BTCC rookie Jade Edwards P20 in Thruxton season opener
Having made her full-time series debut, BTCC rookie Jade Edwards leaves Thruxton with positive foundations for the remainder of the season, despite being caught in an accident with no blame of her own that took the BTC Racing driver out of the final two races.
British racing driver Jade Edwards – daughter of former racer Jim Edwards – made headlines in 2020 when she became the first woman to enter a BTCC race in over 13 years.
In her one-off race in Silverstone for Power Maxed Racing, Edwards was close to the top-20 and showed good potential.
When Brackley-based BTC Racing offered the 31-year old a full-season drive in the #99 Honda Civic Type-R FK8, Edwards broke one more barrier and became the first full-time female driver since Fiona Leggate (2007).
In the single-pre season test event at Silverstone (22nd April), Edwards impressed with consistent lap times and a top-10 pace. The rookie was ultimately 19th on combined times in her first official outing.
“Overall it was a very positive day, we tried a lot of different things in the afternoon and made a lot of changes so the optimum lap time wasn’t what we were going for." – said Jade of the Media Day test. "We’re leaving Silverstone very happy campers! Top 10 this morning, and we were top 10 for a good chunk of the afternoon as well, and it’s only my second day in the car so I’m still learning massively every time I go out.”
Coming into the curtain-raiser of the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – one of the most popular racing series in the UK also thanks to its history dating back to 1958 and an extensive TV coverage nationally and internationally – Edwards aimed for points.
In a wet qualifying session – with conditions slowly improving towards the final minutes – Ash Sutton took pole position at Thruxton, often described as the fastest circuit in the UK. Circuit specialist Josh Cook (BTC Racing) narrowly missed out on pole by 0.053 seconds and preceded Turkington and Ingram. Jade Edwards was 17th fastest in the 30-minute session.
In the first race, Sutton had the best start to lead into turn one, followed by the BMW of Turkington and Cook. Early drama, though, saw the leading duo making contact, with Sutton spinning and having to rejoin from the back of the pack. The incident left Josh Cook into the race lead before the Safety Car was deployed, and the BTC Racing driver was never challenged when the race resumed on lap 7.
Cook set the fastest lap and took a controlled victory over 2 seconds clear of Tom Ingram's Hyundai, who had leapfrogged Turkington early in the race. Jake Hill was third after holding on to the final podium position from the BMW of Colin Turkington. The latter, though, received a post-race penalty for his involvement in Sutton's incident, which dropped him to 10th place – and promoted Sutton to ninth, following a remarkable recovery.
Jade Edwards battled in the midfield and lapped competitively. She crossed the finish line in 20th position in her debut with BTC Racing's colours.
She was 14th in the Independents classify and fourth in the Jack Sears Trophy battle.
Unfortunately, the promising start to Jade's weekend would see an abrupt end on the first lap of the second race.
Cook started from pole and maintained his lead into Turn 1 despite the success ballast; Allard and Cammish followed, but the race was quickly halted when a huge crash involving Neate, Edwards and Geddie brought out the red flag.
Andy Neate made contact with the Cupra of Geddie as the cars approached the fast right-hander and collected the innocent Edwards. All three cars went hard into the barriers – Geddie ending upside down and over Edward's Honda. Drivers were luckily unhurt, but the extensive damage to the barriers required a lengthy interruption.
While Neate initially suggested to have been caught out by a mechanical issue, he was later deemed guilty by the race stewards for “driving in a manner incompatible with general safety or departing from the standard of a reasonably competent driver”. He received a £2000 fine and a three-point penalty on his licence.
Cook led the shortened race at the restart and took a back-to-back victory, not without some more drama: a light contact with Tom Ingram's Hyundai allowed both drivers to continue, while BTC Racing's teammate Dan Cammish snatched second.
Another Safety Car freezed once again the race soon after, when Rory Butcher in the Toyota Corolla GR Sport went off at speed into the tyre barrier.
Cook held on once again to first in the final race stint and kept Cammish and Hill at bay.
After a remarkable effort from BTC Racing's mechanics, Jade Edwards car incredibly made it onto the grid for race 3, despite the extensive damage picked up in the Race 2 crash.
Suddenly, the attention turned to the sky, when the rain started to fall just before cars lined up onto the grid – turning the final round of the weekend into a tyre lottery.
Electrical problems meant that Edwards could not ultimately take the start, leaving the British driver with a P20 out of her first 2021 BTCC round.
“We’ve got very positive foundations with the car, the team and me, but we just didn’t have the luck." – summed up Jade Edwards. "There are still things I need to work on like my race starts, but the race two incident is obviously what essentially ruined our weekend. It’s disappointing, but there are plenty of positives to take to the next round. We’ve got five weeks until that so we can work on a lot of things before then.”
The majority of the grid went with the wet-weather Goodyear tyres, while a good number of competitors gambled with slicks. Reigning champion Ash Sutton made his way up the order and took the lead with the grooved tyres. But, soon later, conditions improved and Jake Hill and Tom Oliphant – who had slipped down outside the points-paying positions due to their dry tyre choice – returned competitive and climbed the leaderboard.
In another dramatic turn of events, when Hill had finally taken over the lead, the rain began to fall again. Jason Plato and Gordon Shedden then emerged from the pack and joined the battle for the win.
After 16-action packed laps, Ash Sutton claimed his first win of the season, ahead of Jason Plato and Jake Hill – the latter holding on to third on slicks.
The second triple-header of the Kwik Fit British Touring Cars Championship will be contested at Snetterton, Norfolk, on June 12-13.