Whilst ‘twists’, ‘turns’ and ‘upset’ have become every day terms in British Touring Car Championship vocabulary, ‘bizarre’ is a word seldom put to use; but then how often do we see a first time pole-sitter give up their rightful place by failing to stop on the grid for the start?

To be fair to Mikey Doble, it was an understandable error on his part; the instruction for two green flag laps was made as cars were rolled out of their garages, but in the BTCC, there are two sets of green flag laps – the lap(s) to form up ahead of the grid walk, and then the lap(s) prior to the start. On short circuits (Knockhill and Brands Hatch Indy), cars are automatically given an extra lap to allow them to build tyre and brake temperature, but if the track has changed substantially from qualifying, they’re also given an extra lap to allow drivers the opportunity to assess conditions prior to assembling in front of hospitality guests and media. Doble has led many races from pole (in Ginetta GT5 and BMW Compact Cup), but these have always been straight from the assembly area to the grid, and then the green flag lap(s) ahead of the start. He just got it wrong, as did his team by appearing to give no clear instructions over the radio as he made his way around.

So Doble, who the previous day had ended NAPA’s run of eight straight poles, was left to continue and line-up at the back. But this was only the start of the day’s dramas. At the front, Colin Turkington, Tom Ingram, Ash Sutton and Tom Chilton had all opted to use slick tyres. From the first three rows, only Jake Hill in P4 had seen the need for wets, and as the cars struggled off the line, his Laser Tools Racing BMW headed straight into the lead, opening a sizeable gap by the time the others had managed to slide their way through Copse. Andrew Watson and Dan Rowbottom (both also shod with wets) were soon able to break free and set off in pursuit but further back, title hopefuls Ingram and Sutton, having made one wrong tyre choice then decided to make another by pitting.

It seemed crazy in the extreme. By the end of lap 2, the wet-tyred cars were lapping at 1:03 – 1:04; Ingram and Sutton were four seconds a lap slower. However, stopping to change tyres here costs over a minute, and already, in places, the track appeared to be drying. If they’d braved it out, both would have collected good points. By lap 8, the slick runners (like Doble) were just a second off the pace, and as the clock counted down, the order in the midfield was starting to change. Hill’s advantage meant that he was able to look after his rubber but as others fought for position, grip became ever more precious and places were traded, those on Goodyear’s yellow-banded tyres ever more able to outpace the fading wets.

By the time of the flag, Doble had salvaged his pride by rising to P11; Hill eased to his fifth win of the year, Rory Butcher (who started on slicks and persevered) made three places to finish in P6, and both Ingram and Sutton were a lap behind and pointless.

Despite Hill’s win, and one for teammate Turkington (in the final race of the day), neither was able to collect the points necessary to sustain their championship challenge. And so for the first time, in seemingly a very long time, the Brands Hatch decider will see a straightforward duel for drivers’ crown. Ash Sutton’s 45-point lead should see him ease towards a record-equalling title number four, whereas reigning champion Ingram must still be rueing his disqualification at Knockhill (for a ride-height infringement), costing him then at least one win, possibly two, together with the potential additional points for fastest laps and leading. The deficit of 45, could, so easily, have been just 7 or 8.

‘Twists’ and ‘turns’ are likely to continue in the finale, but ‘upsets’, I don’t think so.

Here are twenty of our favourite images from Rounds 25-27:


Images by Steve Hindle and Mike Inkley

'And then there were two': Ash Sutton and Tom Ingram endured a brutal Race 1, but then both showed their class by racing from the back in Race 2 to finish in P1 and P3 respectively.
Sutton was in uncompromising form, seizing the lead from Árón Taylor-Smith with just seconds remaining, depriving the Irishman of only his second ever BTCC win.
The race wasn't only on track but also in the pit lane, the Excelr8 squad winning this battle to get Ingram back out on track ahead of title rival Sutton.
Race 2 saw Sutton and Ingram charge through the pack but for Ingram, the prospect of a win was shattered after Jack Butel's wayward lunge sent Dexter Patterson hard into the champion's side, then Sutton into his rear ...
... resulting in valuable lost points and places for the title contender.
Jake Hill's inspired tyre choice produced an immediate and comfortable lead in Race 1.
He was also leading comfortably in Race 2 until an issue with his car saw the Laser Tools Racing man drop down the order.
For the second weekend running, Árón Taylor-Smith worked his way to the front of the pack, but also for the second weekend running, his Astra didn't quite have the pace to make it count.
Meanwhile, his teammate Andrew Watson was also enjoying another strong weekend, returning an overall podium, and Independent's win and two Jack Sears Trophy wins.
For Colin Turkington, it was a weekend of mixed fortunes, making the wrong tyre choice in Race 1, earning BMW's 150th BTCC win in Race 3, but ultimately failing to secure the points needed to stay within title contention.
It was a welcome return to the BTCC for Bobby Thompson, who was straight into the top 5 in Race 1 with the Team HARD Cupra.
And there was a double points finish for teammate Michael Crees, whose tally would have been even higher had he not been sent sideways by Aiden Moffat, seconds after this shot was taken.
Another returnee was Nic Hamilton. The former Team HARD racer paying a guest visit to the NAPA Racing garage in what might be a sign of what's to come in 2024?
Three top ten finishes for Josh Cook saw the One Motorsport man take an unbeatable lead at the top of the Independent Drivers' standings, earning him the champion's trophy for the second year in succession.
Dan Rowbottom was another consistent top 10 finisher, earning a podium in Race 1 and a beer from a hybrid-deprived Ash Sutton for a mega tow in qualifying.
Sam Osborne kindly went sideways to give us a better look at the stunning Valvoline livery on his Focus.
Earlier in the day, the One Motorsport squad proudly paraded in front of the cameras in recognition of crew chief Paul Hartley who was leaving for pastures new.
New to the TOCA support package were the Caterham Sevens. Aaron Head and Gordon Sawyer (here in the foreground) both notched-up wins.
Advertisers (such as Chrome) sometimes manage to get their positioning more spot on than their message.
For Stephen Jelley, this tap from Mikey Doble just about sums up his year.