Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher took three hard-fought points finishes in the Cobra Sport Exhaust equipped Fords during a tough return visit to Hampshire's Thruxton circuit for rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship (August 17/18).
Heading to the fastest circuit on the calendar full of promise; mechanical issues, on-track contact and qualifying woes sadly put paid to the Motorbase-run squad's podium hopes during the seventh BTCC meeting of the year. A gritty fight back, however, managed to salvage three points finishes from the squad's misfortunes.
Struggling to unlock the full potential of the Focus RS during Saturday's free practice and qualifying sessions, Tom Chilton and Ollie Jackson found themselves in P16 and P14 spots respectively for the first of Sunday's three races.
Chilton's hopes of recovery in race one were quickly dashed when the #3 Focus RS was forced to return to the pits on the green flag lap with a turbo issue. The Reigate-racer was quickly despatched, however, the best result he could muster was P22 having raced from the back of the pack. Contact picked up on the opening lap curtailed Jackson's efforts, and the #48 Focus took the flag in P15.
Aiming for the top 12 with the hopes of a reversed grid draw result in race 3, Chilton recovered well to scrape his way up the field and into 12th. Jackson regrettably dropped back to 18th as a result of some door-to-door on-track battles.
Just missing out on the reverse grid benefit, Chilton made a strong opening charge from P12 in the final contest. With the imminent threat of rain looming, the 34-year-old had caught up to the pack battling for 6thplace with just 3 laps remaining. Biding his time as Plato, Sutton, Ingram and Cook all jostled for position as the heavens opened he made a brave lunge round the outside as they charged into the complex. Having almost completed the stunning move, the #3 Focus RS took a heavy hit from behind, resulting in a huge slide which forced Chilton to make a dramatic save. In spite of his heroic efforts, the incident dropped him down the order, and he eventually crossed the line in P22.
Although less dramatic, Jackson's consistent points-scoring efforts continued in race 3, with the Alcon and Beavis Morgan-backed racer picking up his eighth points finish from the last nine rounds, taking 15th at the final flag.
Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher remains 3rd in the Independent Teams' standings and 8thoverall ahead of the next race meeting at Knockhill in four weeks' time. Tom Chilton currently sits 12thoverall and 4th in the Indy standings, with Ollie Jackson in 18th and 9th positions.
Team Manager Oly Collins:
“That was a tough weekend. We came to Thruxton with optimism and promise after recent weeks of testing and development with the Focus but we didn't get it right when it mattered. Our pace in FP2 suggested we had the car in a place where we could qualify well which is so important round here. But when you qualify that far down in the BTCC it's always going to be a big ask."
#3 Tom Chilton:
“Thruxton is still one of my favourite circuits, just not in a Ford Focus. We've moved forwards from when we last came here. I was P4 in free practice two and we made up another 3 tenths in qualifying but it just wasn't enough. Everyone else made up more. Sadly qualifying where we did, just put us on the back foot.
“To be honest I was having a great last two races. We had a quick car in race 3, were making up places and then it all bunched up at the chicane. I did a great move on Sutton as it started raining and then I just got a huge hit from behind that lifted my back wheel off the ground. That put me into a humongous backwards slide in 5th gear and ruined my race. I think we could have made top six or seven from there.
“Knockhill is next though. I won there last year in the wet. We know that the Focus goes well there as well. I'm hoping for a little more luck."
#48 Ollie Jackson:
“It's been a challenging weekend again and we've not really been on top of it all weekend. We improved the car over the course of the day, but unfortunately so did the back half of the field. That's what has hung us out to dry unfortunately. I think we've shown flashes of pace but we've not quite get a handle on it. Thruxton turned out to be a bogey track for us last time out and it's been another one for us. At least we've come away with some more points.
“We've got three rounds coming up next that suit the focus and we've got to make hay while the sun shines. As long we can keep our noses clean, I think we can have three really strong meetings."