As the British Touring Car Championship reaches its penultimate round at Rockingham, the title chase gets closer still. Only 11pts seperate Colin Turkington and reigning champion Fabrizio Giovanardi, and judging by the unpredictable nature of the season so far, even 3rd place Jason Plato could win his second BTCC crown.
At the last round, neither of the two championship contenders were able to pull out a significant gap to the other, after a 3rd and two 4th places for Turkington, and Giovanardi scoring a 2nd and two 5th places. Recently the championship momentum has swung in favour of Jason Plato, albeit still 42 points off the championship lead.
Previously the Chevrolet Lacetti had been something of an ugly duckling, but of late it has finally turned into a swan. Plato and RML team-mate Mat Jackson have dominated the last two race meetings at Knockhill and Silverstone, having won 5 of the last 6 races between them. Plato is starting to catch the two main championship contenders fast, and another dominant weekend at Rockingham could turn the two-way title race into a three-way race at the Brands Hatch finale.
Giovanardi and his Vauxhall team will probably be praying for rain, to negate the BMW’s rear-wheel drive advantage off the line and exiting turns, the latter of which being crucial in the run down to the heavy braking zone at Turn 2.
“It’s getting very close to the end of the season now,” said Giovanardi, “but we still have six races left, so nothing is for certain. But, I’m only here to win, so that’s what I have to do. I just need it all to go my way, not like at Silverstone.”
His team-mate Matt Neal makes his 400th BTCC start this weekend, but has vowed to play the team game if necessary; “I’m looking for the best results for myself and the team, and helping Fabrizio along the way, as well as enjoying the rest of the season with Vauxhall.”
Turkington however will be hoping for a great performance from his team-mates Stephen Jelley and Anthony Reid, plus the Airwaves BMWs of Rob Collard and Jonathon Adam to get ahead of Giovanardi to increase the points gained to the Italian.
Arena Motorsport driver Tom Chilton is one to watch, with his Ford Focus ST making big gains in performace of late, and could shake things up in the midfield pack. Meanwhile Gordon Shedden‘s season has been saved and will compete here and at Brands with the new Club SEAT team, but still using the same biofuel Leon which he drove at Knockhill for Clyde Valley Racing. Matt Hamilton will make his BTCC debut this weekend in a TH Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R, alongside team-mate John George in his Honda Integra.