Season 2 of the Chazlington Touring Car Championship made an explosive return to people's screens on Monday night, with Rounds 1 and 2 from Brands Hatch Indy. A record 21-car field was on show, and bound to provide a bit of everything, whether that be close, competitive racing, or utter chaos!
Practice saw most of the drivers re-adjusting to the unusual characteristics brought about by driving a rallycross car on a road course - a number of them not being able to put time into pre-season testing. It was Qualifying however, that showed the true pace of the drivers, whether they were returning from Season 1, or complete newcomers to the series (and the format).
It was a familiar sort of session for Jake Blackhall - the reigning Champion taking pole position from CQR Club teammate Pete Harrod, who had a very strong first showing in the Subaru Impreza. Behind him was Renvale FitzSty Motorsport driver Harald Stadler in the Beetle, meaning that one car from each manufacturer was in the Top 3.
It was a tame start from everyone, with all but three cars getting through Paddock Hill Bend cleanly, but it was the exit of Druids where the real trouble began. As drivers recovered from an initial incident bit of contact at the top of the hill, more were collected including Anthony Jacobson, Simon Field, Robert Lundgren, Jake Robertson and Steve Burke. At the end of the lap, Stadler and McAuley got together, resulting in Evdoka being collected and pitched into a roll, ending up in the gravel.
Ben Palmer, who had dropped some places from 4th and made them back up, but now had Renvale and Texense FitzSty drivers Jesper Lindh and Lewis Bibby ahead of him. Before long, he outdragged the latter's Fiesta down the straight, and was ahead of Lindh before the 5-minute mark. At this point though, Blackhall had upwards of six seconds on the rest of the field.
Through the pit stops, there was the usual beginning-of-season influx of drivers taking tyres and losing time, while others played around with strategies, opting to come in earlier and tryt to get in clean air. Palmer had a very quick stop and was only 1.5 seconds off the lead when Jake emerged, and it wasn't long until the Subaru's straight line advantage meant that he could slide past into turn one.
He went on to take a commanding victory with Blackhall second - repeating their finishing positions from Season 1. Pete Harrod took a great podium finish on his debut, with Dan McAuley 4th, giving CQR Club a crushing 1-2-3-4 result. Jesper Lindh was best of the rest with teammate and team owner Jack Styles finishing a very respectable 6th, from 15th on the grid!
With the reverse grid draw being 16, Anthony Jacobson lined up on Pole Position for Race 2 alongside John Roberts, with Billy Rose in 3rd. Simon Field was the first casualty at Paddock Hill Bend, beind punted out of 6th place. At the back, Jaehan An, Niall Crowther and Michael Edvoka all came to strife, with DC Racing's Crowther coming off worst.
At Druids, Jake Blackhall dipped a wheel on to the grass, losing control and tapping teammate Dan McAuley into the unsuspecting Ashley Blake-Hood. Lundgren was turned around in the melee, leading to contact with Steve Burke - the pair of them getting caught up in incidents on Lap 1 in both races. Blackhall ended his race - and his evening - at this point.
Furthermore, heading towards the end of the lap, Jacobson and Rose came together battling for the lead - the former hitting the wall and coming straight back into traffic. A massive accident developed, collecting Jake Robertson, John Roberts and Race 1 winner Ben Palmer. Through it all however, sister teams Renvale and Texense FitzSty Motorsport occupied the Top 5 spots, with Styles leading from Stadler. Pete Harrod and the two Northern Lights Subarus followed closely behind.
Like a flash, Stadler overtook his superior and began to work on building a lead, using his teammates behind as rear gunners. This was his golden chance to convert his immense pre-season pace into a victory. Harrod forced his Subaru through the sea of FitzSty cars while the rest of the field began to spread out.
His advances were short-lived though, as he picked up a speeding penalty in the pit lane, denying him a possible race win. As everyone dispersed into their respective pit stop strategies, Simon Field made a very early stop to try and avoid slower traffic.
Rose and Jacobson would come together a further two times, leaving them both languishing down the order to lament what could have been. The other Northern Lights driver, Josh Rayfield, was putting on a great show however, eventually coming home in 5th to bag 14 valuable championship points.
At the front, Harald Stadler took everything in his stride, including the race win - FitzSty's first in the series, and only the second for the Volkswagen Beetle. Simon Field's strategy paid off beautifully, with an amazing 2nd place for BoosTED Motorsport, while Jesper Lindh made it two Renvale FitzSty Motorsport Beetles on the podium!
Dan McAuley rounded out a consistent evening with his second 4th place on the trot, with Palmer recovering to 6th, meaning that he would lead the championship by 5 points. Pete Harrod's penalty dropped him down to 7th. Niall Crowther and Anthony Jacobson will head to the next round frustrated, being the only two not to score points in the season opener.