This weekend marks the half-way point for this season’s British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), as the competition roars into Cheshire for rounds 13, 14 & 15 at Oulton Park.
All eyes will be on three-time BTCC champion, Napa Racing UK’s Ash Sutton - fresh off his record-setting third double-win of the season last time out at Thruxton - to see if he can not only extend his lead at the top of the standings but also add to his impressive win-tally so far.
It seems only fitting that Sutton’s closest rival is reigning and defending BTCC champion, Exceler8 Motorsport’s Tom Ingram, who scored a brace of victories himself at the Cheshire circuit last year, – ironically enough, with Sutton in second both times.
On a track notorious for making overtaking an art form, getting clear of the pack is vital at Oulton Park.
Ingram has already demonstrated his pace at this circuit by setting and maintaining both of the current race and qualifying lap records, which he achieved in 2021 and 2022 respectively. He will also hold the advantage over the championship leader with slightly more laps of Hybrid deployment available.
However, even this handicap couldn’t stop Sutton securing his third Race 1 pole of the season at Thruxton, meaning Saturday’s qualifying could be all-important in setting the tone for the remaining races.
There will, of course, be many other drivers on the grid wishing to make an impact after impressive outings at the last meeting.
Amongst them will be One Motorsport with Starline Racing’s Josh Cook and Aidan Moffat who, with Cook’s two second-places and Moffat’s third, were the closest team to match Napa Racing UK’s dominance at Thruxton a fortnight ago. Having set the pace in both free practice sessions, it is easy to understand Cook’s frustration at leaving the Hampshire meeting without a win for the first time since 2017. Although currently seventh place in the overall championship standings, Josh Cook is comfortably sitting atop the Independent driver’s table, 40 points ahead of team-mate Moffat.
Also hoping to capitalise on their surge of momentum from the last round will be CarStore Power Maxed Racing, with impressive outings from all three of their drivers over the course of the weekend which saw all three Vauxhall Astra's finish inside the top ten.
Most notably, Aron Taylor-Smith seems to have quickly found the form that eluded him last year, with top-ten finishes in all three races at Thruxton. The consistency and control shown recently by the Vauxhall’s could be key in allowing the team to carve their way through the pack again this weekend.
BTCC Journalist @ F1 Journal