Toyota-driving independent Adam Morgan continued his strong run of form in the BTCC at Donington Park, collecting a hat-trick of top-five finishes at the wheel of his Ciceley Racing-run Avensis and a new touring car lap record for the Leicestershire circuit.
The 24-year-old from Lancashire now holds sixth place in the overall championship standings, having amassed in six races more points than he did in the whole of 2012, and is in second position in the Independents Trophy division, just seven points off the top.
Morgan made clear his intentions in qualifying, netting sixth on the grid. He wasn’t the highest-placed Toyota driver, however – that honour went to Dynojet Racing’s Frank Wrathall, who was second fastest in his Avensis, only five-hundredths of a second off the pole.
Wrathall, Morgan and the MG of Sam Tordoff battled over fifth for much of the first race of the day, Adam getting the better of his rivals to secure the position. “I was able to get ahead of Frank and Sam and then make a bit of a break and get away,” said Morgan, “which is as well because I was really struggling with wear to my front-left tyre towards the end.” Morgan’s best lap time was the quickest of all in the race and was comfortably under the Donington BTCC lap record.
Morgan repeated his fifth-place form with a steady run in race two, and then in the finale raced as high as third before his soft ‘option’ Dunlops started to lose their grip and he fell back to fifth. He was far from disappointed, however: “We went for quite an aggressive set-up in the last race and towards the end I was really pushing quite hard to stay ahead of the Hondas of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, but they came through anyway. I’m still happy with fifth, though. It’s tough to take it all in really. When you compare my results from last year with this year, it’s like chalk and cheese. It’s mind-blowing that I’ve managed to do this, and I have to say a massive thank you to Ciceley Racing.”
Frank Wrathall’s weekend highlight turned out to be his pace in qualifying. In race one he slipped back to fifth and, troubled by a lack of turbo boost in the lower gears, was literally powerless to prevent his rivals Morgan and Tordoff from getting in front. “We had problems in practice and because of that we were running the settings a bit ‘safe’ and not using the boost as we should. As a result our engine was down on performance, which showed. The Toyota is great through the corners but I was a sitting duck on the straights.”
Worse was to come. In race two, Frank moved up a place on the opening lap and looked well placed to make further progress until, on the eighth lap, his throttle linkage broke, forcing him into retirement. “The throttle was stuck wide open so I had to get hard on the brakes as I went down to the Old Hairpin to bring the car to a stop. It’s very disappointing.” Race three was a brief affair also: Frank’s Avensis was unintentionally hit from behind by Ollie Jackson’s Speedworks Toyota at the end of the opening lap and Wrathall was forced to retire with a deranged rear wheel.
Speedworks driver Dave Newsham collected two good finishes today in his Avensis – ninth and seventh – but spun out of the top five early in race three after sustaining suspension damage in a thump from a pursuing car. Jackson collected useful championship points in race one with 16th place, but lost time with an electrical issue in race two and went on to retire with oil cooler damage – possibly a result of his collision with Wrathall – in race three.
Today’s race winners were Honda drivers Shedden and Andy Jordan, and BMW man Colin Turkington.
In a fortnight’s time it will be the super-fast sweeps of the Thruxton circuit in Hampshire which will play host to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.