Live commentary: BTCC Season Launch at Donington Park

Live commentary: BTCC Season Launch at Donington Park

Photo: Network Images

Follow all of the action from the afternoon test session of the British Touring Car Championship Season Launch at Donington Park with our live commentary feed.

Live commentary Andrew Abbott and Damian Meaden.

BTCC Season Launch 2017

Live broadcasting started on 16/03/2017 12:58 and was finished on 16/03/2017 18:31

  • 17:11 pm

    Read the full testing write-up here, with a full results run-down. Tom Ingram sets the pace at Season Launch pre-season test:
  • 17:05 pm
    You can view the full session results online here:
  • 17:00 pm
    The chequered flag comes out and Tom Ingram remains on top of the times at the end of the day, his lap of 1:09.995 setting the pre-season benchmark ahead of Rob Austin and Chris Smiley. That makes it a Toyota 1-2 at the top of the times - a result which some might not have predicted today.
  • 16:57 pm
    Stephen Jelley, who has completed the most laps of anyone this afternoon with 72 tours, has just improved to go 14th in his Ford Focus.
  • 16:55 pm
    Just one works car in the top ten right now, which is Vauxhall / PMR's Tom Chilton in eighth, despite there now being 13 factory-backed cars on the grid this year.
  • 16:53 pm
    Even more improvements from Moffat, who is now up to fifth with a 1:10.355. Dave Newsham is also now up to ninth with a 1:10.677. There could be more improvements to come as the sun breaks through the clouds now.
  • 16:52 pm
    Not many improvements as we approach the end of the session, although Aiden Moffat has just improved his personal best lap to go eighth, having been down in 16th before. Senna Prcotor, who has completed the fewest laps of any driver, is finally getting some meaningful running under his belt and is up to 27th.
  • 16:47 pm
    Ingram is running with even more ballast in the closing part of this session, so don't expect him to go any quicker. Will he stay on top until the end of the day though?
  • 16:41 pm
    The session has now resumed for the final 20 minutes as both cars have been returned to the pits.
  • 16:39 pm
    Burns' Volkswagen CC has just returned to the pit lane missing it's front-left wheel - we'll safely assume that was the root of the problem as the wheel arch is intact.
  • 16:33 pm
    We can now confirm - it was both!
  • 16:18 pm
    We've got our fourth red flag stoppage of the day now, with either Will Burns or Aron Taylor-Smith having stopped on the inside of the Old Hairpin.
  • 16:15 pm
    Chris Smiley continues to put in strong laps in the Norlin Racing Chevrolet and improves his time to go third fastest, whilst there have also been improvements from James Cole, who has moved up to 15th position.
  • 16:14 pm
    As the green flags come back out, here are the times in the final hour of the session:
  • 15:57 pm
    RED FLAG: Martin Depper has taken a trip through the gravel and brought out another stoppage whilst the marshals clear up. Prepare for a frantic final hour...
  • 15:44 pm
    Here's one from behind the scenes in the paddock - Adam Morgan's new car has already been reproduced in cake form!
  • 15:44 pm
    ACTION! Mike Epps goes fourth fastest with a blistering 1:10.607, sending the entire circuit into thinly-veiled hysteria.
  • 15:37 pm
    You might think we're being quiet. And you'd be right. Nothing is happening, every sector time is either yellow or red.
  • 15:16 pm
    That I can see, the time sheet hasn't changed in about ten minutes. Stay tuned for another thrilling update...
  • 15:09 pm
    Incidentally, Tom Ingram has been atop the timesheets for a good 90 minutes now. He's just half a second off the qualifying lap record here at Donington.
  • 15:07 pm
    I'm trying to work out the best Chris Smiley-related puns - 'Smiley Happy?' - tweet me your suggestion @DamianMeadenTCN using the hashtag #SmileyPuns
  • 15:05 pm
    In terms of lap count, Stephen Jelley currently leads the way with 43 tours of the circuit - Daniel Lloyd and Senna Proctor share the lowest with a mere two laps.
  • 15:04 pm
    Damian signing back on. I've taken a wander round the paddock for the last hour - seems brakes are a hot topic right now. Gordon Shedden has apparently been on the radio to Team Dynamics complaining about his, whilst Dave Newsham tells me his BTC Norlin Racing Chevrolet Cruze has developed an annoying habit of going sideways under heavy braking in a straight line.
  • 15:01 pm
    Here are the complete times at the half-way stage of the session.
  • 15:00 pm
    And another fastest lap for Ingram, who is the first to break the 1:09 barrier with a time of 1:09.995. That puts him four tenths faster than Chris Smiley in second.
  • 14:59 pm
    Tom Ingram has now gone even faster, with a time of 1:10.275. The Speedworks driver just put in a fastest first sector - he's clearly enjoying his new Avensis today.
  • 14:55 pm
    Only two cars on circuit at the moment - those of Tom Ingram and Ollie Jackson. Everyone else is in the pits fine-tuning their rides.
  • 14:52 pm
    The most recent improvement comes from Jack Goff, who has put his Eurotech Honda seventh, with a 1:10.824, 0.432 seconds behind the pace-setting Toyota. There's seven different cars in the top ten at this stage.
  • 14:51 pm
    There's also reports that the factory BMWs are having issues with their new engines, which have been built from the ground-up for this season. Previously the engine was a normally-aspirated unit from the BMW range which was turned into a turbo unit by Neil Brown Engineering. Now, BMW are using a turbo-charged engine from the 1-Series range, which has been fine tuned by Neil Brown.
  • 14:45 pm
    Another improvement from BTC's Chris Smiley sees the Chevrolet put in a lap of 1:10.420 to go second, just 0.028 seconds slower than Ingram.
  • 14:44 pm
    All three of the brand new Volkswagen CCs have been suffering from vibrations. Jake Hill is currently 16th, whilst Mike Epps is 22nd. No time yet from Will Burns. Also struggling with vibrations on the new NGTC components are both of the works MG cars.
  • 14:41 pm
    There's not many improvements out there at the moment, but Dave Newsham has improved to go 14th with a 1:11.196. We've had times from 28 out of the 32 drivers so far; Jeff Smith won't be participating today after having picked up a wrist injury.
  • 14:35 pm
    We're hearing that not only is Tom Ingram fastest, but he may also be running 45 kg of ballast on board the Toyota. That would make his fastest lap time very impressive indeed.
  • 14:30 pm
    After an impressive start for the new PMR Astra, Chris Smiley has just popped up in third, with a lap of 1:10.509, dropping Tom Chilton to fourth. We're still waiting for Senna Proctor to have his turn on track in the new car.
  • 14:21 pm
    It's only a brief stoppage this time, as Morgan has been pushed back into the pits and the green flags are flying once again.
  • 14:19 pm
    There have been no changes in the times since the restart, but now one of the Mercedes (Adam Morgan) has stopped near the entry to the pit lane, bringing out a second red flag stoppage.
  • 14:07 pm
    The green flags are back out at Donington Park and a handful of cars are venturing back out, with the Hondas and Power Maxed Vauxhalls leading the way.
  • 14:00 pm
    So with the first hour complete, I'm going to hand over to Editor-in-Chief, Andrew Abbott - I'll be back at 15:00. Until then, let's pray for less red flags.
  • 13:59 pm
    Just a reminder that the clock does not stop during these red flag periods - so regardless we have three hours to go!
  • 13:59 pm
    The Ford has just been pulled from the gravel trap, so once the recovery vehicles have headed back to their positions we should be good to go.
  • 13:54 pm
    Here are the times under the red flag conditions, as we approach one hour into the four-hour test session.
  • 13:52 pm
    No update on when the session be resumed as of yet - recovery vehicles are still in attendance with the striken Ford. I'd estimate another 5-10 minutes, he managed to avoid the barriers so damage isn't really a factor in this one.
  • 13:47 pm
    RED FLAG: That Ford Focus is beached - we've brought the session to a halt - all other cars have made it back safely to the pit lane.
  • 13:47 pm
    OFF: Luke Davenport becomes the first man to head off circuit into the gravel at the Old Hairpin. Shame - he was having a decent time in 12th. Rookie mistake - literally.
  • 13:43 pm
    We've got about half the capacity 32-car field out on circuit, but the time sheets have calmed down a bit. Teams are clearly starting to work through some different programs.
  • 13:42 pm
    Sutton heads back out on circuit for a proper out lap - last years Jack Sears Trophy champion is certainly one to watch in 2017.
  • 13:39 pm
    We have our first technical problem of the afternoon - and it's Senna Proctor's transponder. Oh, the humanity.
  • 13:38 pm
    Will Burns heads out onto circuit for his first-ever laps as a British Touring Car Championship driver.
  • 13:38 pm
    Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden both make their first appearance in the top ten, setting a 1:10.960 and 1:10.984 respectively to go 6th and 7th.
  • 13:36 pm
    Initial driver feedback is the new Dunlop tyres take up to eight laps to get into the optimum temperature. Not only does that mean we're set to get faster lap times today - but that's going to make a thirty-minute qualifying session very congested...
  • 13:35 pm
    Tom Chilton is back into the top three with a 1:10.658 - new builds or not, the Vauxhalls are looking handy at the moment against the competition.
  • 13:34 pm
    His team-mate Jason Plato pops up into P5 on his initial runs with a 1:10.943.
  • 13:32 pm
    Ashley Sutton is on his way out for his first laps in the Subaru Levorg GT...
  • 13:32 pm
    Here's an update on how the top eight stand after the first half an hour here at Donington Park:

    1 - Tom Ingram (Toyota) - 1:10.392
    2 - Rob Austin (Toyota) - 1:10.477 (+0.085)
    3 - Adam Morgan (Mercedes) - 1:10.705 (+0.313)
    4 - Tom Chilton (Vauxhall) - 1:10.986 (+0.594)
    5 - Andrew Jordan (BMW) - 1:11.173 (+0.781)
    6 - Mat Jackson (Ford) - 1:11.183 (+0.791)
    7 - Colin Turkington (BMW) - 1:11.354 (+0.962)
    8 - Luke Davenport (Ford) - 1:11.535 (+1.143)
  • 13:28 pm
    Most drivers, as you would expect, are just heading out for a couple of reconnaissance laps at this stage. The usual suspects are all near the sharp end of the timesheets though.
  • 13:25 pm
    Rob Austin goes second in the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis with a 1:10.477. They've tested that car extensively over the off-season, and Austin topped the timesheets here last year.
  • 13:22 pm
    Considering that three-time champion Matt Neal's first time is a 1:28.175, I'm going to outlandishly suggest he's not running at full speed.
  • 13:19 pm
    Ingram hits the front! A 1:10.392 on his third timed lap sees him edge away from Adam Morgan, who has just leap-frogged Chilton into the runner-up spot.
  • 13:17 pm
    Tom Ingram has completed his first run - 1:10.990 is the result, just +0.004 seconds shy of Chilton's benchmark.
  • 13:16 pm
    The two Halfords Yuasa Racing machines of Matt Neal and defending champion Gordon Shedden make their way out onto the circuit for their installation laps.