Race one for the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – Lokring Northern (UK) raceday got underway at a cold and blustery Knockhill with Scot Rory Butcher on pole position – his maiden in the series.
Lining up behind Rory were a gaggle of experienced drivers, set to chase him down over the 24 laps – with the next 14 drivers, excluding Oliphant in P7, former BTCC race winners. Only time would tell if Butcher could dominate proceedings, like he had done yesterday.
Before the race, there were concerns about the temperature for the green-walled soft tyres and perhaps bearing that in mind was why the Halfords Yuasa Racing team opted to run the medium compound in race 1 – a bold strategy perhaps.
As the cars assembled on the grid, you could be forgiven if you have some nerves sitting at the head of the pack with some top Touring Car talent on you tail. However, Butcher held his nerve heading to the drop into Duffus Dip reaching the corner ahead of BMW Pirtek Racing car of Andrew Jordan. Meanwhile Scotsman Aiden Moffat got swamped off the line by the rear-wheel-drive cars of Stephen Jelley and Ash Sutton. But made up ground in the race to finish in P11.
With barely 5 laps on the board the safety car was deployed following an incident between Michael Crees and Nic Hamilton, after an earlier incident between the two Team Hard Volkswagen CCs. Following an extended clear up, an additional 3 laps were added to the race period taking the duration out to 27 laps.
On the restart, Butcher remained calm and held his nerve into the first corner before he and Andrew Jordan would settle down into a rhythm at the head of the field. Behind, there were incident and drama throughout.
Matt Neal and Ash Sutton were involved in a clash at McIntyre’s Corner on lap 11 of the race – with both cars retiring with suspension damage. Elsewhere, there were retirements for Stephen Jelley and Rob Collard, whilst Tom Chilton lost several places after attempting a move on Colin Turkington into the Hairpin, only for the defending Champion to run him wide into the gravel on the exit – which subsequently cost the Motorbase Performance driver two places as both Smiley and Proctor moved through.
With Jordan pressurising Butcher at the head of the pack, and looking ominous in the process, it was only a matter of time before he made his move. Heading onto the penultimate lap, Butcher was slightly lame on the exit from the Hairpin and that gave Jordan the opportunity to run up the outside heading into Duffus Dip. Butcher though, held on bravely and when Jordan was forced to take the exit road at the bottom of Duffus, Butcher sent his car back up the inside at McIntyre’s. Thankfully, Jordan conceded and Butcher then went on to claim a famous win on home soil in front of a partisan Scottish audience.
“Wow, Andrew was on a bit of a mission in that one. I lost 2nd gear during the safety car laps and that made me very vulnerable coming out of the Hairpin. Me and Andrew had a good ding-dong in those last few laps, but when he went wide at turn one l just sent it back down the inside; and fair play to Andrew, he gave me racing room,” commented Butcher.
The next BTCC race takes place at 2.15pm this afternoon and it should be another cracker. Come along and watch, tickets are available at the gate.