“It was a game of two halves as they say. The weekend started well in practice, slipped back in qualifying and we brought it back in the races, but we go home with mixed emotions again this weekend."
BTC Racing scored a trio of top-eight finishes during a dramatic weekend of racing at Norfolk’s Snetterton circuit for the penultimate meeting of the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship (24-25 October).
The Clever Baggers with BTC Racing squad also celebrated its best-ever BTCC weekend, with Michael Crees bouncing back from his recent tough spell to claim all three Jack Sears Trophy victories and reclaim the lead at the top of the class standings.
Josh Cook collected a strong haul of points from rounds 22, 23 and 24 for Brackley-based outfit, securing an eighth, and two seventh-place finishes on the 3-mile circuit. Conversely, it was a weekend to forget for his BTC Racing team-mate Tom Chilton, who struggled with straight-line speed and failed to pick up a single point for his championship campaign.
With Snetterton playing host to a new one-off top-ten shootout format for qualifying, Cook bounced in and out of the top-ten times, before sadly dropping just outside of the cut-off in P12 during the final throes of the session. Despite setting the third-fastest lap time during Saturday morning’s singular free practice session, Crees’ best lap could only net P17 at the flag, with Chilton faring slightly better in P14.
Cold track temperatures led to a dramatic start to race day, with all three BTC Racing Hondas managing to avoid an opening lap melee in race 1. Cook made solid strides forward in the #66 FK8, moving up the grid to take P8 at the flag. An outstanding drive from Crees showcased the Clever Baggers-backed driver’s mounting race-craft as he worked his way up an impressive seven spots to break into the top-ten – the highest-placed Jack Sears Trophy contender. Chilton grappled with pace and grip issues on the cold track, and early contact dropped him down the order to P16.
Race two delivered another solid haul of points for Cook, with the Bath-based racer bringing his 18kg laden Honda Civic Type R home in P8, meanwhile, his stablemate Chilton’s progress was hampered by a turbo issue leaving him unable to unlock the required pace to push forward from the mid-pack and he took the flag in P16. Crees was kept busy holding off the works Honda for a number of laps before contact at the mid-way point dropped the Rich-Energy-backed racer back to P14 – securing his second point-scoring finish of the day and retaking the lead of the Jack Sears Trophy standings.
The reverse grid draw for the finale pitted Cook onto the second-row with a P4 start. In spite of carrying 24kg of lead on-board, he made an excellent jump off the line to battle for a podium spot. Regrettably, as he went door-to-door with Cammish, he was tagged from behind, pitching him into the works-Honda and dropping the #66 Type R down the order with significant damage. A heroic effort to nurse the Civic back up the order was rewarded with P7 as the
final flag dropped.
Holding his own against the vast experience of the mid-pack, Crees picked up his third points finish of the day – scoring points in all three races for the first time – with a clean sweep of the day’s Jack Sears Trophy victories extending his lead at the top of the standings with
three races remaining.
The day ended on a further low note for Chilton, with more turbo troubles plaguing the #3 Honda Civic and the Reigate-racer finished outside of the points once more in P17.
With the season finale approaching at the iconic Brands Hatch Indy circuit on 14-15 November, BTC Racing lies 5th in the overall Teams Championship, and third in the Independents. Tom Chilton has dropped to 9th overall, but retains his 3rd place spot in the Indy standings, with Josh Cook close behind in 10th and 6th respectively. Michael Crees’ target of securing the Jack Sears Trophy for 2020 looks to be back on track, with an 11-point lead ahead of his closest rival.
Joint Team Principal Bert Taylor:
“It was a game of two halves as they say. The weekend started well in practice, slipped back in qualifying and we brought it back in the races, but we go home with mixed emotions again this weekend.
“I’m elated for Michael to be back at the top of Jack Sears Trophy. It’s like a see-saw of emotions. Creesy was on top of the world, but Tom had a rough weekend. To have engine issues again this weekend isn’t really good enough. We need to get to the bottom of it. It’s frustrating for Tom’s side of the garage.
“Taking the positives away, we got ourselves back from 12th on the grid with Josh and scored decent points in all three races and Creesy has come away with a good lead at the top of his class having scored maximum points.”
Tom Chilton #3:
“We came to Snetterton with high hopes, but sadly qualifying didn’t go our way and all three of us missed out on the top-ten shootout which put us on the back foot.
“In the races, I had turbo problems and was just horribly slow in a straight line. The car was mega on the corners, but we just couldn’t get to the bottom of it. I was very happy with the work I did with my engineer Mick, and very happy my mechanics. They worked very hard on the car all weekend, but sadly there’s nothing you can do when you’re so far down on power.”
Josh Cook #66:
“After Croft, it feels like an average day. Three decent finishes and points in all three races; but it’s not what we wanted. We learned a lot about the car, but we were vulnerable in the first few laps, which hurt us – especially in race 3. I had contact from behind in the final race which sent me into Cammish and caused quite a bit of damage. We could well have been on for a shot at the podium had that not happened.
“I’m over the moon for Creesy today though. To come back from a rough couple of weekends and perform like that was mega. He really deserved those results today, and I couldn’t be happier for him and the team.”
Michael Crees #777:
“I’m really happy with the way this weekend went. I just sort of cruised in the last race. Once I knew I was leading the championship again, I didn’t want to take any risks. I’m glad to be going into the final weekend 11-points clear. I knew we had the pace in the car all weekend, but we did struggle with the tyre temperature.
“It was great to finish all three races, take three Jack Sears wins and also score points in all three races in the main championship for the first-time. It’s a huge boost for the final round at Brands Hatch.”
Qualifying: Tom Chilton #3: P14, Josh Cook #66: P12, Michael Crees #777: P17
Round 22: Tom Chilton #3: P16, Josh Cook #66: P8, Michael Crees #777: P10
Round 23: Tom Chilton #3: P16, Josh Cook #66: P7, Michael Crees #777: P14
Round 24: Tom Chilton #3: P17, Josh Cook #66: P7, Michael Crees #777: P14