Cook claims double during BTCC curtain-raiser
BTC Racing’s Josh Cook claimed a memorable double triumph as the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship blasted back into action at Thruxton this weekend.
Reigning champion Ash Sutton won the final contest in his Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50, but it was MB Motorsport’s Jake Hill who left the high-speed Hampshire venue with the early championship lead after the Kent driver scored an impressive podium hat-trick.
Cook had to work hard for the win in the curtain-raiser as he slipped past pole-sitter Sutton and Team BMW’s Colin Turkington after last season’s top-two drivers clashed on the opening lap of the new season.
Sutton held the lead down into the Complex for the first time, with Turkington and Cook’s #66 machine running side-by-side immediately behind. As Sutton braked into the right-hander he was clipped by Turkington’s BMW 330i M Sport, and the reigning champion’s Infiniti was tipped into a spin.
Cook made the most of an opportune moment as he slipped into the lead, with the rear-wheel drive BMWs seemingly struggling for early grip.
Opening lap drama between Gordon Shedden and Chris Smiley saw the Scotsman face heavy impact with the barrier, causing the race to be stopped. Cook kept his powder dry following the restart, as did Tom Ingram, whilst Jake Hill’s #24 Ford Focus completed the podium despite coming under race-long pressure from Turkington.
Cook eventually took a more straightforward victory in the second contest. The Bath-based driver held P1 from start-to-finish and was joined by the perfect rear-gunner in the shape of BTC Racing team-mate Dan Cammish, who ensured that Hill had to settle for third – albeit securing a second impressive podium of the day.
Sutton then splashed to a first victory of the season as the weather fell his way during a frenetic wet-dry-wet bout at the UK’s fastest circuit.
The Laser Tools Racing star was in fighting form throughout the day following two recovery drives and had already scythed his way to the front early in the reversed-grid encounter, as the vast majority of the field chose to run on Goodyear wet tyres.
Hill, Team BMW’s Oliphant and Smiley proved to be exceptions to the rule in terms of tyre choice, and when conditions improved after just a handful of laps it looked as if the trio had played a masterstroke.
The Ford Focus of Hill was particularly quick at mid-distance as he carved his way back through the order and eventually passed Sutton’s Infiniti Q50 for the lead on lap ten. Incredibly, no sooner had Hill hit the front than the rain began to fall again on the high-speed Hampshire circuit, giving Sutton the opportunity to come back for the victory in the latter stages.
Hill was now hanging on to second with both Jason Plato (Adrian Flux with Power Maxed Racing) and Gordon Shedden (Halfords Racing with Cataclean) closing in on the final lap. The trio went three-wide as the chequered flag fell and it was Plato who had snatched second from Hill by just 0.070s, with Shedden only 0.166s further in arrears.
Cook’s double success leaves him one point off the summit of the standings, whilst Plato’s trio of top six finishes was good enough to see the series returnee hold third in the order. Motorbase Performance/Ford enjoys an early advantage for Manufacturers’/Constructors’ honours, whilst BTC Racing top the Teams’ table.
Josh Cook (BTC Racing) said: “I’m really, really chuffed for the whole of BTC Racing; we’ve had a tough winter, but a good start to the year. We’ve just got to keep the ball rolling – we need to be fighting at the front at the end of the season so we’ve got to get our heads down!”
Rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will take place at Snetterton on 12/13 June.