We have had almost half the BTCC season so far, wow that's gone quick! We have had action at Donington, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Knockhill. So, who has impressed us at almost the half way stage?
1. First on the list has to be Ash Sutton. He joined Laser Tools Racing after the team decided to expand to two cars. The Infiniti Q50 was introduced mid-way through the season last year. Sutton did test the car and seemed to be impressed enough to join the team. He has years of knowledge and experience with RWD that his team-mate Moffat was lacking. Sutton qualified 3rd for the first race of the year and took the Infiniti Q50 win in race 3. He followed this up with a win at Oulton. However, it wasn't until Knockhill when Sutton really showed us what he can do. He qualified on pole, kept Colin Turkington behind him for not one but two races; to take two wins at Knockhill. He has shown the car has pace and we all know he is a fierce overtaker and defender. A real championship contender.
2. Tom Ingram makes my list, think I will nickname him Mr Consistency! He has had 2 DNFs this season out of the 12 races and in the races he has finished he has consistently not only been in the points but in the top 10. He has 2 podiums already this season and has found himself fourth several times. It is only a matter of time before he finds himself on the top step of the podium. As we all know, points all add up and these good finishes and races now could be vital at the end of the season. Ingram is the only Toyota car on the grid and he makes his presence known. I think he might be this years underdog! He will be one to watch.
3. Jake Hill has to be on this list for me. Joining a new team, getting to know a new car, his boss being his team-mate from last year, there's been quite a few changes for Hill. One thing that hasn't changed is his speed. Hill has been constantly up in timings from testing to practice sessions and even qualifying when he started on the front row in Knockhill. MB Motorsport had an awful start with reliability issues but Hill has bounced back and capitalised on every opportunity on offer. He has shown the car has some serious pace and that the car suits his driving style. Hill has demonstrated he can overtake and he can do some serious defending and not let anyone passed while remaining respectful to other drivers. I strongly believe had there not been reliability issues Hill would have more than just two podium to his name so far this season.
4. Rory Butcher had 5 podiums to his name, including wins in Oulton Park and Knockhill. Last years Jack Sears and Independent winner is clearly looking for the overall title this year and he has a good car behind him. The Scotsman is currently sitting third in overall standings and it is clear to see why. Butcher has shown the one-lap pace in the car by getting pole twice; when he hasn't got pole hes been around three-tenths of a second off, so never too far away. With five podiums so far this season, including two wins, its not hard to see why hes 3rd in the standings. Can this Scotsman take this battle all the way to the end of the season? With this current form, I think he can and he will.
5. Tom Oliphant didn't really stand out to me last season. With the likes of Turkington and Andrew Jordan as teammates he never seemed to be on their same level. This year it has been nice to see Oliphant more confident in the car, really pushing. Hes chased people down, made good overtakes, made his car as wide as possible to keep position. Oliphant clearly used his first year at BMW to learn from his teammates and has really come into his own this season. His 2019 campaign included two podium positions, half way through this year and he has three podiums; including his first win in the championship at Brands Hatch. Oliphant has yet to finish outside of the points with his lowest finish being 12th. He is currently 4th in the championship standing, so one we need to keep a close eye on.
I want to mention Colin Turkington and Dam Cammish. They haven't impressed me as such because they have met the high expectations I had for them. I knew as champion Turkington would come out fighting in his BMW and be a championship contender once again. Cammish has something to prove after being so close and missing out last season. He has shown this year, his opportunity is not going to pass him by. They were the two obvious favourites for this years championship before the season even started; they are still favourites but they have other drivers accompanying them now.