There was a buzz of excitement in and around the impressive Rich Energy BTC Racing entertainment centre at the weekend as guests were treated to a feast of hospitality and racing that helped Josh Cook earn another brace of wins and the squad left the Hampshire circuit on top of both the driver and teams’ standings.

Thruxton is the fastest circuit on the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship calendar and the team arrived knowing that its ongoing development of the Honda Civic Type R would provide each of its three drivers – Cook, Jason Plato and Jade Edwards – with a strong platform for success.

Local hero Cook was already a seven-time winner at the venue and immediately set about adding to his tally with a commanding pole position on Saturday. He followed that with another sensational double win on Sunday to propel him straight to the top of the drivers’ standings.

The Bath racer now has a 23-point buffer as the championship approaches its one-third stage and he paid tribute to the hard work of the Rich Energy BTC Racing team following the successes.

“Two wins here, to add to the two from Brands Hatch is a fantastic return for both me and the team.” he said “But we all must recognise that we knew we should be strong here and my job was to deliver the results we were capable of: It’s not always going to be like this and so we’re not celebrating yet. Today was simply a job well done.

“This is our fourth year with the FK8 Civic, and we’ve learnt a lot in that time. Many of the other frontrunners are with new teams and cars, so we have to make our experience count, because they’re learning more every weekend and as always with the BTCC, the racing is only ever going to get closer.”

There was a welcome points’ haul for Jason Plato too. In his third weekend with the Honda, the double champion has made no secret of his love for the car. He’s always excelled around Thruxton’s fast-flowing curves; it’s a demanding track that requires pace, precision and patience and Plato gathered all three to put himself firmly into contention from the start, battling hard against the manufacturer-backed cars to rise to sixth in race one and return a 1-2 [with Cook] in the Independent’s classification.

In race two, there was more of the same. This time he finished in seventh overall and he was rewarded with pole position for the reverse-grid finale. He was shuffled down to fourth in the opening exchanges. But as he eased alongside Ash Sutton’s Focus to regain a podium slot, the Honda slid wide onto the dirt and soon after, Plato’s tyres lost their grip, sending him out of contention.

“You know what?” he said, “you get days like this. You’re running cleanly with the pack and you’re clearly much quicker than the car in front, and then that’s your race over. Whether you’re attacking or defending, you have to decide if you’re going to be brave, bold or brainless: It’s not difficult, is it?”

Nevertheless, Plato still wore a smile as he said thanks to the crew. “We’ve got real pace now; this show’s only getting started…” he added.

For Jade Edwards, the promise and speed shown during the practice sessions didn’t return the scores that she’s clearly capable of. Cold tyres in race one forced an error that resulted in an overheating issue as she collected grass cuttings.

With a battling performance in race two, she put herself firmly on the front foot, racing and passing cars to make six places and well within points scoring pace. Unfortunately, disaster struck in race three.

Having worked her way up into 18th spot, Edwards found herself in a three-car battle with former race winners Ollie Jackson and Stephen Jelley, and when the other two made contact at the chicane, she the innocent party and was caught up in the melee.

Edwards remained upbeat about the weekend as a whole. “I always look for the positives,” she said. “I’m no longer racing the people I used to race, I’ve moved ahead and whereas before, I’d be delighted to be anywhere near the points, now I expect to be there. We know the car can do it, but we also know that I can do it too, and this is what I’m going to carry forward.”

Rich Energy team principal Danny Buxton paid tribute to all three racers after another competitive weekend but has had promised that no complacency would creep into the programme over the summer months.

“We’re very aware that we’re not only competing against some of the biggest names in the business, but against teams with significant manufacturer backing,” said Buxton. “And yet here we are, leading the drivers’ championship, leading the independent teams’ championship and only now a handful of points off the overall top team spot.

“It’s been another tremendous effort from everyone at Rich Energy BTC Racing but we don’t stop here. We know that there’s more to do and every single person here is focused on getting better still. It was a mixed weekend for our drivers: Josh was outstanding, again, but we both know that this season has many twists and turns ahead.

“Jason was incredibly quick and hugely unlucky not to come away with at least a podium. And Jade is showing that she’s not just the third member of the team. Her day will come and we’ll do everything that we can to make it happen soon.”

The next rounds of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship take place at Oulton Park in Cheshire on June 11-12.

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