Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher saved the best until last during a frenetic weekend of racing at Knockhill, with Tom Chilton claiming a maiden race win of the season for the Motorbase-run squad with a commanding lights to flag drive in the final Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race of the day (August 25/26).
Celebrating a victorious return to the top step of the podium at the eighth meeting of the season, the relentless rainfall did little to dampen Chilton’s spirits with the Gallagher-backed racer battling his way from a mid-pack start to take his first BTCC race win since 2011, and second Independent win of the season.
The weekend was a slow-burner for the Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher duo. Following a super-competitive qualifying session that saw over half of the grid beat the previous lap record, Chilton was the highest-placed Motorbase driver in P15 – in spite of being less than half a second off pole – with James Cole placing 22nd for the first of Sunday’s three races.
Passing Lloyd’s Honda on the opening lap in the extreme wet conditions, Chilton held his nerve in the safety car interrupted race and continued to scythe his way through the mid-field to eventually take P12 at the flag. With a tough task ahead of him on the notoriously difficult circuit, Cole endured a tough battled from a less-than-ideal qualifying place, picking up damage to bring the #20 Focus RS home in P24.
Race two was a dramatic affair. After two safety car incidents in treacherous racing conditions, the contest was finally red-flagged after just 20 laps. Chilton made an excellent start off the line and had managed to work his way into the top ten by the first tour of the circuit, moving up to 8th by lap 12 before the race was ended. James Cole was still embroiled in the mid-pack scrap and struggled to progress but managed to make up 4 places to finally cross the line in P20.
With the leading two cars excluded from the race results due to ride-height infringements, the Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher driver’s positions were promoted to P6 and P18. Chilton’s amended result proved to be the turning point of the weekend, placing the #3 Ford Focus RS onto pole position for the final race of the weekend.
Determined to capitalise on his fortuitous position, Chilton stormed off the line and had built up a decent lead to Morgan in the opening laps. A fast-charging Turkington however soon made light work of the Mercedes and had closed the gap to Chilton down to less than half a second by the mid-way point of the race. A defensive masterclass followed, with Chilton holding off the two-time BTCC champion’s BMW for the final six laps in a thrilling closing battle. The 33-year-old’s determination and race-craft delivered the perfect end to the day for the Motorbase squad – claiming the 1st outright race win for the Ford Focus RS on its debut season.
Unfortunately, Cole’s woes continued with the 30-year-old entangled in the back-marker traffic and the #20 Focus RS dropped back a couple of places to end the day in P22.
The weekend’s results have helped to reinstate Chilton’s stake in the Championship title fight – moving him back up into 6th place overall and closing the gap on the Independent Drivers lead. Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher has also consolidated its 4th place position in the overalls Teams’ Championship – as the highest-placed Independent Team – and has closed the gap to the current Indy Teams’ leaders to just 4 points with 6 rounds remaining.
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Silverstone – ‘the home of British Motorsport’ – in three weeks’ time for the penultimate meeting of the year on September 15/16.
Team Manager Oly Collins:
“That’s a fantastic result which pays back the whole team for all the hard work behind the scenes. Tom was mega in the wet today and that first win for our Focus RS was exactly what he and the team deserved. We’ve had a strong car all year but for whatever reason we’ve just not been able to convert it to a win until today.
“It’s a super competitive Championship and you just can’t underestimate what it takes to win races. It keeps us in the hunt for the title. Now we’re hungry for more with 6 races left!”
#3 Tom Chilton:
“I knew I had to get the perfect start because I had Turkington behind me in the RWD drive and I did! Thankfully I didn’t make the same mistake from Rockingham and I kept the lead for the whole race. I knew that I had the car underneath me and with the experience from all of my years racing here it paid off. It was a really big fight at the end, with Turkington coming through but we had such a good car.
“All credit to the team giving me the car to do the job. Starting from 15th on the grid was tough but it just shows you that if you keep your nose clean and with a little bit of luck you can come through to take a win.”
#20 James Cole:
“Congratulations to Tom on his win. It was a fantastic effort from the whole team and he drove really well to take that win.
“I think overall the result doesn’t show it, but we have found some improvements in the car which we can take forward to Silverstone. Some more consistent running is what we need, and to have two days of the same weather would be lovely. We’re upbeat for Silverstone, it’s a great circuit that should suit our car really well and it can’t come soon enough.”