ROUND 7 - SNETTERTON - RACE REPORT
Turkington says 'it's still game on' as Championship battle continues
13 AUG 06: SNETTERTON, NORFOLK
Team RACís Colin Turkington still remains in contention for overall honours and 27-points behind Championship leader Matt Neal despite a non-finish in one of todayís BTCC races. Having suffered an engine failure Colin came back all guns blazing with a podium finish and fastest lap in the second race of the day.
Rob Collard was on for a podium finish in the final race of the day before being caught in the thick of the action and forced into retirement through no fault of his own. It was a disappointing end to the day after a great performance in race two which promised better things.
Colinís Championship title bid didnít get off to the best of starts when his Team RAC car suffered an engine failure in the closing stages of the race. Colin said: "I was running pretty consistently and was on for a 6th place finish but the engine just gave up on me. Itís bitterly disappointing as I was ahead of Matt and wouldíve taken more points."
Colin was forced to retire to the pits on lap 15 of the 18-lap race.
The team opted for a wet-weather set up on the second Team RAC car of Rob Collard and tyres suffered as a result during the second half of the race as a dry line appeared. Rob finished in 11th place having being pipped on the line. Rob said: "We made a decision for a wet weather set-up and tyre choice as the weather conditions have been so changeable this morning. The opening laps were great and I managed to make up a few places running in eighth at one point. But as the track dried out the others began to catch me and I just couldnít do anything in response. The car feels good and with the right set-up Iím sure things will improve."
Jason Plato and James Thompson made it a SEAT one-two with Fabrizio Giovanardi completing the top three.
With an engine change completed in under an hour, it was a great achievement from the Team RAC mechanics. From a 15th place starting position Colin drove an outstanding race and set the fastest lap of the race on the way to claiming a third place finish. Running comfortably in fourth on the final lap, the last place on the podium was gifted to him as a result of contact between arch-rivals Matt Neal and Jason Plato. On closing the gap to just 17 points, Colin said: "Iím absolutely delighted, for me and the team as the engine change was a big job. Iím not sure what happened ahead of me on the last lap but if I can finish ahead of Matt, then it keeps a smile on my face."
Robís performance matched that of his team-mate and starting form 11th on the grid finished an impressive fifth. After struggling in the first race of the day, Rob was pleased to get back amongst the front-runners. He said: "Iím pleased with my finishing position and with the speed weíve got in the car but there were a few hairy moments where I had to just sit back and not get involved. I was also conscious of Colinís position and we got the right result for Team RAC. The car is back in one piece and Iíve got a good solid result."
Jason Plato and James Thompson repeated their second one-two of the day for SEAT.
The compulsory Ďluck of the drawí to decide grid positions for the final race of the day did not send any luck of the Irish Colinís way. Number nine was drawn by race winner Jason Plato, resulting in a Team Halfords front row line-up for Matt Neal and Gareth Howell.
Colin drove a good race and gradually made up places to finish in fourth, keeping the pressure on for the Championship title. On just missing out on a second podium of the day Colin said: "That was a pretty quiet race for me but the good thing is I collected some more points. The day could have been a lot worse for me after losing an engine in race one. I may not have closed the points on Matt over the weekend but I got a podium and a fastest lap in race two and points in race three, so its still game on as far as Iím concerned."
Starting from fifth on the grid, Rob got a great start and by the end of the first lap was running strongly in third place. However, on lap three, Team Halfords Gordan Shedden took a dislike to the Team RAC car making heavy contact and putting Rob out of contention. With extensive damage being suffered to the front steering, not to mention smashed glassed in the driverís door, Rob had no option but to retire from the race. On the incident Rob said: "I got a great start and made it into P3 and was hunting down the cars in front. At the same time I was having to defend quite hard from Shedden. As we were heading into Sear, Shedden got a bit of a run on me and then absolutely side swiped me. These standards are just completely unacceptable and it reminds me more of my stock car days. Iíve received some harsh criticism myself but this is serious impact and in my opinion dangerous driving."
Summarising on Team RACís performance, team principal Dick Bennetts added: "It could have been better and it could have been worse. Colin retired in race one through no fault of his own but came back with a storming job in race two. Rob also did a great job in race two but unfortunately got attacked in the final race of the day. We didnít start the weekend on the right foot with the set-up choice, so we were playing catch up. We started the weekend with Colin 22 points behind and we leave Snetterton 27 points behind but still in contention."
Simon Machell, CEO, Norwich Union Insurance said: "It was yet another entertaining day at the touring cars particularly for our RAC and Noriwch Union staff who turned out in force to support Team RAC. Team spirits are still high despite some unfortunate incidents beyond our control on track and weíre certainly looking forward to Knockhill."
The next BTCC action takes place north of the border at Knockhill, Scotland on 2/3 September.