GRR

2024 BTCC Thruxton | 6 talking points

10th June 2024
James Charman

Two weeks removed from competing at the longest, twistiest track on the calendar, the BTCC circus rolled into Hampshire for three races around the sweeping turns of Britain’s fastest circuit, Thruxton. With no tyre strategy to play with due to the abrasive nature of Thruxton’s tarmac, it was a straight fight between the best tin-top drivers in the country. Here’s what went down…

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Jake Hill’s perfect launch to race one win

When a BMW lines up on the second row of the grid, behind a front row comprised of all front-wheel-drives, the odds are always in the favour of the rear-driven 3-series. Jake Hill proved just that in the opening race at Thruxton, leaping to the lead ahead of Tom Ingram’s Hyundai and Dan Cammish’s Ford.

From then on, Hill put on a clinical performance to cruise to victory, despite a brief intervention from a stray tyre stack (more on that later). Ingram totally blew the start, dropping from first down to fifth before they even reached the Campbell, Cobb and Segrave complex on the opening lap. A brief attempt to pass Sutton at Village saw the two title rivals have a hair-raising sideways moment, but that would be about it for the excitement.

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Hill keeps double streak intact after Ingram loses win

Having fluffed the start in race one and settling for fourth at the finish, Tom Ingram set about making amends in race two. Running the number 100 in place of his usual 80 to celebrate the centenary of title sponsor Bristol Street Motors, Ingram was desperate to mark the occasion with a trip to the top step.

It looked as though that was on the cards as he carved his way through the field and up to the lead, passing Cammish, Sutton, and Hill in the process. Unfortunately, his move on Cammish was achieved by short-cutting the chicane (partly in order to avoid that pesky tyre stack from race one), and he never yielded the position. As a result, a post-race investigation dropped the Hyundai driver two places, back behind Cammish.

Ingram’s penalty not only promoted Cammish to second place, but gave Jake Hill his second win of the day, continuing 2024’s form of repeat winners in races one and two.

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Sutton wrestles King Cook’s crown away

Compared to 2023, Ash Sutton’s season hasn’t been particularly spectacular, failing to reach the top step of the podium in the first nine races. However, testament to the quality of the NAPA Racing UK driver, he still entered the Thruxton weekend with a 10 point lead at the head of the table, thanks to seven podium finishes and only one non-score.

The talent of the four-time champion is undeniable, and it was plain to see around the fast-sweeping turns of Hampshire’s speed bowl. Even with a visibly damaged car in race two, the reigning champion managed to hustle his Ford Focus home to fifth, despite dragging the splitter on the floor for most of the race.

With the car hastily repaired by the Alliance Racing crew between the last two races, Sutton set about doing what Sutton does best and was soon on the rear bumper of Josh Cook’s Toyota. ‘King of Thruxton’ Cook was unable to continue his run of form, and found himself falling down the field after being brushed aside by Sutton at Church corner. Having worked his way up into the lead, past teammate Dan Cammish and Team BMW’s Adam Morgan, it was a comfortable drive home for Sutton after a mid-race safety car, claiming his first win of the year, and the 40th of his BTCC career.

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Tyre stacks are not the answer

Track limits have been a sore subject in British motorsport for many years, and circuits have been desperately coming up with ideas to stop drivers taking liberties and extending the track beyond the white lines. While some circuits, notably those in the MSV umbrella, have gone down the route of pressure plates flagging up in race control, Thruxton went for the more basic approach - sticking a tyre stack just beyond the white lines in the final chicane.

Now, having a deterrent is obviously not a bad thing, and there’s nothing more irritating than race results being altered because of time penalties, but shoving something as blatant as a tyre stack in a section of track known for close-fought overtaking manoeuvres is asking for trouble. The first race saw a neutralisation after the first lap because the stack had been transported to the middle of the circuit following a side-by-side moment.

All tyre stacks do is create more opportunities for car damage, makes drivers less likely to go for a move and more likely to cut the corner, as was seen in race two with Tom Ingram’s aborted attempt at passing Dan Cammish illegally. Ingram was, rightly, penalised, but his only options were to cut the corner or drive into either Cammish or the tyres, so it’s easy to see why he went for the option he did. The hazard was also the cause for one of the support race Minis (which need to be on the bill much, much more regularly) ending up on its roof on Saturday afternoon.

If circuits don’t want drivers to cut corners or run out wide, then the obvious suggestion would be to just remove all the tarmac run-off and replace it with larger kerbs, grass, or even gravel, but even that is less than ideal. Whatever option is taken to discourage corner cutting in 2025, here’s hoping Thruxton comes up with a better solution than just a lump of tyres at the apex.

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Bobby Thompson’s return a flash in the pan?

West Surrey Racing’s contingent was reduced back to three at Thruxton, with Bobby Thompson’s striking purple 3-Series notably absent from the grid after an impressive return at Snetterton. Thompson’s 2024 season was delayed due to financial and commercial reasons, and unfortunately it was a similar reason that kept him out of the paddock again in Hampshire.

Hopefully Thompson will be able to make it back in two weeks’ time for Oulton Park’s first half closer, not just because it means there’s another car on the grid, but another quality car in the hands of a driver with mountains of BTCC potential.

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Hill halves gap at top of the table

Winning a championship is more about how you perform on your difficult days when compared to your best, and for Ash Sutton, Thruxton can be chalked up as one of the former. His race two hustle to stay in the top five saved him a handful of points and ensured he retains his lead as the series treks up to Cheshire in two weeks’ time. Only one point separated second to fourth after Snetterton, but Jake Hill has now worked his way clear in the runner-up spot, just five points behind Sutton. Ingram remains in touch, just 14 points off Sutton in third, while Colin Turkington’s mediocre day sees him drop down to 33 points behind the leader.

A strong weekend for the NAPA Racing UK squad sees the blue oval sitting more comfortably at the head of both the manufacturers and teams’ standings, 23 points ahead of BMW in the former and a mighty 61 points ahead of Team Bristol Stream Motors in the latter.

Meanwhile, Power Maxed Racing continues to have a stranglehold on the independent tables, with Aron Taylor-Smith leading teammate Mikey Doble by 10 points in the drivers’ points and the team holding a 46 point margin over Restart Racing. Doble continues to lead the Jack Sears Trophy, 40 points clear of Excelr8’s Ronan Pearson.

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