BTCCTouring Cars

BTCC 2010 Season Finale Preview

3 Mins read

Jason Plato. Matt Neal. Gordon Shedden. Tom Onslow-Cole.

One of these men will be 2010 British Touring Car champion and there is only one more race weekend left to decide the title.

After nine rounds and twenty-seven races just 24 points separates the quartet of hopefuls.

Silverline Chevrolet driver Jason Plato leads the championship into the finale around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit with 224 points. Matt Neal follows 17 points behind with Shedden and Onslow-Cole a further three and seven points adrift respectively.

His position as leader naturally makes Plato the favourite in many people's eyes but he is unlikely to be able to spend a weekend being allowed to drive defensively to keep his challengers behind him all weekend.

The physical – door banging, bumper thumping, corner cutting – element has always played a part in Touring Car racing, indeed it has given BTCC fans some of the most memorable moments in the most memorable title fights in the series' history. And if any track in the country is seemingly designed with this style of racing in mind it is the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.

Defensive driving will simply not be tolerated.

With the weather looking bright, or at least dry, for the weekend the finale will be spared the sort of lottery rain precipitates and fans in the expected record crowd will be spared the soaking they received when the championship visited the full Grand Prix loop in May.

The Team Aon Fords dominated much of that event, but the Indy track – devoid of the opportunity for LPG engine assisted blasts into and out of the Kentish countryside – is likely to be more of a level playing field. Gone too is the momentum the Fords seemed to building at the Snetterton and Silverstone meetings in August when the pair of Toms had an almost insurmountable speed advantage.

Two months ago it was not unthinkable that Tom Onslow-Cole could have won at least two of the three races. The Fords may dominate qualifying, though the nature of the track is more likely see a repeat of the Knockhill grid (when the Fords only qualified seventh and eighth) than Donington (when then took the front row).

However, if they find themselves in such a position Team Aon have one advantage.

They are the only team with two top-line drivers, only one of which is racing for the title.

Yes, Jason Plato has Alex MacDowall as a teammate, but you would expect Tom Chilton to be a far harder challenge to pass than MacDowall, though they are equally as likely to be punted off by an impatient title contender.

The teammates scenario also presents the Honda Racing Team with a dilemma. They are the only team with two drivers in the title race, and even though the squad remains Matt Neal's family Dynamics squad behind the works façade team orders are unlikely to play a part.

There were certainly no team orders (or at least obvious ones) at Knockhill when the Honda pair raced each other for the race two victory, so don't expect any at Brands, at least until it becomes a case where they are the only to keep at least one driver in the title hunt.

Neal is the man most likely to challenge Plato – not only closest on points terms but also the Brands Hatch Indy specialist of the four – his familiar grass cutting move up the inside of Clearways a significant weapon Plato will need to defuse to make certain his second title.

The race is more than close enough that it will take the full three races to crown a champion, which will leave the championship to the reverse grid race. With the random draw a slice of luck could turn an average race two into a golden ticket for race three. What is also means is that – with at least one of the four title chasers likely to be fighting through the inverted drivers – the entire field has a role to play.

Not just the teammates to those in the hunt, but drivers like Rob Collard, Mat Jackson, Steven Kane, Andrew Jordan or James Nash.

While you dread to think of the reaction if anyone takes out Plato, Neal, Shedden or Onslow-Cole, the entire field is going to be aiming for the win and are going to be taking points off the title contenders.

In getting swept up in the title battle you forget that it is just a normal touring car race weekend.

Last year as Colin Turkington, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Plato fought for the title (though around Brands' GP loop) Tom Chilton almost took the first win for Team Aon and Plato – by far the third man in the fight – took a historic hat-trick of wins (a feat which, if repeated will see him take the title and the overall record for BTCC race wins).

Whoever wins it will go down as another memorable BTCC finale. That one thing is certain.

You can follow the action at Brands Hatch with reports throughout the weekend on The races will be shown live on ITV4 in the UK, with Saturday's qualifying session live on the channel's website.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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