Wet and wild start to BTCC season at Donington Park

Wet and wild start to BTCC season at Donington Park

Dan Cammish seals superb double while Tom Chilton also triumphs

Dan Cammish produced a race winning double as the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship got off to a wet and wild start at Donington Park this weekend (22/23 April). 

Tom Chilton claimed his first BTCC triumph in four years and incredibly his first at the famous Leicestershire circuit since 2004, as the ever-changing conditions provided action throughout the order. 

Jake Hill, Tom Ingram, Adam Morgan, Sam Osborne and Ash Sutton all reached the rostrum during race day, whilst debutant Andrew Watson and fans’ favourite Nic Hamilton also starred. 

Cammish wins curtain raiser as rivals hit trouble 

NAPA Racing UK’s Cammish overhauled long-time race leader Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) to win the opening round, as a number of other big hitters found trouble. 

Sutton (NAPA Racing UK), Colin Turkington (Team BMW) and Josh Cook (One Motorsport with Starline Racing) were all hampered by separate incidents, with the first of those happening immediately off the line. 

Pole-sitter Dan Rowbottom (NAPA Racing UK) made a sluggish start, with both Hill and Sutton immediately eyeing an opportunity to surge into the lead. 

Hill slotted between both Ford Focuses and as Sutton moved across, there was slight contact involving the three cars. Sutton’s #116 machine was fired onto the grass, and he subsequently crawled into retirement.

The BMW of Hill took the lead ahead of Cammish, Ingram’s BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai, and the recovering Rowbottom. Meanwhile, Turkington and Cook also had off-track excursions in the early exchanges. 

The contest eventually settled down, with the battle for the lead and a flying Andrew Watson quickly becoming the story of the race. 

CarStore Power Maxed Racing’s Watson had already made his way up to sixth by mid-distance of his BTCC debut, before he calmly disposed of both Ricky Collard’s TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK Corolla and Rowbottom’s Ford to grab fourth in the latter stages. 

He hounded down the top three, who were already having their own scrap for victory, as he went side-by-side with Hill through the Craner Curves at high speed on lap 19 of 21. 

Ingram settled for third as he defended from Watson, with Rowbottom and Collard completing the top six. 

Chilton makes welcome return to winning ways 

BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8’s Chilton celebrated his first BTCC victory in four years, as the experienced Hyundai racer mastered the tricky conditions. 

Race 2 became a wet and wild affair, where tyre choice proved pivotal in the fight for podium positions – Chilton cleverly chose to switch to Goodyear wet tyres early on. 

The majority of front-runners started on slicks, but they were soon dropping down the order as the rain began to fall. 

Team BMW’s Morgan and Chilton were the first to surge through the field and it was the latter that got the better of things amidst the slippery conditions. 

They both soon hit the front and comfortably pulled clear in the top two positions. Ronan Pearson had seemingly made it a double podium celebration for BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8, as he crossed the line in third on his debut BTCC race weekend.  

Unfortunately, Pearson’s car failed post-race ride height checks and was subsequently disqualified from the race result. 

This meant NAPA Racing UK’s Sam Osborne scored a first ever podium in the BTCC, whilst Team BMW’s Stephen Jelley was next in the order. 

It was the battle for fifth that had the crowd on its feet, as rookie Mikey Doble (CarStore Power Maxed Racing) and Nic Hamilton (Go-Fix with Autoaid Breakdown) swapped places on a number of occasions during the closing laps.  

Both fought hard for the Independents’ race win, and it was to be Doble’s Vauxhall that eventually came out on top, after sliding past the Cupra on the run down to the final corner. 

Hamilton in-particular was roared home by spectators, family and his team in what proved to be one of the proudest moments of his incredible story and career. 

Dan does the Donington double  

Cammish completed his memorable day with a lights-to-flag triumph in the finale, as the action kicked off behind him. 

Team-mate Rowbottom fell back from the front row of the grid, as a gaggle of cars swarmed all over the Ford Focus on the run down to Redgate. 

Bobby Thompson (Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils) held on well in the early stages before being shuffled down to sixth, but it was the quartet scrapping for second that provided the best entertainment. 

With Cammish off into the distance, it left Ingram to fend off Turkington, Sutton and Hill for the other podium positions, and the reigning champion defended expertly. 

Sutton eventually attacked Turkington for third in the closing stages and squeezed through at Macleans, whilst Hill followed suit at the final chicane – albeit following slight contact with his BMW stablemate. 

Cammish crossed the line for his second victory of the day, while Sutton sent his car forcefully down the inside of Ingram’s #1 Hyundai in a last gasp attempt for second. 

Ingram held on while Sutton pipped Hill by just 0.113s to complete the podium. 

Cammish holds an early Drivers’ standings advantage over Ingram and Hill, whilst BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 top both the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ tables. 

Thompson is the leading Independents' driver, whilst Watson and his CarStore Power Maxed Racing squad claimed Jack Sears Trophy and Independents Teams’ honours. 

Rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship take place at Brands Hatch on 6/7 May. 

Dan Cammish said: “Big smile! Yesterday did not go exactly to plan – I was happy with P5, but also a bit conscious that maybe it wasn’t the best we could have had. I did have a gut feeling that the car would be better on the Sunday, as that’s what we’ve been working towards. 

“Twelve months on from a bit of a shocker, to bounce back with two wins is brilliant. Race 2 was interesting with slicks in the rain – we had a chance, but we had to make a call and I realised I was in a bad place when people pitted under the Safety Car. I think I was so focused on that race win and should have switched to think about the reverse grid.  

“We had a bit of luck with the draw in the end, but we also needed the performance to win it. Really proud of all the guys at NAPA and what a day! Over the moon. First weekend as a married man and two wins – it's been great!” 

Tom Chilton said: “I’m so happy! We are P1! It’s hard to get wins in this Championship, I’ve had a couple of tough years and to now get that steppingstone up the podium, it’s brilliant. 

“On the out lap it was 100% slicks, but as soon as we started doing the Green Flag lap, I started seeing the tram lines in the tarmac and that was alarm bells in my head. I shouted down the radio to get the wets ready – they’re like we’re on it, we’re on it!  

“We did it as fast as possible. Got out. It was a fantastic decision for the team because they put an awful lot of work into my car this winter and it’s a shame I couldn’t be at the front in qualifying yesterday. But I don’t care right now – we’ve won!” 

Tom Ingram said: “I have just been stood in the holding area [after the final race], looking at the difference in cars. We’ve got Dan’s [Cammish] car that looks pristine and not a single drop of mud on it, and then all the rest of our cars are caked in mud. It kind of tells the story of how the race was!  

“It was a good result for us, obviously difficult with Colin [Turkington] just being faster and Ash [Sutton] being faster. It was just playing a game of chess. Just trying to hold some, give some, stop it, let it go, you’re constantly playing chess.  

“I think we’ve done a good job to stay pointsy all the way through and stay out of trouble. A good place to go into the next race.” 

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