The summer break has ended for the British Touring Car Championship as the drivers and teams made their way to Norfolk last weekend for the BTCC Snetterton Rounds 2018 after a few weeks off since the last round at Croft. Their “holiday” – which included a tyre test – saw warm and fine weather across the UK, and after very sunny trips to Thruxton, Oulton and Croft, surely this event which included the 60th anniversary celebrations for the championship, would be another meteorologically glorious weekend. However, the weather had other plans, and although the changeable conditions may have not been what some of the spectators were expecting, it did make things interesting on track for both the touring car drivers, and also the support races in the Clio Cup, British F4, Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Ginetta Juniors and the Porsche Carrera Cup.
Friday night saw thunderstorms and some flooding across the UK, and parts of East Anglia, the region in which Snetterton is located, was lit up like a fireworks display at times given the number of lightning strikes that were happening in the area. However, the rain and clouds quickly cleared on Saturday morning, and although the circuit was very windy, it was sunny and bright.
The first free practice session saw Matt Simpson top the times from Chris Smiley, with an impressive performance from Mike Bushell putting the Team Hard driver in third place. Second free practice saw Jack Goff at the top of the table, followed by Dam Cammish and Simpson, with another impressive drive from Bushell putting him in fourth place.
Qualifying was different from normal, with the third race of the weekend being the Diamond Double celebration of the 60 years of the BTCC (formerly the British Saloon Car Championship) having their own qualifying session, with no success ballast for any of the cars, either in qualifying or the race. The race was a double length, 60 mile race, with double points to be awarded.
The first qualifying session saw Goff take pole from Cammish and Simpson, with the second qualifying for the Diamond Double race again seeing Goff at the top of the table ahead of Matt Neal and Tom Chilton.
Sunday saw a very wet start, with the early races of the day in the support series looking very damp and featuring cars with their lights on.
The rain was still falling by the first touring car race, but had eased off a little. It was a fantastic race filled with overtaking and close battles, including right at the front, with pole sitter Goff being challenged by Ash Sutton who had a terrific start to the race from seventh place. Sutton put in fastest laps to catch the leader, and the last two laps saw them fight for position. Sutton passed Goff, but Goff fought back and took the lead, with the race finishing with the cars racing along the main straight to reach the flag. Goff took the win from Sutton by 0.152 of a second, with Cammish in third. Team Hard’s Bobby Thompson managed an eighteenth place, his best finish yet, the day after his birthday. Could he manage his ambition for the weekend and score a point?
By the time the second race came, the rain had stopped but the track was not yet dry. A number of cars including Goff did not make it on to the grid on time, meaning that Sutton started from pole. Another fantastic race ensued, which Sutton won, followed by Josh Cook, with Tom Ingram making his way from twenty seventh on the grid to third in the race. Bobby Thompson managed to surpass his ambition by finishing fourteenth and taking his first two points in the championship.
The final, or Diamond Double race saw the try more or less dry with a few spots of rain, and we saw yet another fantastic race. Goff and Neal fought for the lead, with Neal passing Goff on the ninth lap, and holding the lead to take the win. Ingram joined them on the podium.
Further down the order, there was a fantastic drag race to the line for tenth place between Ollie Jackson, Senna Proctor and Bobby Thompson. Proctor edged it, but a penalty dropped him to twelfth, with the tenth place cementing his best ever weekend in BTCC… so far.
If you are interested in Bobby’s thoughts, here is the Team Hard Q&A before the final race with me hosting.
Neal was clearly delighted with his Double Diamond win, moving him to third in the championship, one point ahead of Goff. Colin Turkington came into the weekend as the title leader, and is now second after a difficult event at Snetterton. Ingram leads the table into the next round at Rockingham.
The drivers are back in two weeks in Northamptonshire, but in the mean time, here are some photos from the BTCC Snetterton Rounds 2018.