The UK's premier motor racing series, the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, heads to Donington Park next weekend for Rounds 25, 26 and 27 of the 2010 campaign. With just the season finale at Brands Hatch left after the meeting, the Donington weekend could prove vital in deciding the destination of the 2010 crown.
After the circuits recent closure to allow repair to the track after its unsuccessful bid to host the Britain's Formula 1 Grand Prix, BTCC's visit sees the return of top level Motorsport to the circuit. With Donington a hugely popular circuit for fans, partly thanks to a catchment area that includes the cities of Birmingham, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, it is hoped a bumper crowd will turn out to support the series and the circuit.
Donington has been a permanent fixture on the BTCC Calendar since the late seventies and has consistently produced great racing, as well as some of the most memorable moments in BTCC history. 1998 saw guest star Nigel Mansell steal the show, while a year later Matt Neal took the headlines, and £250,000 prize money, with victory in his privateer Nissan Primera, plus in 2004, the track was the scene of a spectacular season finale, with James Thompson taking home the title by only a single point.
Star of 1999 Neal is one of the drivers heading into the Donington weekend still in the hunt for the 2010 title, lying second in the points behind arch rival Jason Plato. Looking ahead to the meeting at his 'home' track, the former double champion said: “Donington's three races are crunch time as they will decide who goes to Finals Day three weeks later at Brands Hatch with a realistic chance of the title. I'm 20 points behind Jason but there are 15 for a win and we have three races at Donington and another three at Brands so it's very much all to play for. Donington is also a swoopy circuit and my Honda Civic likes the twisty stuff – we showed that with two wins for our team at Knockhill last weekend.
“But the Chevrolet is a very good all-round race car and I actually think the Fords, with the extra punch from their LPG turbo engines, could have the beating of us all on the uphill sections and the long straights. We could see the top of the championship taking on a bit of a concertina effect at Donington – just what the fans, I'm sure, would like going to Finals Day!”
The Dynamics star added: “Above all, I'm just really pleased that Donington is back up and running properly again – it's a great sporting venue with tremendous heritage. The crowds get terrific views and it's also a real driver's circuit. It would have been awful if it had been missing from the BTCC calendar.”
Donington is the 'home' track for a few of the stars of the BTCC; including former fans favourite Mat Jackson, who resides in Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire. The Airwaves BMW star is one of nine drivers who can still mathematically win the 2010 title, so heads into the weekend looking to add to his race win from Brands Hatch earlier in the season. Another race winner this season looking to impress on home track is Andrew Jordan, who lives in Lichfield, Staffordshire. It's also the home weekend for his Pirtek Racing team, which is also based in Lichfield. Another team hoping to put on a show at their local circuit is AMD Milltek Racing.com, who field the VW Golf of Shaun Hollamby, with the team based nearby in Derby.
As well as the three BTCC races, the Donington weekend also hosts the exciting support package. Top of the bill is the never dull Ginetta Juniors, with another local driver, Grantham based Louise Richardson, looking to reignite her title challenge on home tarmac and catch championship leader Tom Ingram. Ginetta is represented twice on the package, with the G50's one to look out for as the title battle between Carl Breeze and Frank Wrathall heats up. The Porsche Carrera Cup will be showing some top quality sportscar action throughout the weekend, with Leicester based Stephen Jelley looking to steal the limelight from title protagonists Tim Harvery and Michael Caine. With the Renault series missing this weekend to take part in the World Series by Renault meeting at Silverstone, there is a guest appearance on the timetable from the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain.