Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher enjoyed its most successful weekend of the season so far during rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, securing a commanding race 3 win, double podium and top ten result at Croft (June 15/16).
The fourth meeting of the year gave the Motorbase-run squad much cause for celebration. After a season-best qualifying result for Tom Chilton and Ollie Jackson, Chilton went on to claim his third podium of the year, second overall win and third independent win on the North Yorkshire circuit.
Saturday's disjointed qualifying session saw no less than five red flags deployed during the 30 minute period.
With numerous on-track incidents halting proceedings, Chilton pushed his #3 Focus RS to the limit to secure a second-row start with P3 on his first flying lap in the dying minutes. Just a lap later, stablemate Ollie Jackson took the P8 spot recording the squad's highest-placed position of the season, and his personal best-ever qualifying result.
Sunday's opening race called for a defensive masterclass from Chilton as he held off a full-race length challenge from the domineering BMW's.
A strong start from the Reigate-racer saw him hold onto third from the fast-starting WSR machines. Shielding his podium position for the entire 18-lap challenge, the 34-year-old remained steadfast under unrelenting pressure to bring the Focus home in P3, claiming his 3rd rostrum visit of the year and 55th BTCC-career podium.
Jackson's strong start to the weekend looked set to deliver a top 5 finish for the #48 Focus. An outstanding start saw the Motorbase-man running as high as 6th in the opening laps. Running wide as the pack raced through the complex on lap 5, however, Jackson clipped the curb sending his Ford into the marker, sustaining damage to the front-left wing.
A daring effort saw him hold on for another 3 laps as the bodywork rubbed on the tyre before it finally gave way as the field was running under the safety car, pitching him into the barriers and ending his race.
Carrying 42kg of ballast into race 2, Chilton battled hard to stay in the points-scoring zone as he came under increasing pressure from the lighter, charging pack. Dropping down the order in the opening laps, he eventually took the flag in 9th collecting another much-welcome haul of points for the championship challenge.
Lining up at the back of the grid, Jackson made steady progress through the field. Seeking to make amends for his earlier error, the 35-year-old showed true grit to push forward an impressive 8 grid spots on the narrow circuit and crossed the line in P20.
Starting from pole by virtue of the reversed-grid draw, Chilton led a commanding lights-to-flag charge off the line in race 3. Choosing to stick with the Dunlop Blu-Response on the greasy, drying track, he expertly piloted the #3 Focus to the overall and Independent race win and rarely looked challenged for the race lead.
Jackson's fight-back from a tricky start to his race day also continued. Making a strong start off the line, the Midlands-based driver had charged into the points by the end of the first tour. Scything his way to 11th by the mid-way point, he looked set to challenge for a top ten finish.
Despite lapping faster than Cammish's 10th-placed Honda, the gap was just out of reach with the remaining laps available, eventually claiming P11 as the flag dropped, securing his highest-placed finish of the season.
The weekend's results have helped to move the squad up to third in the Independent Teams standings, with Tom Chilton sitting third in the Indy Drivers' points. Both driver and team also remain 7th in the overall standings ahead of the next meeting at Oulton Park.
Team Manager Oly Collins;
“That was a brilliant end to a pretty tough weekend. A fantastic team effort from all involved, the crew have worked flat-out all day. Tom was mega all weekend and drove a very clever race 3 on the drying circuit.
“Unfortunately Ollie's weekend was hampered by a small mistake in race one which had a disastrous result for him. Up to that point, he was on fire and proving his pace with his best qualifying to date and was looking on for a great race one finish. Sadly, it didn't quite go to plan. Tom's results keep him in the mix for the championship which is the aim at the end of the day."
#3 Tom Chilton;
“It was a perfect weekend for and the team. We've managed not just a double podium, but we got the win as well. And we get to keep this one! We took three top ten's for my car, and Ollie nearly got a top ten which was great starting from 20th. I'm very happy for him.
“I'm really pleased with our qualifying results this weekend. I feel like we've finally found our ideal set-up for the wet and dry. We had a bad weekend at Thruxton. Because we did it made us re-analyse where we were and it's moved us forward.
“We're in it to win it. Everyone in the team is working hard to put all of our knowledge together and make this old girl go faster this year and we've done a great job. I'm really looking forward to going to Oulton Park next. I'll be looking for more of the same."
#48 Ollie Jackson;
“Salvaged I think is the word I'd use to describe this weekend! Qualifying was a high-point. P8 is my best-ever BTCC result and I think we've cracked it with the car now. The pace is definitely there.
“I think we've got our heads around what we need and what our set-up tweaks are. The changes that we've made paid off in qualifying, and to be fair it was looking good in race 1 until I made a mistake. That kind of spoilt the weekend really. We certainly had top 5 pace, and it was a real shame that we didn't get to capitalise on that.
“Thankfully we made our way through the pack in race 3 and picked up some nice points for the championship."