Any hope Fifer Gordon Shedden harboured of retaining his Dunlop British Touring Car Championship title essentially went up in flames in a dramatic triple-header at Knockhill.
Having dazzled in today’s two opening races — when he finished second and third, despite carrying 27kg and then 36kgs of success ballast — his efforts went up in smoke in the day’s final race.
Having started from fourth on the grid, and slipped to sixth as he struggled to get his Honda Racing Civic off the start-line, he was poised to make a charge into the top four when disaster struck.
Hurtling down the start-finish straight on the fastest part of the circuit, his Honda suffered a catastrophic engine failure which resulted in flames bellowing out from below his car at around 120mph.
As the cabin rapidly filled with choking smoke, the Scot was forced to rapidly park his car near a marshals’ firepoint.
And as Shedden exited, the marshals safely doused the flames. But the incident put a dampener on the defending champ’s day.
“Definitely not the way you want to finish the day,” a gutted Shedden, who had entered the weekend 22 points behind championship leader and team-mate Matt Neal, but now heads to the next round at Rockingham 27 points adrift, stated.
“I was definitely on for scoring more points in the third race. I was sixth when the engine went, but I was confident of getting up to fourth, or even possibly on to the podium.
“This is a big blow in the championship race, but there are still three meetings and nine races to go, so I’m definitely not ruling the title out yet. But it’s going to be tough.”
Neal meanwhile, who had struggled in the two openers, finished second in the final race. But though he heads to the next round at Rockingham still leading the title race, his advantage has been slashed to just six points ahead of the Pirtek Honda of Andrew Jordan, who won the incident-filled final race.
The biggest smile of the day though was reserved for Colin Turkington. The Irishman — the 2009 BTCC champ, and former Knockhill race instructor — dominated the opening two races to win both comfortably.
He then stormed through from sixth on the reverse grid in the third race to finish fourth, immediately behind his BMW team-mate Rob Collard.
“The car’s just been on rails all weekend,” Turkington said. “I’d been looking forward to coming back to Knockhill.
“But to leave here with two wins and a fourth, and be just 17 points off the championship lead, is really more than I’d expected. It’s been an excellent day
“When you get a circuit which suits your car, it’s crucial you take full advantage, and that’s what we’ve done this weekend.”
But hours after the chequered flag fell on the day’s final race, Turkington’s BMW was disqualified. Stewards discovered his car’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine had been overboosting during the course of the 26-lap race.
The decision stripped hi of the 13 points he earned from the race, and dropped him back to fourth in the championship, 30 points behind Neal.
Aiden Moffat, the 16-year-old from Dalkieth became the youngest ever racer to compete in the BTCC. But it was a tough debut for youngster.
Forced to sit out qualifying as the team rebuilt his engine after problems in free practice, he completed 21 laps of yesterday’s opener in his Finesse Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze.
But on the fourth lap of the second race, his car suffered a failure of the left-front suspension as he came through the chicane.
Unable to control the car, he careered through the gravel before coming to rest against the tyre barrier. The team was then unable to repair the car in time for the third race.
“I guess that’s motorsport,” Moffat reflected afterwards.
It was an encouraging weekend too for Kilmarnock’s Kieran Gallagher. The 23-year-old, making his BTCC debut in the Team Hard Vauxhall Insignia, was placed 20th and 22nd in the two openers.
But the Scottish Legends racer showed his true potential by moving up to 14th in the day’s final race.
In the Porsche Carrera Cup, Kirkcaldy’s Rory Butcher finished second in the opening race. But the 25-year-old’s Celtic Speed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car was punted off the track at the opening corner of the second race by Dean Stoneman. The Scot though recovered to bring his battered and bruised car home eighth.
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