Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher made gains in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship standings this weekend, adding three strong points finishes to its tally during rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the series at Thruxton (May 19/20).
Heading into the weekend free from carrying any championship ballast; Tom Chilton staked his claim early on Saturday afternoon, posting the second fastest time on lap 2 in qualifying. As the session ran on and the track temperature rose, the times continued to tumble and Chilton ultimately claimed 7th for the opening race. Team-mate James Cole struggled to string the perfect lap together and ended the session in P20.
A great start off the line saw Chilton follow his Motorbase stable-mate Sam Tordoff through the first corner to move straight up into sixth place in race 1. A crowd-pleasing battle ensued as the 33-year-old chased down Jordan’s BMW whilst holding off the pair of fast-charging Astra’s, and the Gallagher-backed racer finally bested former BTCC champion Jordan on lap 9 to take 5th at the chequered flag.
Bogged down in the mid-filed traffic, Cole struggled to make huge in-roads during the weekend opener and eventually brought the #20 Focus RS home unscathed in P19.
Carrying 39kg of success ballast on-board for race 2, Chilton defended his position hard against the lighter challengers and a clean, trouble-free race was rewarded with a 9th place finish and another excellent haul of points for the squad’s championship campaign.
Race 2 sadly failed to deliver salvation for Cole, with contact on lap 3 resulting in race-ending suspension damage for the #20 Ford Focus RS and forcing the Liverpool-based driver to sit out the remaining laps in the pits.
Chilton enjoyed his third points finish of the day in race 3 with a superb comeback drive on the final lap. Running as high as 7th in the opening laps, a tussle with Austin’s Alfa Romeo on lap 13 dropped the #3 Focus RS back down to 14th before a stunning move through the complex on the final tour saw Chilton charge through to take 11th as the final flag dropped.
Cole battled back well from 29th on the grid, using the final contest to gain as much valuable data as possible for the upcoming rounds, ending the day in P24.
The weekend’s strong points haul have advanced Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher’s Independent Championship position, moving the Kent-based squad up into 4th place with Tom Chilton and James Cole now lying 6th and 14th in the Independent Drivers’ standings.
The BTCC now has a three week break in the calendar before heading to Oulton Park in Cheshire for rounds 10, 11 and 12 on June 9/10.
David Bartum, Team Principal:
“We’ve had three really good qualifying results so far this season, and it’s strange to not really be satisfied with 7th but it shows the level that the team is shooting for at the moment. This is the first weekend that we’ve really managed to convert that qualifying into points on race day.
“Tom had a great weekend. He’s little disappointed with 11th in race 3, but he’s been on top form and running in the points all weekend. James didn’t have a good time, but he was quite open about Thruxton being his least favourite circuit and I know that he’s looking forward to going to Oulton Park next month.
“It feels like a slow burner this season so it’s great to have moved forward in the championship this weekend. We’re still only on our third round with the drivers and the RS so we’re still learning things each round. If we can continue to build on this form going forward then the podiums and results will quickly follow.”
#3 Tom Chilton:
“Good old sunny Thruxton! We absolutely love it here. We’ve managed to finish all three races and not been hit off this weekend, which for this season so far is a really big positive! I’ve nearly had 3 top ten finishes. The 3rd race sadly was just 11th which was a little frustrating but it was up and down and pretty crazy out there, so it was a good points haul.
“I had a lot of fun out there this weekend. We’ve moved up in the championship at each round so far this season. We’re building momentum now and I hope that we can keep carrying this forward into the next round at Oulton Park.”
#20 James Cole:
“Sadly Thruxton is my bogey circuit, and it certainly lived up to that this weekend! We have to take the positives out of the weekend though and my competitiveness relative to my team-mates was the best it’s ever been, and without the bad luck in race 2 we could have fought through into the points and maybe race 3 would have been different.
“Qualifying out of position really hurt us and it’s never easy to come through the BTCC pack and get the results. We’re comfortable with the car though, and our race pace relative to the other boys so we move on to Oulton Park and I want to continue where we left off at Donington. Everyone has a nightmare round at some point in the season, hopefully this was mine!”