Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher celebrated a return to the podium at the weekend, with Tom Chilton claiming his fifth podium of the season during the penultimate round of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone (September 15/16).
Chilton’s 2nd place podium finish was part of a commanding opening race performance that saw the Motorbase Performance outfit claim its first 1-2 finish since 2010, with stablemate Sam Tordoff taking the top step honours at the ‘home of British Motor Racing.’
After showing early pace during Saturday’s free practice sessions, Chilton stated his intent as a championship challenger with a P3 grid spot in an incredibly close qualifying session – securing a 2nd row start for his #3 Ford Focus RS – just 0.047 off pole position. Placing 17th in the #20 Focus, James Cole was just tenths off the top lap with less than a second separating the top 29 cars on the grid.
Carrying 33kg of success ballast into the weekend opener, Chilton made a lightning start off the line, moving quickly to take advantage of Collard’s wide manoeuvre heading into Copse to steal into 2nd on the opening lap. Quickly catching his Motorbase team-mate Tordoff for the read lead, Chilton kept the pressure on the GardX-man for the entire race to follow him across the line in P2 – recording his 5th podium of the season and claiming an all-important additional point for fastest lap.
Regrettably Cole’s strong start in the opening race and promising pace – which looked set to deliver a top 10 place – was short-lived after contact on lap 14 dropped him down the order, resulting in a frustrating P21 finish.
Running on the sub-optimal hard tyre with 33kg on board the #3 Focus, race two quickly became damage limitation for Chilton. Putting up an excellent defence over the 22 lap contest, the Reigate-racer battled against the lighter pack – eventually crossing the line in P13 – just missing out on the reverse grid draw. A similar story unfolded for Cole in the #20 Focus. Also on the Dunlop option tyre, the 30-year-old had fought his way to P17 on the opening lap before taking another unwarranted hit on lap 7, which dropped him to the back of the grid.
Weight-free and back on the favoured prime tyre Chilton got an excellent jump off the line, breaking into the top 10 on the opening lap, before setting his sights on chasing down the lead pack. After scything past Tordoff and Collard to take 5th, the Gallagher-backed racer took his 2nd fastest lap of the day. With a safety car called into play on lap 9 allowing the field to bunch up once more, Chilton headed into a multi-lap four-way battle for a podium spot. Picking up damage on his rear right as he tussled with Cook on the penultimate lap, the #3 Focus RS took a solid P6 finish as the flag dropped.
Cole made excellent progress in the final race of the day, making up an impressive 8 places from his starting grid position in the #20 Focus, regrettably still falling short of the points-scoring zone in P20.
The weekend’s results have launched Chilton back into the overall BTCC title fight heading into the season finale at Brands Hatch in two weeks’ time. Currently lying 3rd in the Championship standings, the 33-year-old sits just 30 points off 2nd placed Ingram and is still mathematically in the running for the overall honours with 67 points still up for grabs from the remaining three races.
Both Independent’s Titles also remain within reach, with Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher 2nd in the Teams’ standings, whilst Chilton holds his 2nd place position in the Drivers’ points as the squad heads to its home circuit for final rounds on September 29/30.
Team Manager Oly Collins:
“A fantastic set of results today. Tom had a mega drive in race one to follow Sam home, despite carrying 33kg of success ballast into the weekend. A great result for the whole team. He delivered another great drive in race 3 which keeps him in the Championship fight, and especially in the Independents’ which will now go down to the wire at Brands Hatch.
“I felt for James today, he was having a great run in race one closing in on the top 10 and was taken out through no fault of his own. For it to happen again in race two just ruined his weekend and was a case of what could have been. We now look forward to the final showdown at Brands Hatch with one of our cars again being in the title showdown.”
Tom Chilton #3:
“I’m really happy with how this weekend has gone. We’ve scored a lot of points and moved up to third in the championship, which is great. We’ve been quick all weekend, right through from free practice to qualifying in P3 carrying 33kg is nothing to be sniffed at around here.
“Race 1 was a fantastic result for Motorbase. I managed to finish 2nd behind my team-mate Sam [Tordoff] and was really happy to be on the podium spraying champagne together. Race 2 was the double-whammy with the hard tyre and weight so it was always going to be painful so it was a good result.
“I got a blinding start in race 3 and overtook from the word go. We were challenging for another podium, unfortunately, Cook tapped me and damaged my rear right which dropped us back and I lost quite a bit of time because I couldn’t see from the smoke. I had a great scrap at the end but sadly lost a place on the closing lap. I have to be happy with the weekend overall though, leaving Silverstone third overall and 2nd in the Independents.”
James Cole #20:
“A tough weekend that sadly didn’t go to plan. We didn’t maximise the capability of the car in qualifying and even though it was such small margins, unfortunately around here that means a lot of positions. We gained 5 places at the start of race 1 and were looking good for a top 10 finish before being taken out. That put me to the back for race 2 on the hard tyre which was the wrong tyre to have to try to come through the pack. I got taken out again as a result of someone else’s accident in race two and managed to fight back in the final race but it was too little too late to make a difference. If I’d have finished in the top ten in race 1 then it could have been a completely different story.
“I have to congratulate my team-mates Tom and Sam on a great weekend, and fantastic set of results for the team. Hopefully, we can get all three cars up there together at Brands Hatch.”