Following Saturday’s excellent performance on track by Dan Lloyd and Chris Smiley, the two BTC Honda Civics lined up on the grid for the first race of the day on row 3, in P5 and P6 respectively.
Dan got off to a cracking start, getting stuck right in and by the first corner he was challenging for 3rd position. Unfortunately, on the second corner Dan got tagged on the inside, sending him sliding backwards off the circuit. He managed to get the car back to the pit lane for a quick repair from the team and joined the back of the safety car train. He fought for the remaining laps and finished the race in 21st.
Chris also got a great start and whilst sustaining some damage in the second corner chaos, completed the first lap in 7th. With rain starting to fall, many drivers were caught out by the changing track conditions. By lap 8 Chris had moved into P6 and he set his sights on Dan Cammish, the current Jack Sears Championship leader.
With Dan Cammish battling for position with Ash Sutton, Chris was able to catch up to him on lap 11 and passed him on lap 12, albeit briefly, with Dan taking the place back on lap 15. Not one to give up, Chris wrestled the damaged Honda Civic Type R hard to the final seconds of the race and pipped Dan Cammish on the line, taking the chequered flag in 4th place.
The garage was a hive of activity after race one, getting the cars ready for race two and repairing the damage both cars sustained in the turn two incident. The team rose to the challenge and the cars took their places on the grid. Chris Smiley starting 4th on the grid and Dan Lloyd in 21st. With Chris having selected to the run the hard tyre option in race two, he knew it was going to be a tough race.
The damp conditions on the track threatened to create more uncertainty in race two and as a result the cars completed two laps to the grid to ensure that all competitors were familiar with the conditions. Chris got another strong start and by the first corner was third, behind Adam Morgan in 2nd. Before the first lap had been completed, the safety car was out with Stephen Jelley stranded in the gravel.
As soon as the safety car was brought in, Chris was back pushing despite being on the hard tyre, which made things tricky for him. He dropped back to 5th behind Colin Turkington, struggling for grip but not giving up. The safety car made another appearance and once again, racing had resumed. Chris wasn’t able to maintain his position with those on the standard tyre compound benefiting from the better grip. He crossed the line for the final time in 6th position.
Dan had a tough first lap and by the time the safety car was out he had slipped back to 25th. On the second outing of the safety car, Dan had made his way into 23rd. He put in a strong effort for the final laps and finished the race in 16th, putting himself in a strong position to fight for points in race three.
After race two, the reverse grid was drawn by Alain Menu, two time British Touring Car Championship winner who selected Tom Chilton to start race three from pole and resulting in Chris starting 5th for the final race of the day.
With Rockingham not on the calendar for 2019, the final race of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at the venue for at least the foreseeable future got underway just before 5pm. More uncertain weather conditions and a grid dotted with umbrellas, promised to provide further jeopardy in the last race of the day.
Chris got another strong start and with the cars in front misjudging the track conditions, Chris took the lead at turn two. However, Rory Butcher was straight onto the back of Chris and he worked to protect his position. Lap 2 saw the return of the safety car and Chris prepared for the rolling restart to the race. By lap 6 he had increased his lead to 1.2 seconds and the race win, was his to lose.
Speaking after the race, Chris described the final 5 laps of the race as feeling like 5 years! He knew that he couldn’t make any mistakes and focused on delivering a perfect drive to finish the race to secure his first win in the championship. With the whole team celebrating on the pit wall, Chris took the chequered flag in P1 and with a lead of 3.5 seconds ahead of his fellow countryman Colin Turkington.
Dan was running the hard tyre option in the final race and started P16. By the end of the first lap, Dan had moved himself into 13th position and had gained another place by the time the safety car was out. Sadly, contact on lap 6 resulted in race ending damage and Dan limped his car back to the pits on lap 7.
Rockingham marked the second race win of the season for BTC and in just three race weekends, made it a very special one for the team. Team Boss Bert Taylor, who met Chris in January a few years ago has worked with the driver for just a couple of years to achieve this result. This result was hard earned and to top it off, the win was also the first race win for Ben Taylor who engineered Chris’ car. For BTC, often described as having a strong family feel, this win meant a lot.
Chris was visibly emotional when he emerged triumphant from his car in Parc Ferme and after embracing the team, Chris was for the first time speechless.
“What an amazing day for me and BTC Norlin Racing!” said Smiley. “The weekend started well, qualifying nicely in the top 6 but the real magic happened on race day! In race one I thought it was all over going into Deane Hairpin which resulted in my car getting damaged extensively, but I battled hard all race long and passed Dan Cammish on the line to take 4th position.
“In race two I had the option tyre fitted to my Honda Civic Type R and battled hard to finish in P6 in difficult conditions and with 48kg of ballast on board. The reverse grid left me in P5 for race three, which could be the last ever BTCC race at Rockingham. The race start was delayed twice and the weather was also very challenging as there were spots of rain in the air.
“I managed a good start off the line and in turn two a few cars ran wide, enabling me to take the lead and control the race from there. It was far from easy sailing as I had a safety car restart and some rain to handle, but I managed to keep my concentration and win by 3.56 seconds ahead of my fellow countryman Colin Turkington. The last 5 laps felt like 5 years, but the emotion crossing the finish line is something I will never forget.
“I can’t thank Bert Taylor, Richard Irwin and Stephen Symington enough for everything they have done for me… This win is for them! I am bursting with excitement to get to Knockhill in two weeks time!”
Dan also showed great pace but his Sunday was fraught with challenges, most of which he had no influence over the outcome.
“There are positives to take from the weekend” said Dan. “It was my best qualifying yet and I placed myself in the top five for the first race. We are still finding ways to improve the car and I had the pace on Sunday. I am disappointed with the results I achieved, obviously getting turned around on the second corner in the first race made the rest of the day tough and I didn’t find much luck through the rest of the day either. I am over the moon for Chris and the team, achieving 2 race wins from 3 rounds is a really awesome job.”
There is no denying, that Chris’ win in the final race was emotional for many watching and it was clear to see by all how much this meant to the team.
Bursting with pride, was Team Boss Bert Taylor, whom not only was delighted that the driver he has worked so closely with achieved his first win, but whose son also engineered his first race winning BTCC car – Ben Taylor.
“That moment will live with me forever! It has been a long and tough journey to this point but I couldn’t be happier for Chris and we are all so proud.”
“The team has only been in the Championship for 18 months and this is Chris’ second full year. His pace and determination today has been nothing short of impressive. I am also overjoyed for my son Ben who has been engineering Chris’ car this year, the win means so much to him as well.
“Dan has had a lot of bad luck today, but he brings so much to the team and has been fast all weekend. It is a shame that we couldn’t see what Dan had to offer this weekend after the first lap incident in race one, but I know he will bounce back at Knockhill. It has been a busy day for the team with lots of work to carry out between races. hey continue to impress me with their professionalism and determination – I am very proud of them all.”
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship now heads north of the border to Knockhill, with action on track on 25 – 26th August. In 2017, the track saw BTC Norlin Racing claim their first Independent win with Dave Newsham, so the team is hoping more silverware will be on the cards.
Chris Smiley – 13th
Dan Lloyd – 18th
BTC Norlin Racing – 7th
Independent Driver Standings:
Chris Smiley – 5th
Dan Lloyd – 14th
Independent Team Standings:
BTC Norlin Racing – 4th
Jack Sears Trophy:
Chris Smiley – 2nd
Dan Lloyd – 10th
Photography: Phil Laughton