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Event Review – Morgan moves to championship summit

Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport’s Adam Morgan moved to the summit of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship standings with victory in the final race in front a record crowd at Thruxton today (20 May), following on from points scoring finishes in the first two bouts in Hampshire.   Matt Neal claimed the early bragging rights as he converted pole position into a race one win, before Josh Cook scored his second victory in as many BTCC meetings with victory in the next contest.   Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Neal produced a commanding lights-to-flag performance in the opening race, after seeing off race-long pressure from Team BMW’s Colin Turkington.   Despite the season so far largely being dominated by a number of young drivers, it was the multiple BTCC champion duo of Neal and Turkington that fought back at the UK’s fastest circuit.   Neal took a maiden pole position for the all-new Honda Civic Type R during qualifying on Saturday, and he duly converted that advantage into a 62nd BTCC career victory. Turkington pulled his BMW 125i M Sport alongside the Honda off the line, but Neal hung on at the Complex as all 32-cars made it through for the first time.   Turkington kept Neal honest throughout the 16-lap duration, but their positions remained the same until the finish.    The Team GardX Racing with Motorbase Ford Focus of Sam Tordoff hounded down Dan Cammish’s Honda for the final place on the podium, but the latter fended off every advance, and grabbed the second outright rostrum of his debut season.   Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Cook then followed up his recent Donington Park success with another stellar display at the Hampshire speedbowl.   Pole-sitter Neal couldn’t hang on off-the-line as Turkington’s BMW blasted ahead of the Honda Civic Type R on the run down to the Complex.   Cammish’s Honda bogged down at the start, which allowed Tordoff’s Ford Focus and Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing BMW by in a tussle for third.   Progress was soon being made behind, however, as the Power Maxed TAG Racing duo of Cook and Senna Proctor slipped past Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher’s Tom Chilton. Proctor’s advances were halted at that point but team-mate Cook was on a charge as he saw off Tordoff and Jordan in quick succession.   Cook’s Astra then surged around the outside of Neal’s Honda at the final chicane and by lap 10 the local hero was challenging for the lead. The moment of truth came at the end of the next tour as the Bath driver pulled an almost identical move on Turkington’s BMW 125i M Sport.   Team GardX Racing with Motorbase’s Tordoff held on to fourth from Jordan and Proctor.   Morgan’s second win of the season came in dominant fashion as he commanded the final race from start-to-finish in his Mercedes-Benz A-Class.   The Lancastrian driver got a good getaway from pole position and he was able to defend well from an early attack from the Vauxhall Astra of Proctor.   Morgan’s job was made slightly more comfortable when a charging Jack Goff hauled his Honda onto the back of Proctor’s Astra, and a squabble for second ensued.   Goff made his move stick on Proctor in the final third of the contest, but it was too late to make any inroads into Morgan’s advantage. The 29-year-old took the chequered flag and with it the lead in the overall drivers’ standings.   Tordoff completed a solid day for Team GardX Racing with Motorbase by taking fourth, whilst Team BMW’s Turkington fired himself back into championship contention with another top five finish, following on from his double podium earlier in the day.   Morgan leads the standings by just a point from Cook, with previous championship leader Tom Ingram a further ten points in arrears. Speedworks Motorsport’s Ingram endured a challenging day after a non-finish in the opener, but the Toyota star provided some respite with a seventh place and a brand new lap record in the finale.   Yvan Muller’s 2002 Thruxton benchmark was the longest standing lap record on the BTCC calendar, but it was beaten a number of times today. Eventually it was Ingram who earned the ultimate accolade – his 1:17.060s setting a new marker.   Vauxhall lead the Manufacturers’ standings, as well as the Teams’ table for the Power Maxed TAG Racing squad. Morgan and his Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport team hold the advantage in both Independents’ standings, whilst a trio of top ten finishes for BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley pushed him to the top of the Jack Sears Trophy.   The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns in three weeks’ time for Rounds 10, 11 and 12 at Oulton Park.  Matt Neal said: “That was very special – this one’s for Henry Hope-Frost. We’ve certainly got the fever today. It’s the first win for the new Honda Civic Type R, and on Yuasa’s 100th Anniversary weekend. I think the warm weather suited us and helped us to get the power down with front-wheel drive, and I got the best start I’ve made in a couple of years. We did a race simulation yesterday and knew we were pretty solid over a race distance. Still, I thought Colin would come back at me, but one of the new Civic Type R’s key strengths is its speed through the quick corners out the back of the lap and that allowed me to stretch my legs a bit.”  Josh Cook said: “That was really good fun. To win my first race at Donington Park was obviously enjoyable, but to do it from the middle of the pack like that was even better. It’s the first time I’ve been round here this weekend without any weight in the car. The Astra was on rails at the front and we were really strong through Church, which allowed us to carry good momentum onto the back straight. That said, the rear was moving around quite a lot which caused plenty of big sideways moments! All credit to the Power Maxed Racing guys – qualifying didn’t quite go our way, but we knew we had the pace and when the points are available, we’ll certainly take them.”  Adam Morgan said: “I didn’t expect this, to be honest, because I knew Senna [Proctor] and the Vauxhall would be quick so I was anticipating being put under a bit of pressure, but I was confident and I got the start really hooked-up. After getting through the Complex for the first time, it was just qualifying lap after qualifying lap – it was, ‘let’s get on with this and go’. Senna kept me honest and pushed me all the way, and Jack [Goff] did the same later on but I was able to manage the gap and on the last lap, I was able to calm it down a bit and enjoy the moment. It’s a credit to all the Ciceley guys, who have worked their socks off over the winter and early part of the season. To be leading the championship is a first for us, so now we’ll go to our favourite track carrying full ballast, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Rory Butcher completes line-up

The with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing team has confirmed the signing of Scottish driver Rory Butcher for the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.   Rory will embark on his first full season in the series with the West Thurrock-based outfit and will partner series returnee Tom Boardman in the team’s second MG6 GT.   The 31-year-old joins having made his debut in the series last season, when he was called up by the Motorbase team for the final four rounds of the year in place of Luke Davenport after his injury in qualifying at Croft.   On his first time in the car, Butcher snared a pair of top ten finishes at Knockhill and showed impressive speed through the remaining rounds, pushing regularly for more points finishes.   Having sampled the MG for the first time during a test at Snetterton, Butcher is set for further pre-season running in the coming weeks ahead of the opening rounds of the season at Brands Hatch on the weekend of 7-8 April.   Rory will be eligible to compete for the Jack Sears Trophy this season, which is now open to those drivers without a podium finish in the series.   “My move into the BTCC last season was all a bit last minute and I was thrown in at the deep end for my debut on home soil at Knockhill,” Butcher said. “So I was determined to try and get a place on the grid this year to build on what I learned from the final four rounds of 2017 and to start building a long-term BTCC career.   “In January, it looked like it wasn’t going to be possible but then I spoke to Shaun (Hollamby) about the MG and with a lot of effort from the team and from my sponsors – who were eager to join me in the BTCC – we’ve been able to pull together a deal – which I’m absolutely delighted about.   “It’s is such a strong series, particularly this season, that it hard to make too many predictions about what we can expect to achieve, but the team has shown what it can do in recent seasons and my goal is to regularly fight inside the points and push for some strong results as the season goes on.   “Twelve months ago, I didn’t imagine I would be racing in the BTCC but there is no better place for me to be in terms of profile. The series is the very pinnacle of British motorsport and I’m really excited about the prospect of a full season on track with AmD in 2018.”   Shaun Hollamby, team boss, added: “Rory is a driver who we have been talking to for some time, and we are delighted to have concluded a deal for 2018. His career record speaks for itself, and the way he performed last year when he joined the grid in difficult circumstances was hugely impressive.   “Since announcing the MG programme, a huge amount of work has gone into preparing and updating the cars and bringing in the drivers is the final piece of the jigsaw.   “We have to give thanks to both RCIB Insurance and AutoAid for their support in putting such a strong driver line-up together and I’m confident that in Rory and Tom, we have a pairing is capable of picking up some really strong results on track. We want to challenge towards the front, and I fully expect Rory to be in the mix towards the top of the Jack Sears Trophy standings.”

2018 Season Launch spectator information

The 60th Anniversary Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is almost upon us and testing, which has been in full-swing for some months now throughout busy winter programmes up and down the pit-lane, is now coming to a head with all cars due on track together for the first time at Season Launch, Donington Park on Tuesday 27 March.

Testing times

Testing ahead of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is in full swing, with teams having already visited Portugal and Spain as well as a host of circuits on home soil as they ramp up preparations for this year’s 60th Anniversary campaign.

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