Half of all BTCC teams fined for bizarre tyre mix-up at Croft

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Six cars run by five teams had the soft-compound Goodyear bolted on for the wrong race, with each squad subsequently fined £1000 by series organiser TOCA.

Croft was the last of four events in 2021 featuring the option tyre, and the regulations state that each car must use the alternative rubber at least once in each of race one, two and three of a weekend across those four rounds.

Some drivers, including championship leader Ash Sutton and new runner-up Jake Hill, had already used the option in each of race one, two and three across the preceding three option-tyre events, so had a free choice for Croft.

But over half the field was locked in to using the option in a specific race at Croft, including first-race winner Aiden Moffat and title contenders Tom Ingram, Josh Cook and Colin Turkington.

While those drivers used the option tyre in the correct race, six did not: Dan Rowbottom (Team Dynamics Honda); Jason Plato (Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall); Chris Smiley and Jack Butel (Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundais); Sam Smelt (Speedworks Motorsport Toyota); and Aron Taylor-Smith (Team Hard Cupra).

Three of them – Plato, Smiley and Taylor-Smith – scored points while running on the wrong tyres, although the best result, a seventh for Smiley in race one, came on the regular medium Goodyear when he should have been running the beneficial soft rubber.

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Start action, Aiden Moffat, Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50 leads

Start action, Aiden Moffat, Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50 leads

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

BTCC supremo Alan Gow told Motorsport.com that the relatively lenient punishment of a fine was because none of the six scored a significant amount of points.

“It would have been churlish to put them to the back of the grid [for the first race at this weekend’s Silverstone round] – that wouldn’t have achieved anything, because half of them are at the back of the grid anyway,” said Gow. “And it wasn’t an exclusion offence – it was an administrative screw-up.”

Gow added that had the offence been committed by one of the leading title contenders and had they scored high points, it would have been a different outcome.

“If as a result of putting the wrong tyres on for that race you did very well, it would be an absolutely different result,” he said. “You would exclude them or take them out of the points.”

The error appears to have resulted from confusion among teams, since the option-tyre format was dropped as a 2020 COVID-19 measure and only partially reintroduced this season.

“It’s plain and simple from our side of things,” admitted Speedworks boss Christian Dick of the mistake on Smelt’s car. “The regulation is not super-clearly written. The engineer on Sam’s car misunderstood that regulation and thought he could run that tyre in that race. Obviously he was wrong.

“The lesson learned is, if you’ve got any queries, ask before you jump in. We hold our hands up, pay the fine and move on.”

Gordon Shedden, Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R

Gordon Shedden, Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Shedden censured for Edwards shunt 

Three-time BTCC champion Gordon Shedden was reprimanded and given two penalty points on his licence for his heavy crash with Jade Edwards in the preceding round at Thruxton.

The inquest was held last weekend at Croft, after Team Dynamics Honda driver Shedden and BTC Racing Honda racer Edwards had each blamed the other.

Shedden’s team-mate Dan Rowbottom was also penalised for an offence in the same race. He gained positions before the start-finish line at a jumbled safety-car restart, and a one-second time addition drops him out of the points from 14th to 16th.

Further punishments were dished out for Croft misdemeanours.

Smiley was reprimanded and issued with two licence penalty points for a first-race collision with Rowbottom at the hairpin that resulted in race-ending damage for Ollie Jackson, and Taylor-Smith was given a verbal warning for an incident that knocked Rowbottom into the barriers on the following lap.

Smiley was given a 0.7s penalty after race two for a clash with Stephen Jelley, relegating him from ninth to 11th, behind the West Surrey Racing BMW driver.

And Rowbottom was reprimanded and given two licence penalty points for an incident with Jelley in the finale.

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