruxton’ Josh Cook to pole by just 0.17 seconds and out-qualifying his Ford teammate by three tenths.

Desperate to turn pole into his first win since returning with the NAPA squad, Cammish streaked away off the start line and set about cementing his position at the head of the field. While his lead was helped in part by the battling pack behind him, Cammish put in a hugely impressive drive, reminding everyone just how good he is, and that he’s still very much got the pace that took him so close to lifting the trophy in 2019. It looked like a similar performance was on the cards in race two, but playing the team game, he conceded his position to teammate and title contender Sutton, who was right on Cammish’s bootlid, and the two romped home for the first ever NAPA Racing UK 1-2.

six talking points from btcc’s second thruxton visit
six talking points from btcc’s second thruxton visit

Sutton makes hay while rivals don’t shine

The BTCC title hunt is always a rollercoaster ride, especially as the season begins to draw to a close, and Thruxton saw its fair share of ups and downs across the weekend. There was an air of expectation around the BMWs, particularly that of championship leader Colin Turkington, with four of the last six victories of the season being enjoyed by drivers of Bavarian cars. Yet while Jake Hill – known for his ability to squeeze the best time possible out of a car on Saturday afternoon – lined up on the second row of the grid, you had to look five rows further back before another BMW appeared. The remaining four occupied positions 14 through 17, with Turkington only able to manage 15th. A subtle silver lining for the four-time champion was that title rival Tom Ingram, sitting 15 points back after Snetterton, was only two places ahead of him in 13th. However, Ash Sutton, who had dropped down to fourth in the standings after the Norfolk weekender, was up in fourth place, alongside Hill, and the duo were in prime position to close the gap on their main championship competitors.

While Hill was able to secure two fourths and bank solid points, Sutton took a podium in race one, a win (with all available bonus points) in race two, and even worked his way back up to fifth place despite starting from down in 11th place in the reverse grid finale. For Sutton, it appeared everything had just clicked into place, but for Turkington and Ingram, it was a rare weekend of disappointment.

The reversed-grid played into Turkington’s favour, allowing the Team BMW star to salvage a much-needed podium position with second, having languished down in tenth for the opening two races of the day. There was to be no silverware for Ingram in his Hyundai i30 Fastback N Performance either, and while the majority of the grid would be delighted to come away from a race weekend with a trio of top ten results (ninth, sixth and seventh respectively), for someone chasing the overall crown come October, they were not what the Excelr8 Motorsport man would have hoped for.

six talking points from btcc’s second thruxton visit

Action starts right from the off

BTCC races have become known over the years for being 25-minute bursts of pure action, and they lived up to that reputation and then some on the first of Sunday’s 44 laps. In what was more akin to a race three start – where the drivers know they have a couple of weeks to fix their cars rather than a couple of hours at best – every corner saw cars sliding left, right and centre. On a weekend that saw massive accidents in the Ginetta and MINI support categories (the delays of which resulted in BTCC races two and three being reduced to 14 laps instead of 16), a number of large-scale incidents were miraculously avoided on that very first touring car lap of the day, the largest coming from Tom Chilton, spearing off to the infield on the exit of Church – the fastest corner in the country – careening across the grass and very nearly tipping over.

First-lap accidents are usually expected in the second half of the grid, as the notoriously competitive lower order field bunches up, but at Thruxton you didn’t have to look far to see the first coming together of the day. Best friends Ash Sutton and Josh Cook made contact on the exit of the complex, sending the BTC Racing Honda Civic Type-R plummeting down the order, effectively ending Cook’s title aspirations there and then.

six talking points from btcc’s second thruxton visit

King Cook retains crown, but loses out overall

With nine wins coming from his last seven visits to the Hampshire circuit, the title of King of Thruxton rightfully belonged to Josh Cook going in to the eighth round of the 2022 season. Despite early season form that made it look like Cook was going to be a real force to be reckoned with throughout the year, a lack of out-and-out pace in his BTC Racing Civic at Croft, Snetterton and Knockhill had seen Cook’s campaign fall apart right in front of him. Going into 2022’s second visit to Hampshire, he knew he needed to pull off another strong performance to simply keep his hopes alive.

Enter Ash Sutton. Beaten off the front row by Cammish in the opening race of the day, the Rich Energy-backed Honda engaged in a side-by-side duel with the NAPA-backed Ford Focus of the three-time champion. With neither wanting to give an inch, it was inevitable someone was going to lose out, and it was typical Josh Cook luck that saw the Honda almost at a 90-degree angle to the circuit, dropping down the field like a stone and watching any hope of keeping in the title hunt slip from his grasp. A recovery drive brought Cook back into 13th at the finish line, before he worked his way up to eighth in race two. Starting from third in the final race of the day thanks to the reversed-grid draw, he was keen to remind everyone that Thruxton is indeed his patch, and worked his way past the BMW duo of Stephen Jelley and Colin Turkington on his way to victory. Sadly for his championship it was too little too late, despite being the only driver to score five wins this season. While mathematically anyone down to Gordon Shedden in seventh could still take the crown, realistically only the top four have any hope going into Silverstone and Brands Hatch.

six talking points from btcc’s second thruxton visit

Power Maxed Racing finally show their Hand

When Power Maxed Racing announced they had given Ash Hand his BTCC debut this season, a number of fans were licking their lips at the prospect of another round of the Ashes, first seen in the 2015 Clio Cup season. Sutton got the better of his namesake on that occasion, winning by just five points after Hand suffered a mechanical malady in the final race of the year. Unfortunately, the Vauxhall Astra squad haven’t quite been able to find their stride this season, with both Hand and fan-favourite Michael Crees enduring the season rather than enjoying. The pair only had six top-ten results between them heading to Thruxton, but something about the Astra just clicked this weekend, with the duo scoring sixth and seventh at the end of Saturday’s qualifying session.

Inheriting fifth place as Josh Cook was pushed off on lap one, Hand put in a strong performance to hold on for his first ever BTCC top-five finish, while Crees came home in eighth, his best ever finish in Britain’s premier tin-top championship. Mechanical gremlins would get the better of Hand in race two while he was holding fifth once again, and Crees would cross the line in ninth and eighth in races two and three respectively, rounding out the strongest weekend of the year by far for the Vauxhall squad.

six talking points from btcc’s second thruxton visit

Turkington holds on as title race hots up

Despite a less than ideal weekend for Team BMW’s Colin Turkington, the four-time champion leaves Thruxton with his championship lead still intact and heading towards a circuit known for its rear-wheel-drive friendliness. Sutton’s performances across the day saw him cut Turkington’s gap by nine points, with just six between the two going to Silverstone. Sutton leapfrogged both Tom Ingram and Jake Hill as a result of his results, sitting eight points clear of the Hyundai man, while Hill cut the gap between himself and Ingram down to just five points. With 134 points still to play for in the championship, Josh Cook (68 points off the top spot), Rory Butcher (293 points back) and Gordon Shedden (102 points away) are all mathematically still capable of coming away with the trophy, but it will take a minor miracle for any to stand in front of the fireworks on the Brands Hatch start line in October.

Ford has also managed to claw a few points back on BMW in the constructors’ standings, but will still need to try and overhaul a 78-point deficit across the final two meetings to stand a chance of coming out on top – not an easy task when Silverstone is a circuit where the BMWs are expected to be the cars to beat. It’s a much closer affair in the Teams’ standings, as NAPA Racing UK sits just four points shy of leader Team BMW. It’s an incredibly impressive turnaround when you consider the gap between the two was 39 points going into the weekend.

six talking points from btcc’s second thruxton visit

While Josh Cook’s main championship aspirations may be all but over, he’s tightening his grip on the Independents’ crown and now holds an 80-point lead over Ciceley Motorsport’s Adam Morgan and can finish no lower than second, with third-placed Bobby Thompson 125 points back from the leader. BTC Racing has also extended its lead over Ciceley Motorsport in the Independent Teams’ title hunt, the two separated by just 26 points.

Finally, Bobby Thompson strengthened his lead at the top of the Jack Sears Trophy standings following a difficult day for Ciceley Motorsport’s George Gamble, with Thompson’s lead jumping from two points to 32 in one day, while Ash Hand sits a further 43 points back in third.

The championship now rolls on to its annual trip to the home of the British Grand Prix in four weeks’ time, and with everyone expecting Turkington, Hill and the rest of the BMWs to bounce back around the Silverstone National circuit. Ash Sutton will be hoping that he can finally get the Silverstone monkey off his back, having never visited the top step at the Northamptonshire circuit in his BTCC career.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

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