As proud sponsors and suppliers of air filters to both the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astras and the Honda Civic Type Rs of Team Dynamics Motorsport, the 2019 BTCC season has been a particularly interesting one for ITG Air Filters. For decades now we’ve had strong links to competition and a keen motorsport heritage, but for 2019 we backed the racing legends that are Jason Plato, Rob Collard, Dan Cammish and Matt Neal – all of whom benefitting from the collective knowledge and expertise of team ITG. Honda’s Cammish even took the drivers’ championship lead in the penultimate round of the year, only to be denied just one lap from the end of the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship. Is this the best race series the UK has to offer? We certainly think so, and so do the swathes of people who now turn out to watch it almost every other weekend all around the UK. More exciting than F1? Maybe, but probably only because rubbing really is racing in the BTCC.
So, how did it come to be that the final race of the year would decide the championship once again? Here’s our quick guide as to why the BTCC is back on form. With some elements of luck, some wide elbows and maybe even some ego-centric hot-headedness, it’s still on fire.
Race 1, 2 and 3 – Brands Hatch Indy. 6th/ 7thApril
The season began fairly inauspiciously for both the Power Maxed Racing / Sterling Insurance Vauxhall Astras and the Team Dynamics / Halfords Yuasa Hondas. The first race of the season saw Matt Neal finish in eighth place while Cammish came in 16thas the Hondas found their feet amongst the field. Despite showing some truly spectacular speed and pace setting lap times, both Rob Collard and Jason Plato lingered in 21stand 25thin the first outing to Brands for 2019
Race 2 was to repeat much the same result as Matt Neal tore through the grid to 11thwith Cammish just one place behind in 12th. Plato secured a 21stand Collard this time finished in 22nd.
Race 3 The reverse grid race always proves entertaining and this one was to be no exception. Matt Neal in the Honda securing some points in 8thplace, Plato in 13thand Cammish coming home 14th. Unfortunately, Rob Collard was forced to retire after a mechanical incident some 14 laps from the chequered flag.
Race 4, 5 and 6 Donington 27 / 28thApril
The tricky and exceptionally speedy Craner Curves bought better luck for both teams as Cammish came home 7th, Neal 8th, Collard 10thand Jason Plato in 12th. The consistency of the Team Dynamics cars was beginning to shine here as they took the lead in the Manufacturers’ championship. Meanwhile Colin Turkington’s BMW was starting to show some dominance at the front of the grid as he scored triple victories at Donington.
Race 5 saw the pace of the Astras come into effect as Plato came home 6thwith Rob Collard in 7th. Meanwhile Matt Neal drove like the wind to secure 2ndspot behind Turkington and Dan Cammish came home 12th.
In the reverse grid race of round 6 Rob Collard was on a flyer as he shot past Josh Cook and took home 2ndplace at the finish line. Plato also showed how much the speed of Donington suited the Astras as he secured 7thposition. Meanwhile the Hondas, weighed down slightly by success ballast, saw Cammish into the points in 10thand Matt Neal a frustrating 18th.
Races 7, 8 and 9 – Thurxton 18 – 19thMay
The UK’s fastest circuit and one that the Honda team always seem to thrive at, as evidenced by free practice where Dan Cammish set a new lap record in FP2. This translated into 3rdplace finish for Dan in race 7 as Plato came home 6th, Matt Neal in 7thand Rob Collard in 8th. All in all, a fantastic round for both teams.
Race 8 saw Cammish repeat his consistency again in 3rd position with Jason Plato hot on his heels in 4th and Matt Neal chomping away at both of them in 5th place. Collard came home just 7.5 seconds behind the lead car in 9thplace.
The final race of the day saw vaguely similar results to round 8, Matt Neal poking his nose into 4thplace, Cammish battling for 6thposition and Jason Plato fighting hard for 8thposition. Collard was still amongst all of the action in 14thplace some 13.115 seconds behind the lead car across the line.
Races 10, 11 and 12 – Croft 15 – 16 June
Race 10 saw Dan Cammish pip Plato to 6th position as Jason slipped down to 8th while Matt Neal was also in the points in 10th place at the chequered flag. A DNF for Rob Collard saw him right at the back of the grid some 12 laps down on Andrew Jordon who dominated at Croft.
In race 11 the Team Dynamics Hondas came out firing on all cylinders with their joint best results of the season so far, Cammish slotting into 3rdplace and Matt Neal in 4thposition. Meanwhile the Power Maxed Astra of Jason Plato was still on the pace in 6thwith Rob Collard down in 19th.
In race 12 Tom Chilton edged out both Josh Cook and Plato (3rd) to secure a victory. Cammish (10th) and Neal (5th) both collected point with top ten finishes as Rob Collard continued a dire weekend of luck down in 26thplace. It was edge of the seat stuff at Croft however and proof that when the luck went their way the Power Maxed Team had some exceptional pace in their Vauxhalls.
Race 13, 14 and 15 – Oulton Park 29 – 30thJune
Honda were optimistic for Oulton Park and it was justified as they secured 1st and 2nd fastest times in free practice 2. Dan Cammish kept the reigning champion honest throughout, but the Halfords Yuasa Racing man had to settle for second at the finish, as Turkington extended his advantage at the top of the standings. Plato was on form as well and still in the points for Power Maxed as he came home 9thoverall. In 15thplace was Rob Collard as Matt Neal suffered his first DNF of the 2019 season some 14 laps down on the leaders.
The RWD BMW’s continued to dominate at Oulton with a 1,2,4 in race 14, but Dan Cammish upset the status quo by battling into 3rdposition as the flag dropped. Plato again romped home in 9thwith Matt Neal in the same group for 11thposition. Rob Collard was again bringing up the rear but still battled hard to claim 22ndspot 14.7 seconds behind the victorious BMW of Turkington.
Race 15 and the reverse grid start served up the usual anarchy as Plato went missing from the circuit a short way into the race, he retired shortly afterwards. Matt Neal managed to secure 11th spot overall with Cammish coming in shortly behind in 17th. 37seconds behind the leaders Rob Collard bought the Astra home in 23rd place. The BTCC circus then had a month-long break, not forgetting the tyre testing at Snetterton in July before heading back into the Norfolk countryside for race day in August.
More to come in part 2…