Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher celebrated its maiden Independent race win of the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season at Donington Park this weekend, with a strong showing at Leicestershire circuit (April 27/28).
Tom Chilton led the charge for the Motorbase-run outfit during the second race meeting of the year. After securing consistent points finishes in each of Sunday’s three contests, the Reigate-racer now sits at the top of the Independent Drivers’ standings and tied for 3rd place in the overall title battle.
Saturday’s free practice and qualifying sessions delivered plenty of drama, with the wet and unpredictable weather conditions resulting in numerous stoppages. Carrying 48kg of ballast into the afternoon session, Chilton was sadly caught on the wrong side of the red flag, and unable to set his fastest lap – ending in P13. Just behind Team-Mate Ollie Jackson, who secured his highest-ever BTCC qualifying result in P11
Race one was a frenetic affair, with a huge opening lap melee immediately bringing the safety car into play. With multiple cars involved, sadly Jackson’s #48 Focus RS was hit unsighted in the chaos, tipped into a spin, and collecting race-ending damage. Managing to avoid the on-track carnage, Chilton made the most of the restart and worked his way through the pack to take 8th at the chequered flag, still carrying the 48kg of ballast on-board.
Through Craners, the 34-year-old took Smiley’s Honda for 7th. After setting his sights on Ingram, the #3 Focus RS was sitting in 4th by lap 10 and looking strong for a podium challenge. With yet another safety car called into play, a late move was just a little too far out of reach, and Chilton eventually crossed the line in P4, claiming his first Independent win of the season and taking both the Independent and Overall championship lead.
Having avoided several on-track incidents, Ollie Jackson’s tenacity was finally repaid. The Motorbase-man delivered a flawless drive from the back of the grid to work his way into the points-scoring zone by the halfway point. Making up an impressive 16 places over the 19 lap challenge, Jackson brought the #48 Focus RS home in P11, opening his 2019 championship points tally.
Running on the less favourable hard-compound-tyre for the final race of the day, the target was damage limitation for the Motorbase pairing. A strong start for both drivers saw them hold position for the opening laps, before succumbing to tyre derogation as the race progressed, with the #3 and #46 securing P12 and P16 respectively.
The weekend’s results leave Team Shredded Wheat with Gallagher in a strong 2nd place in the Independent Teams’ championship heading to Thruxton in three weeks’ time. Tom Chilton leads the Independent standings and sits joint 3rd, tied on points in the Overall title fight.
Team Manager Oly Collins: "A similar weekend to Brands on reflection. Solid pace from both drivers. Ollie was desperately unlucky again to lose what should have been a good race 1 result which sets up your weekend, but instead resulted in a DNF through no fault of his own which ruined the whole weekend. He did the team proud who worked so hard to fix the race 1 damage with a great drive from the back of the grid in race 2. Tom had a solid first couple of races with an Independent win as well, which sees him at the sharp end of both championships."Tom is doing a great job, consistency wins the BTCC and he knows that. Its a great start to the season with 6 out of 6 points finishes."
#3 Tom Chilton: “We’ve qualified 13th twice in a row now. Brands we hadn’t run on the wet tyre before, and then here, every time I was on a fast lap, there was a red flag on the corner of the chicane so I never got the chance to set my best time. I was positive coming into race day after the double podium at Brands from the same position. Race one was a great start to the weekend. I carved my way through the field and kept out of trouble and I was really happy with 8th with 48kg on-board. I went into race 2 excited with the weight out, and I went a good half a second a lap faster. I was skimming Matt Neal’s bumper at one point and closing in on Ash Sutton. I was so close to the podium. It was great that we got the Independent win and 4th place to take the championship lead.
“The reverse grid worked reasonably well in our favour for race 3, but we were on the hard tyre which we know is slower. I wasn’t too upset with my pace at the start of the race, but it dropped off a cliff in the second half of the race. We really struggled on the later laps and went from a comfortable 5th place to a 12th place. We’ve learnt an awful lot about the hard tyre this weekend which is great heading to the next round at Thruxton. In race two I was leading both the overall and Independent championship, which is the first time I’ve ever done that.”
#48 Ollie Jackson: “I’m happy to have got my duck off the board with Motorbase, getting my first points in the bag in race two. I had a good drive through the field. The shunt in the first race just spoilt the day really. Once again, just a bit of bad luck that had a huge impact on my weekend. The boys did a fantastic job to get the car back out there for race 2, it was a huge achievement that we even made the grid so I was really happy to get it up to almost the top ten.
“I’m getting more and more confident in the car and I think it’s another weekend of progress, just not really a weekend of results, unfortunately.”