BTC Racing leads the way after BTCC opener at Brands Hatch

BTC Racing leads the way in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship after a stunning performance on track during the season opener at Brands Hatch.

Running
its new Honda Civic Type Rs for the first time, the Brackley-based team showed
impressive pace throughout the weekend around the tight Brands Hatch Indy
circuit, with new signing Josh Cook powering his way to the first win of the
year, and team-mate Chris Smiley fighting back from an unfortunate start to
race day to salvage some well-earned points.

BTC Racing at Brands Hatch

Josh
had lost valuable track time to electrical gremlins on Saturday that resulted
in him missing a large chunk of second practice, and also limited him to fewer
laps than most of his rivals in qualifying.

Despite
that, Josh secured tenth place on the grid for the opening race of the weekend,
which would be held in challenging conditions on Sunday morning thanks to early
morning rain and light showers.

The
weather left teams with a tough decision to make on which tyres to run, with
Josh electing to stick with slick tyres as the drivers ahead all gambled on the
rain intensifying.

Although
he slipped back to 17th in the early stages as focused on staying
out of trouble, Josh was soon the quickest man on track and by lap six, had
stormed into the top ten. Jumping from fifth to first on lap nine, Josh built a
lead out front and was able to control the race through to the finish to secure
a win on his debut with the team.

The
second race saw Josh starting on pole, but now carrying additional success
ballast and running on the soft compound Dunlop tyre. Although he would lead
the early stages, the combination of the weight and the tyres left him
powerless to defend against the cars behind and he slipped back seventh place
at the finish.

Fifth
on the grid for the final race of the weekend, Josh ran inside the top six
throughout and benefitted from an issue for Honda’s Matt Neal on the final lap
to pick up a fourth place finish that capped a strong first weekend with the
team.

Team-mate
Chris had started race one directly behind Josh in twelfth but took a different
approach with the tyres as he followed the front-runners in the field by going
with wet weather rubber.

Whilst
that allowed the Northern Irishman to fight his way into the top ten in the
early laps, he found himself slipping back down the order as the quicker
slick-shod cars worked their way forwards, and would ultimately retire when
contact on the exit of Graham Hill Bend saw him go off into the barriers.

With
the team repairing the damage to his Honda for race two, Chris took up his
place at the back of the field for race two, with a capacity grid of 30 cars
ahead but the less favourable soft tyres fitted to the car.

Despite
that, he was able to work his way forwards to 20th place at the
finish, which left him in a solid position to try and fight for points from the
final race of the weekend.

Finally
in a position to benefit from the pace in the car, Chris saved the best for
last with a fine drive through the field to seventh place, allowing him to salvage
nine points from a challenging race day.

BTC
Racing ends the first weekend of the season proudly leading both the Teams’
Championship and the Independents Teams’ Championship, with Josh heading both
the overall championship and the Independents’ Trophy.

Josh Cook, #66 said:

“We’ve
been struggling with some gremlins in the car this weekend that we’re still
trying to fix completely, so to come away from Brands Hatch with a race win and
the championship lead is fantastic. The whole team has put a huge amount of
work in, and this is a great way to reward them for their efforts, and for the
faith they have put in me to give me the drive.

“If
everyone had been on the same tyre in race one, it might have been a different
story, but that wasn’t a gamble as far as I was concerned. To me, it was a dry
circuit and the only question was why everyone ahead went with wets. Okay so we
had a little bit of luck on our side with that one, but we’ve shown strong pace
throughout all three races and have come away with two more good results and a
strong haul of points.

Josh Cook Wins Opener at Brands Hatch

“We
have some things we need to sort out ahead of Donington Park but it’ll be nice
to go there as the points leader, even though it’ll be tough at the same time
with the ballast. We’ll have to see how we go.”

Chris Smiley, #22 said:

“I
feel really positive after this weekend as we have genuine pace in the car.
Race one was one of those where there were faster cars coming through and we
just caught up in an incident that wasn’t our fault but it happens, and
hopefully that’s our bad luck out of the way.

Chris Smiley at Brands Hatch

“I
feel we did well to make up ten places on the soft tyre in race two because the
performance of them dropped off a cliff like it did for everyone else, and to
then come from 20th to finish seventh in race three was great. You
don’t make up 13 places like that around a circuit like Brands Hatch unless you
have a good car.

“Okay
so I might have only scored nine points from the weekend, but I’d rather go
away from here with that score and knowing I have a good car, than a good haul
of points from making the right tyre choice in race one and a car that was
nowhere in races two and three.

“We’ve
only had four days with the FK8 and we’re in a good place with it already, and
I can go to Donington Park – which is one of my favourite circuits – in
confident mood.”

Bert Taylor, team
principal, said:

“Our
expectations at Brands Hatch were to try and qualify inside the top ten and to
then race there, as we have only had limited time with the cars so far.

“To
now be heading home leading all four championships is beyond our wildest dreams
and is a great reward for the drivers and all the team for a job well done.”

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Courtesy of BTC Racing