2024 BTCC Snetterton | 6 talking points

28th May 2024
James Charman

Someone in the British Touring Car Championship has apparently angered the weather gods in 2024, as for the second time this season, the on-track timetable was subject to major delays with circuits more resembling waterparks due to deluges. Thankfully, a full complement of races were staged around the longest circuit on the calendar - quite the contrast from the shortest at Brands Hatch two weeks ago. Here’s the best of what happened across the third weekend of the BTCC season…


Quick Six catches out big names

When the new Quick Six qualifying format was brought in, it was clear that there were going to be occasions where some big names were caught out and forced to watch from the sidelines. At Snetterton, it snared one of its biggest names to date as 2022 champion Tom Ingram would be caught out. Ingram missed out on moving into Q2 by just 0.019 seconds, beaten by teammate Ronan Pearson, adding insult to injury and forcing him to start down in 13th for race one. Colin Turkington would be the biggest name failing to make it out of the top 12, with the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Corollas of Andrew Watson and local hero Rob Huff also missing out on a spot in the Quick Six. 

Conditions in qualifying started out wet, rapidly drying throughout the afternoon in a taster for what was to come on Sunday. As the sessions drew to a close it was down to who could get the last lap in as the times tumbled. Jake Hill timed it to perfection, beating second-placed Ash Sutton by over eight tenths of a second in the dying moments of the session. Sutton’s performance itself is worthy of note, with the reigning champion only able to give his Ford Focus one second of hybrid boost across the lap.


Jake Hill stuns with utterly dominant performance, despite time penalty

The biggest story of 2023 was how Ash Sutton dominated the series in a way that hadn’t been seen in a long time. At Snetterton, it was Jake Hill’s turn to enjoy such pace, despite seemingly making it as hard as he could for himself at times. Sitting on pole for the opening race, Hill put the Laser Tools BMW in the best possible position to make amends for his difficult Brands Hatch, and the Tunbridge Wells racer didn’t need a second opportunity. Launching his way into the lead with the BMW’s superior speed off the line, Hill drove a near-perfect race, only spoiled by Tom Ingram snatching the fastest lap from him on the 12th of 12 laps.

Race two threw up the challenge of a drying track (which would later get doused again), but for Hill it was yet another display of dominance. A quick look at the official results don’t tell the whole story, however; you’d think it was a fairly safe win for the BMW man, but he achieved a margin of 6.2 seconds (itself an impressive gap in the BTCC) to Dan Cammish in second despite carrying a 10-second time penalty for a jump start.

Starting from ninth in race three, it looked like it would be the usual damage limitation charge from Hill at the tail end of the day, but a gamble in running wet weather tyres looked like it was going to be a stroke of genius from the BMW squad. Hill was third by the exit of the first corner and found himself in the lead at the end of lap one. With the track drying, Hill held on for the lead until lap nine, dropping back down to ninth by the chequered flag.


Weather impacts tyre tactics and throws out form book; Watson throws away first Toyota podium 

Delayed due to an intense downpour between races one and two, race two finally got underway under bright skies and on a drying track. Though, the weather did mean a loss of opportunity to get a real first glimpse of how the new three compound tyre rules would impact tactically.

Most drivers decided it was a wet tyre track; Rob Huff and Chris Smiley decided to gamble on slick tyres, the former running the hard compound, saving his softs for race three - which would prove pivotal later in the afternoon. 

After the formation laps, Huff and Smiley were joined by Ash Sutton, Tom Ingram, Aron Taylor-Smith, Daniel Rowbottom, and Ronan Pearson, all of whom dived to the pits believing it would be the best option at the end of the 12 laps. It was not, as it transpired, as the rain began to fall again at the halfway stage of the race. Some drivers tried to stay out on the slicks, including reigning champion Ash Sutton, who would slide his Ford Focus off the road at Williams before bouncing, gently, off the tyre wall. Huff and Smiley would be locked in a battle until the very end, fighting over 13th and 14th by the final lap, with the Restart Racing Cupra of Smiley coming out on top.

As those around him pitted, a golden opportunity presented itself to Huff’s Toyota Gazoo Racing UK teammate Andrew Watson, who leapt off the line to go from fourth to second (thanks in part to Bobby Thompson’s poor start, trying in vain to avoid following team-mate Jake Hill in jumping the lights). Watson held a strong second for the majority of the race, but with the track getting wetter and wetter, his Corolla pirouetted its way into Brundle, handing second to the chasing Dan Cammish. Watson would eventually recover to sixth, but will certainly be ruing his missed opportunity.


After 20 years, Rob Huff wins at Snetterton again

Rob Huff’s BTCC return started off somewhat subpar compared to the expectations put upon him. Not that anyone was expecting wins from the off, but something just didn’t seem to be clicking for the Cambridgeshire driver. Snetterton was the scene of Huff’s last win in the BTCC two decades ago, and by the final race of the day it seemed like the Rob Huff we’re very used to seeing here at Goodwood was back - the one you just know is going to be in the fight for the lead no matter what.

An average race one and a mistaken gamble on slicks for race two made it look like it was going to be another “learning weekend” for the former World Champion. But, with soft tyres now bolted on and a drying track through race three, Huff sniffed a win and made sure he wasn’t going to be beaten. Fighting tooth and nail with his fellow soft-tyre shod Toyota stablemates (albeit the ones in different colours) Josh Cook and Aiden Moffat, Huff’s charge included a sketchy off-track moment to pass Cook. Leaving his Corolla with a front full of grass, Huff managed to avoid both overheating and - having briefly let Cook back through, a time penalty for passing off track. A slide for Moffat a lap later handed Huff the lead, and the works-liveried Toyota never looked back as he led home a Toyota 1-2-3 around his home circuit.


Bobby Thompson impresses on BTCC return

The first notable moment of the weekend came before a single wheel had been turned in anger, as former Team HARD competitor returned to the BTCC paddock with the West Surrey Racing BMW squad. Stepping away from the series during the off-season as Team HARD underwent major changes - falling from four entries to just one, Thompson had been strongly linked to the fourth BMW seat. An appearance at the Brands Hatch pre-season test seemingly confirmed the rumours, but nothing would materialise for the first two rounds. However, ahead of the third round of the season a deal was struck and Thompson appeared at Snetterton in a striking purple Zeus Cloud-backed BMW.

Thompson turned heads immediately, lighting up the timing sheets in both practice sessions before backing up that pace in qualifying. The 27-year-old then showed that it was more than just single lap pace in the BMW, driving absolutely brilliantly in his comeback race to come home behind Jake Hill in a BMW 1-2. Unfortunately, Thompson would be caught out by Hill’s jump start in race two, throwing any chance for a repeat result out of the window. Finishing third on the road, Thompson would be classed ninth at the line, promoting Josh Cook to the bottom step of the podium in the process. Eighth in race three meant Thompson came away with a respectable points haul of 34, leapfrogging five drivers at the foot of the standings straight away, despite missing the first six races of the year.


Sutton hangs on to championship lead despite bouncing off barriers

When Ash Sutton went sliding into the barriers at the end of race two, he probably wouldn’t have expected to be coming away with the points lead at the end of the day. A typical Sutton drive through the field in race three saw him start absolute last and come home in fifth. This, coupled with his third place in race one, saved him, and leaves Sutton ten points ahead of Colin Turkington in the championship, with Tom Ingram now tied in third place with Jake Hill after the latter’s two wins. The pair sit just a single point behind Turkington as it tightens at the top.

It was a good day in the office for Sutton’s Ford team, with NAPA Racing UK extending its lead in the team’s standings to 21 points over Team BMW. Meanwhile, Alliance Racing - the team behind NAPA Racing UK - has taken Ford to the top of the manufacturers’ championship, leapfrogging BMW and taking a six-point lead to Thruxton in June.

Power Maxed Racing continues to dominate the independents’ tables, with Aron Taylor-Smith now just one point ahead of team-mate Mikey Doble, while the team itself holds a 37-point lead over Restart Racing. Doble also leads the Jack Sears Trophy, with a 43-point gap over Excelr8’s Ronan Pearson. 

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