- MV Commercial BTRA Championship roars back into life at Brands Hatch
- Ryan Smith, Stuart Oliver and David Jenkins share Division 1 spoils
- Podiums also for Mark Taylor, John Newell and Ray Coleman
Division 1 of the MV Commercial BTRA Championship served up an Easter extravaganza at Brands Hatch this past weekend (April 21/22) as former champions Ryan Smith, Stuart Oliver and David Jenkins each triumphed.
Marking the start of the 2019 season, the Kent circuit played host to two days of breathless racing as a bumper crowd basked in the spring sunshine to witness four races from the championship’s leading lights.
Qualifying proved to be an ultra-competitive affair with Jenkins and Smith setting the pace and clocking identical lap times around the 1.2-mile circuit. Virtue of setting his time first, Jenkins claimed pole position.
Despite missing out on pole, reigning three-time champion Smith won the opener after producing a jaw-dropping overtake on Jenkins into Paddock Hill Bend. Starting on the outside of the front row, the MAN driver hounded the back of the pole sitter in the opening laps, dragging Oliver along with him, however Jenkins produced a resolute defence.
After showing his nose a number of times Smith finally made his move at the start of lap four, slicing his way down the inside heading into the first corner. Once in front, the current title holder banked the fastest lap and built up a sizeable lead to open his 2019 account – with Jenkins and Oliver rounding out the podium.
Race two saw the grid reversed and ten-time champion Oliver rolled back the years to produce a scintillating performance, taking the chequered flag by more than 12 seconds. Starting sixth, the Volvo VNL driver steadily worked his way up the order as the Cees Zandbergen and Mark Taylor scrapped for the lead.
Taylor would move to the front on lap two but soon saw his three-second advantage begin to be eaten into as Oliver closed in. Making his move at Clark on lap six, Oliver took control of the race and checked out to showcase his title credentials for the year ahead.
Behind, the charging Smith had caught the top two but contact with Taylor on lap seven upon entry into Paddock Hill Bend left him bouncing across the gravel and having to defend from those behind. Reasserting himself, Smith clawed his way onto the back of his team-mate and dispatched Taylor for second on lap ten.
Further down the order Jenkins endured a yo-yo race as he wrestled his MAN from the back to secure crucial points in fourth place. Newell managed to hold off the Dutch duo of Zandbergen and Clemens Hecker whilst Coleman was forced to retire. Having competed in race one, Richard Collett failed to make the start of race two, and ultimately the remaining races, due to mechanical issues with his five-tonne machine.
Smith delivered a champions drive in race three of the weekend as he notched his second victory around the iconic venue, despite battling a misfire and withstanding a race-long challenge from 2011 title winner Jenkins.
Converting pole position into the race lead, Smith recorded a lights-to-flag performance that fans have become accustomed to down the years. Unlike previous races, Smith was unable to make his escape as Jenkins kept him honest throughout, with Oliver a comfortable third.
Coleman scored more points in fourth whilst Newell produced a stellar fightback to finish fifth.
After notching pole position and picking up two pieces of silverware, Jenkins capped off his weekend on the top step of the podium with victory in race four. The MAN racer mirrored Newell in having a scintillating start, surging into second and first respectively.
From then on, former Division 2 title holder Newell produced a defensive masterclass as he fended off Jenkins, and then Smith. As the fight for supremacy intensified, things came to a head at Druids as contact between the leading contenders left Smith on the grass facing the wrong way, Oliver with smoke pouring off his truck and Jenkins finding his way to the front.
Now ahead of Newell, Jenkins showed his pace by pulling away from the former race leader and powered on to victory ahead of him and Coleman, both of whom drove near-perfect races to bag their maiden podiums of the new season.
Smith recovered to fourth whilst race two victor Oliver hobbled back to the pit lane to retire.
For the full classification of results from all Division 1 sessions at Brands Hatch, click here.
The MV Commercial BTRA Championship resumes on May 11/12 as the series heads to South Wales to take on the unique challenges of Pembrey.
Ryan Smith: “We’ve put a lot of effort in and it was a good weekend for the team. Two wins and another podium for me, as well as a first podium for Mark is a great result. I had the pace to get after Stuart in race two but it wasn’t meant to be and to battle a misfire in that third race was tough, but we managed to come away with the win.”
Stuart Oliver: “I’m over the moon and the win was unexpected because the pace that Ryan and David have had left me wondering whether we could stay ahead. We made some minor changes overnight to the truck and they all led it in the right direction and enabled us to be in the position to get the win. I’m really happy with that performance.”
David Jenkins: “It was a massive effort from me, the whole team and our sponsors to get the package together so to come again with a win is brilliant. That last race got a bit hectic in the middle but we had a great start and I think that is what made the race as I managed to get round the outside, make a few overtakes and I was away. It’s a really good start to the year.”