CHILTON OPENS BTCC SEASON WITH POLE POSITION AND SECOND PLACE
Today’s opening round of the 2006 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch lived up to pre-season forecasts, with VX Racing’s new signing, 21-year-old Tom Chilton, challenging established stars James Thompson and Jason Plato.
Chilton (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch) opened the season by sending a warning shot across the bows of his rivals, claiming pole position for today’s first race at the Kent circuit. He then had the crowd on its feet for most of the 27 laps as he held on to a slender lead ahead of two-times champion Thompson (SEAT Leon).
On some laps, Thompson closed right onto the tail of Chilton’s leading Vauxhall, whilst on other laps the SEAT driver lost ground as he was forced to drive defensively against the challenge of third-placed Colin Turkington (MG ZS).
With just five laps to go, Chilton ran slightly wide into the sweeping Clearways corner and Thompson seized his chance, diving alongside the Reigate driver and into the lead. Chilton held on to second place to the chequered flag, crossing the line 1.3s behind Thompson and 0.7s ahead of 2005 champion Matt Neal (Honda Integra), setting the race’s fastest lap (49.190s, average lap speed 89.74mph) in the process.
In the next two races, Chilton came home seventh and fifth, which puts him third in the championship standings. Chilton’s VX Racing team-mates, multiple touring car champion Fabrizio Giovanardi and 2005 VXR driver Gavin Smith, had a mixed afternoon.
Giovanardi crashed out of his first ever BTCC race, hitting the barriers as he spun off Cooper Straight, then finished in eighth and seventh places; Smith scored sixth, fourth and eighth places. Thompson won the day’s first two races and his team-mate Plato won the third.
Tom Chilton:
“That was hard work but I knew we were going to struggle. The Vauxhall is a good car but this is its worst circuit. It’s tight and twisty, we don’t get much rest on the tyres, and we suffered because of greater tyre wear than some of the other cars.
“This is just the first round of the year. Everybody pushes really hard because they want to show everyone how good they are. Some drivers pushed a bit too hard today but I think I struck a good balance.”
Fabrizio Giovanardi:
“That was a good welcome to England! I got a good start [in race one] despite Jason Plato pushing me into the wall. I was in third and in front of Plato but then almost immediately he started to hit me. He tried to spin me on lap five but I managed to hold it. I told myself to be calm but unfortunately there were many guys like Plato on the circuit today.”
Gavin Smith:
“I’m happy with my results but I was having to defend the whole time. Looking in your mirrors all the time is not ideal when you’re trying to push forward.
“I made a mistake on the start of the third race, so lost a few places. I got too much wheel spin and fell back a few places and it was down hill from then. I let Fabrizio past me to see if he could do any better but unfortunately he couldn’t.”
Result – Round 1:
1,James Thompson (SEAT Leon);
2, Tom Chilton (VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
3, Matt Neal (Honda Integra);
4, Colin Turkington (MG ZS);
5, Mike Jordan (Honda Integra);
6, Gavin Smith (VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
7, Robert Collard (MG ZS);
8, James Kaye (Honda Civic Type R);
9, Jason Hughes (MG ZS);
10, Martyn Bell (Alfa Romeo 156);
etc.
Result – Round 2:
1, James Thompson (SEAT Leon);
2, Colin Turkington (MG ZS);
3, Matt Neal (Honda Integra);
4, Gavin Smith (VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
5, Jason Plato (SEAT Leon); 6, Robert Collard (MG ZS);
7, Tom Chilton (VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
8, Fabrizio Giovanardi (VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
9, James Kaye (Honda Civic Type R);
10, David Pinkney (Honda Integra);
etc.
Result – Round 3:
1, Jason Plato (SEAT Leon),
2, Robert Collard (MG ZS);
3, Colin Turkington (MG ZS);
4, Tom Chilton (VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
5, Gordon Shedden (Honda Integra);
6, James Thompson (SEAT Leon);
7, Fabrizio Giovanardi (VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
8, Gavin Smith (VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch);
9, David Pinkney (Honda Integra);
10, Jason Hughes (MG ZS);
etc.
BTCC Drivers’ Championship:
1, James Thompson, 37 points;
2, Colin Turkington, 30 pts;
3, Tom Chilton, 28 pts;
4, Jason Plato, 23 pts;
5, Robert Collard, 21 pts;
6, Matt Neal, 20 pts;
7, Gavin Smith, 16 pts;
8, Fabrizio Giovanardi, 7pts and Gordon Shedden, 7 pts;
10, Mike Jordan, 6 pts.
BTCC Manufacturers’ Championship:
1, SEAT, 67;
2, Vauxhall, 50
BTCC Teams’ Championship:
1, SEAT Sport UK (56);
2, Team RAC (51);
3, VX Racing (41);
4, Team Halfords (26);
5, Team Eurotech Racing (6);
6, Synchro Motorsport (5);
etc.
Next rounds (4-6 of 30): Mondello Park, County Kildare, Ireland, April 23.