Last weekend saw four different drivers take the top step of the podium as the highly-competitive British Truck Racing Championship contested its third meeting at the challenging 2.3 mile Thruxton circuit, with defending champion Ryan Smith maintaining his eight-point lead in the standings.
Smith was blisteringly quick during qualifying on Saturday afternoon, maximising the dry-weather setup on his MAN to claim pole position by the best part of a second. A grand total of fifteen championship titles would keep Smith company on the front two rows of the grid, with Stuart Oliver, Mat Summerfield and Dave Jenkins all in close attendance.
Changeable weather conditions gave the crowd trackside a thrilling spectacle during the opening race, with Stuart Oliver edging out Summerfield by just over half a second. Dave Jenkins would score the first of a hat-trick of podiums in third after a bold move at Allard, with championship contenders Shane Brereton and Smith rounding out the top five. Disaster struck Terry Gibbon, with a stuck throttle moments before the start curtailing his efforts from an impressive sixth in qualifying, with Oly Janes also forced to continue his recent bad luck with a trip through the pit lane.
Gibbon would demonstrate his MAN's qualities in the second contest, relieving pole-sitter Janes of the race lead through the Club Chicane at the end of the first lap. Ryan Smith gave everyone a timely reminder of his ability behind the wheel with moves on Jenkins and then Gibbon to hit the front. After Jenkins also relegated the Midlands-based racer to the final step of the podium, he and Smith then disputed the victory in one of the closest races of the season so far. The two finished separated by a mere four tenths of a second, with Smith adding another win to his CV.
A rain shower moments before the start of the third race threatened to throw up a surprise for the field, but Mat Summerfield remained calm through the conditions to score a devastating win by nearly fifteen seconds. Contact with Gibbon had given Oliver's Volvo a distinctly second-hand look at the front end, and Ray Coleman duly claimed the last podium slot in his MAN, behind the ultra-consistent Jenkins.
The final contest was barely moments old when drama struck, as contact with Jenkins and Coleman left the former in a spin, narrowly avoiding the pit wall and leaving the MAN with a broken front damper. Jenkins' response marked him out as one of the stars of the weekend, recovering to fifth and setting the fastest lap on his way. Shane Brereton hit the front at the right time, edging out Oliver and Summerfield in a fantastic three-way scrap for victory with Smith looming ominously behind. Oliver would later be excluded for over-speeding.
It proved to be a crucial weekend in Division Two for Simon Cole, as the Mercedes driver became the first man to challenge Mika Mäkinen's supremacy in 2017. Mäkinen claimed victory in the opening race behind the wheel of his Sisu SL250, but mechanical problems later in the weekend would rule him out of the last two races. Cole would have ended the weekend clear of Mäkinen after winning the fourth race, but officials adjudged him to have been overspeeding and he was another to lose a podium slot to the regulations. He would console himself with a win in race two, whilst Tony Smith enjoyed a double victory in his Sisu.
The championship heads next to the ADAC Truck Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in Germany over the weekend of 1st-2nd July to hold four full championship rounds alongside the FIA European Truck Racing Championship.
Until then, however, Ryan Smith remains the man to beat in the BTRC despite a