The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) comes to a conclusion at Brands Hatch this weekend, with three drivers, for three different teams, in three different makes of car still in contention for the title ahead of the weekend.
The series will return to the Kent track where the season began, only this time racing on the full 2.3mile Grand Prix circuit rather than the shortened Indy loop used in the April meeting.
The races (all staged on Sunday) will follow the series' standard three race program, meaning that there are a maximum of 52 points available across the weekend (15 points for a win, with seven bonus points, one for pole in the opening race while a single points for fastest lap and leading a lap are available in every race).
That possible points haul means that either Colin Turkington, Fabrizio Giovanardi or Jason Plato could be crowned champion on Sunday evening.
Ahead of the event it is Northern Irishman Turkington who leads, with a (relatively) slender 13 point margin over Vauxhall driver Giovanardi. 15 points further back is Jason Plato, the 2001 BTCC champion.
Each man has had a very different journey to this point in the season. Turkington, in his fourth season driving for West Surrey Racing (and his third in BMWs) has a tally of six wins this year – the highest in the series – though you have to go back to the August 2nd meeting at Snetterton to find his most recent success, and even that was handed to him after James Nash's exclusion from the final race. Despite this fact he remains focused ahead of the weekend. “It's very much one step at a time,” he told media. “All I'm focusing on is qualifying at race one.”
Defending double champion Giovanardi, however, is feeling the pressure “I think I have to take some big risks at Brands,” he said. “I am in for a really hard life.” The Italian is looking to give the Vauxhall works outfit and probably himself a final success in the BTCC before the manufacturer departs from the series. He is one win behind Turkington's total, but has previous success at the longer Brands layout, winning two of the three races at the track last year. However, the form of different cars and team is very different this year.
Part of the reason for this has been the emergence of Chevrolet as a BTCC force. Previously only used by small privateer teams the Lacetti model has been turned into a consistent contender by Ray Mallock Ltd. (RML) the team who also run the new Cruze in the WTCC. Another major part of this turn around has been Jason Plato, although team mate Mat Jackson has been no slouch, fourth overall, despite missing the opening round. Plato was left drive-less after the withdrawl of Seat's work team at the end of last season, only to be rescued by an eleventh hour deal with RML before the season, that turned into a full season deal as sponsors back the team and driver.
Now all three men will fight for the title alongside each other, and their team mates, each fast enough in their own right to win races and play a potentially decisive roll in the championship's outcome.