2024 BTCC Oulton Park | 6 talking points

24th June 2024
James Charman

Two weeks removed from the fastest track on the BTCC calendar, the best tin-top drivers in the country descended on the most picturesque circuit this weekend. With elevation changes and a track layout not unlike the Nürburgring Nordschleife, overtaking at Oulton Park is always at a premium, but that didn’t stop the action at all. Here’s a handful of the best bits…

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Tom Ingram and Ash Sutton go wheel to wheel again

One of the biggest talking points from Thruxton was the decision to penalise Tom Ingram for cutting the chicane and leaping ahead of Ash Sutton, and by the halfway point of only the second lap at Oulton Park, it was déjà vu all over again.

Diving down the inside at the Island Hairpin, Sutton placed his Ford Focus firmly alongside Ingram’s Hyundai, the latter having left the door ‘wide open’ in the words of Sutton. The two then ran down through Hilltop side by side and it seemed almost inevitable that there would be a coming together heading into Hislop’s chicane. Sutton’s left front quarter panel connected with Ingram’s right rear, and the 2022 champion was given no option but to cut across the grass to avoid a major collision with the Focus.

Unlike Thruxton, however, there would be no penalty on this occasion, with series organiser Alan Gow explaining that the gap that Ingram held over Sutton after cutting the chicane was not much more, if any, than the one he held on entry. From that point on it was Ingram’s race to lose, steadily pulling away to take his third win of the year – the first since his double at the season opener at Donington Park.

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Josh Cook takes easy race two victory

With the front three rows all having to run the harder tyres in race two (thanks to the new tyre rules for 2024), all eyes were on the fourth row of Aron Taylor-Smith and Josh Cook to see just how much ground they could make up with their faster, softer rubber. What threw a spanner in the works, though, was Adam Morgan ending up broadside on the exit of Old Hall on the very first lap.

While Taylor-Smith’s start was compromised, having to ease off to avoid Morgan’s BMW, the road opened up for Cook’s Toyota Corolla, and he set off hunting down the top six. It wasn’t long before he was ahead, either, carving through the field and leading across the line at the end of lap one.

From that point on, there was no beating Cook and he came home eight seconds clear of the rest of the field, securing his first BTCC race win since Thruxton in 2022. Tom Ingram managed to hold firm in second, but Ash Sutton would have to relinquish his third position due to the black and orange flag - but that’s another talking point for later on…

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Hill breaks Mikey Doble’s heart with last lap move

With a pair of Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astras lining up on the front row of the grid for race three, the stage seemed to be set for the first Vauxhall victory in the BTCC since 2019. For the majority of the race, it looked like that would be the result, with Mikey Doble putting in a mature and professional drive – easily the best of his career, at the head of the field.

With Aron Taylor-Smith playing the perfect tail-end Charlie role for his stablemate, things were looking very rosy for the Power Maxed Racing squad. But, it was lap ten of 15 when things started to unravel, as Laser Tools Racing’s Jake Hill used his hybrid to perfection to pass Taylor-Smith around the outside on the run towards the Island Hairpin.

Five laps of staunch defending from Doble made it difficult for Hill, but he just couldn’t hold the new championship leader back. It was a straight fight between the two, with both out of hybrid allocation by the final lap. Hill started the move in a similar way to how he passed Doble’s teammate, but it would be the run into Hislop’s where the race would be decided. Unlike the Sutton/Ingram incident from race one, both cars made it through the chicane, and Hill pulled out of Knickerbrook in the lead to take his fifth win in nine races.

Although the loss of a race win will of course be heartbreaking for Doble and the entire Power Maxed Racing team, the pair managed to hold on to their respective podium positions, both receiving their first overall silverware of the season.

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Meatballs leave sour taste for NAPA Racing UK

It was a weekend to forget for the NAPA Racing UK squad, particularly when it comes to rear bodywork. Around halfway through the first race, a piece of bodywork began to hang out from the right rear of Dan Rowbottom’s Ford Focus. With two laps to go it was deemed to be dangerous, and the marshals duly displayed the black and orange ‘meatball’ flag, requiring Rowbottom to pit. He didn’t, and was subsequently handed a 30-second time penalty.

There was some frustration from the NAPA Racing UK point of view, as Chris Smiley, who had suffered similar damage, was not called in. In Thruxton, Ash Sutton had a clearly damaged and loose splitter but at no point was called in to repair the damage. Somewhat poetically, Sutton sustained a near-identical issue in race two, and was immediately shown the meatball flag. Despite an attempt to remove the offending item by using teammate Dan Cammish as a makeshift hammer, the reigning champion was forced to pit and any chance of a good result went with it.

While there would be no meatball flag in race three, a broken inner wheel arch would force Sutton to pit with a slow puncture, meaning it would be the first time since Knockhill 2019 that he would suffer a double non-score.

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Colin Turkington fights back from non-start but hurts in race three

The start of Sunday couldn’t have been worse for Team BMW’s Colin Turkington, who found himself sitting in his grid slot as the rest of the field flew past. A slow start from the formation lap was the first sign of problems for the four-time champion, but that would have been preferred once the race started proper. After a small, albeit sluggish, getaway, Turkington’s 330e M Sport ground to a halt and needed assistance in the form of a handful of marshals to get back to the pits.

Starting from 20th on the grid in race two, Turkington, who has had a somewhat subpar two meetings since his double win at Brands Hatch, set about reminding everyone why he’s regarded as one of the best on the grid. Helped in part by his teammate’s misfortune at turn one, the 42-year-old worked his way through the field to finish seventh at the line, narrowly missing out on reverse grid pole by just one position.

Being forced to run the hard tyre in race two, it was always going to be a tough task for Turkington to salvage any sort of result. Making it even harder was a rare spin from the Northern Irish driver, dropping him to the bottom of the field and confirming that he would come away from Oulton Park with two non-scores and his title charge taking a huge hit in the process.

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Hill takes lead into summer break as Sutton left licking wounds

Speaking of title charges, the weekend couldn’t have gone better for Jake Hill. Having entered the weekend five points behind Ash Sutton, the BMW driver went away from Oulton Park and into the summer break with a four point lead at the top of the standings over Team Bristol Street Motors’ Tom Ingram. Sutton, meanwhile, sits 20 points behind Ingram after a weekend to forget for the reigning champion.

While Sutton’s drivers’ title challenge may have taken a hit, his NAPA Racing UK outfit has had little, if any, changes to its point situation in the teams’ and manufacturers’ standings. The points gap back to Team Bristol Street Motors in the Teams’ Championship was 61 points going into the weekend, and remains at that coming away from Oulton Park. Meanwhile, the Ford team has extended its lead by one point in the manufacturers’ table over BMW to 24 points.

Rather unsurprisingly, given their podium double in race three, Power Maxed Racing continues to dominate both Independents’ tables, with the team now holding a 55 point gap over Restart Racing in the teams’ table and Taylor-Smith sitting at the top of the Independent Drivers’ table, just 13 points clear of teammate Doble. Chris Smiley sits in third, but is 79 points back from Doble in second.

Finally, Doble’s lead now sits at 51 points in the Jack Sears Trophy, having taken a trio of victories this weekend – the first driver to do so all season.

The series now takes its usual summer break, reconvening in North Yorkshire at the end of July for the annual trip to Croft.

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