Soaked in the champagne of Chris Smiley’s race winning drive at Rockingham, I took one final walk through the tunnel and away from the track that I’ve come to know and love so well.

Its empty grandstands now destined to crumble, as much from the might of the money-men as from the ire of the wrecking-ball: The echoes of past glories being left to fade as new ownership decrees that motor sport will end here.

Read More: The long-term future of Corby’s Rockingham Speedway is up in the air.

Rockingham has always projected the spectacular. We have nothing else like it in this country: Tight turns, banked corners and a long, hard wall that can test and break the best. It delivered a weekend of the closest racing; where individual glories made the headlines but also where carefully crafted strategies looked far beyond the next day’s news.

There are just nine races left now in the 2018 British Touring Car Championship and nobody is more aware of this than Colin Turkington, Tom Ingram… and Alan Gow. Turkington and Ingram have been locked in the title battle since the red lights went out at the opening round at Brands Hatch. As the season commenced, I was sure that this was the BMW man’s year, but Ingram and the Speedworks team aren’t having any of it. They’re energised, they’re focused and they’re simply getting better and better. Moreover, the rest of the grid knows this too. It’s Hamiltonesque. Ingram’s mere presence on the grid is a parting-force; opening gaps that nobody else can either see, defend, or wants to defend.

Turkington, of course, is the most formidable of opponents. You only need to compare his performances against those of his teammates to know that the Northern Irishman is racing like never before. In both of his title-winning years, he had the better car and was able to withstand Jason Plato’s challenges, despite all the effort and resources pitched against him. This year it’s different. The BMW has certainly made progress, but others, Speedworks in particular, have made more, leaving Turkington having to conjure pace and positions despite being fully-loaded with championship-leading ballast.

The race for the title is on, and with the likelihood of Morgan being promoted into contention, this wasted corner of Corby has duly played its part into building one of the most thrilling climaxes in recent touring car history.

To everyone who works at Rockingham, and has played a part in hosting some great racing over the years, I, for one, wish to say ‘thank you, and good-luck’.

    • Chris Smiley arrived at Rockingham seeking to exploit the rich vein of form currently running through the BTC Norlin team. He came; he raced; he conquered.

    • Adam Morgan and Ash Sutton both drove into title contention with a win apiece and bags-full of points that saw them out-score their rivals.

    • The battle at the top of the championship table raged-on but Ingram’s lead lasted only as long as his throttle stayed open. Retirement on the last lap of Race 1 resulted in no score and a back-of-the-grid start for Race 2… where he promptly made up 24 places to secure one of the most stunning podiums in recent touring car history. Turkington responded with a champion’s drive in Race 3 to finish P2 on track and P1 off-it.

    • There were BTCC debuts for Ollie Pidgley in the Team Hard VW CC and Ricky Collard, deputising for his dad, Rob, in the works Team BMW.

    • The support series’ provide a rich contrast of bright young talent, all seeking to define the potential that will lead to glittering careers. Finland’s Patrik Pasma took a long-overdue first win in British F4, which he duly followed with another; whilst in Ginetta Junior, Gus Burton’s attempted move on Luke Browning was only ever going to end in the school of hard knocks.

    • Stephen Jelley was a double race winner at Rockingham back in 2009. Nine years later and he showed all of the same fight to record his first points finish of the year. Bobby Thompson is still in his debut BTCC season but is already starting to turn heads. Here he is (Right), racing through Turn 1 as he records his second top 10 finish in four races.

    • Also delivering strong performances right through the weekend were Rory Butcher and Matt Simpson; both drivers scoring a hat-trick of top 10 finishes, which included a spectacular ‘on the line’ podium in Race 3 for Simpson.

    • Once again, it was a case of ‘nearly’ for Motorbase teammates Tom Chilton and Sam Tordoff. Chilton is the only driver in the top eight to have not yet recorded a win, whilst Tordoff, in scoring his seventh P4 finish is the only driver from the top 15 yet to climb the podium steps.

    • Two of this season’s grittiest race winners found themselves searching for answers at Rockingham; Senna Proctor and Dan Lloyd both showed outstanding pace and race craft yet found themselves on the receiving ends of bruising battles that failed to reward their talent and effort.

    • Two past masters came to Rockingham and graced this remarkable circuit for one last time. Alain Menu is seen here talking to Bert Taylor and Chris Smiley, whilst for all the troubles facing Jason Plato, it must always be remembered that he is the joint most successful BTCC driver here (shared with Gordon Shedden), winning in 2007,2009,2010,2011,2012 and 2015.

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Images: Steve Hindle (The Black Stuff) and Phil Laughton (Phil Laughton Photography).