The BTCC circus rolled into Donington Park for Rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), with Power Maxed TAG Racing (PMR) looking to continue the great form demonstrated with two fastest laps and a race win from the opening rounds at Brands Hatch.
After scoring his maiden pole position in the wet qualifying of Saturday, PMR’s Josh Cook scored his first BTCC race win with an outstanding drive to a comfortable victory by over 2 seconds in Race 1. The #66 Astra was first to move at the start but a little too much wheelspin compromised the run down to Redgate allowing Smiley alongside as the 32 car field piled into turn 1. The Power Maxed TAG Racing Astra forged ahead as they swooped down the Craner Curves, building an early advantage by the end of lap 2. By lap 8, Josh was setting fastest laps as he saw off the challenge of Honda’s Dan Cammish, and controlled his pace superbly to win with something to spare.
“It’s a little bit easier starting from the front, that’s for sure!” enthused Cook. “I’m over the moon for the guys and everyone who’s put all the hard work in. Senna (Proctor) got his last weekend and I needed mine. We were quick yesterday and I had to battle for the lead. The car was a little loose to start with and a slow start left me a little vulnerable. Chris (Smiley) gave me enough room and I managed to get the place back after losing out at the start.
“I’m really glad to have brought it home. As soon as the car settled and the rear calmed down, it was just a case of managing the tyres and managing the gap. It was nice to get a backmarker between us and Dan (Cammish) towards the end of the race. Hopefully it’s the first of many! We’ve worked so hard over the winter to make sure we’ve nailed our qualifying setup and the PMR Astra is an amazing drive now – the best car I’ve driven out of the box and every thanks to my engineers for it!”
Further back, teammate Senna Proctor also utilised the speed of the PMR Vauxhall Astra to battle up from a grid 15 start to an excellent 8th place finish. After fighting past the Toyota of Tom Ingram, Senna pulled a great move around the outside of the Colin Turkington at Redgate, only for the BMW to chop across as they swung left down the Craner Curves causing the BMW to slide sideways before collecting it all up. Undeterred, Proctor made his way back into the top 10 finishing an excellent 8th, ready for a challenge for the podium in Race 2.
Unfortunately, a post-race decision by the Stewards on the Turkington incident saw Senna demoted to the back of the grid for Race 2.
Senna commented “The pace was great and I enjoyed moving forward. P8 is a great place to build from for Races 2 and 3. Its just gutting to be put to the back for race 2. I was alongside all the way to the top of the Craners and went over the kerb – all Colin had to do was give a little room and we would have both been fine.”
Race 2 therefore featured the strikingly liveried Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall Astras at opposite ends of the grid, with Josh again on pole and Senna bringing up the rear.
This time Josh was beaten to Redgate by the Honda of Cammish and then out-braked into the chicane by the Mercedes of Moffat. Battling manfully with 75kg of success ballast and the harder tyre, Josh fought back into 2nd with a great move at Redgate and stayed in the battle for 3rd over the majority of the race before losing a few positions as Goff tried an overly optimistic move into Redgate. A late bid to wrestle 4th back was undone as Morgan’s Mercedes dived down the inside into the chicane on the penultimate lap, ultimately consigning Josh to a slightly frustrated 7th place finish.
From the back of the grid, Senna made up 10 places, but in such a competitive field around the sweeps and curves of Donington and no major incidents, it was always a big ask to make further progress. A 22nd place finish after a battle with Plato’s Subaru was the best the youngster could manage.
Race 3 A hectic opening lap saw Josh challenge for the lead exciting McLeans, only to be pushed across the gravel at the chicane and slipping to 5th. With Goff gaining an unfair advantage, the positions were reversed under the safety car
Chaos had broken out down the Craner Curves, when a sliding Ford Focus of Cole’s caused a chain reaction, the ensuing carnage pitching Senna into the back of Plato with Bushell’s spinning VW damaging the Astra’s steering. Upon inspection by the PMR crew, the car was retired. Senna said “I feel a bit hard done by this weekend, but will keep my head up for Thruxton as I know we are quick enough to win again soon.”
Back at the front, as the Safety Car came in at the end of lap 6, Josh got his head down and started to look like a real threat for a second win of the weekend. A great move on the exit of McLeans saw the Astra slip into 3rd, followed by another decisive move up the inside of Sutton’s Subaru into the same corner a lap later as the Bath ace set his sights on the leading Mercedes of Morgan.
A series of fastest laps closed the gap to nothing as the pair entered the final laps with Josh looking for any weakness in the Merc’s defence. Despite a couple of looks down the inside into Redgate, the Astra was never quite close enough and settled for another great podium to move into 3rd overall in the Drivers’ Championship.
Team Principal, Adam Weaver “I’m really happy with the performance of the cars this weekend. It’s unfortunate that Senna was plagued with such bad luck, especially in Race 3, but his times prove that both him and the car were on form, and well worthy of his win at Brands Hatch. I’m incredibly proud of Josh; he drove his absolute socks off this weekend and was completely deserving of his incredible results.”
Technical Director and Team Manager, Martin Broadhurst summarised, “Today’s results are another step in the right direction. It was only a matter of time until Josh took his first win, and once we saw his performance in FP1 and FP2 yesterday, we were confident that he was going to lift that trophy today. I’m really proud of the way the Team is evolving, and it was unfortunate that Senna got the penalty for race 2.”
Second win sees PMR lead team championship