The 2013 manufacturer win chart reads like this after two rounds: Honda 3; MG 2; BMW 1.
The driver’s win chart is equally spread, with only one driver winning twice: Jason Plato (2); Matt Neal; Gordon Shedden, Andrew Jordan and Colin Turkington.
So, what does that mean as the BTCC heads to Thruxton? For one thing, the battle for race wins is still quite open. In terms of outright pace, West Surrey’s BMW – driven to victory in the reverse grid race at Donington by Turkington – still has some way to go. The works Hondas, Plato, and Jordan’s independently-run Civic are the pacesetters; the likeliest to fight for outright victory in the first couple of races.
Jordan’s impressive start to 2013 could, and should, continue at Thruxton. He was on pole last year before ending the first race in the first corner armco…on the first lap. He’s rapid in Hampshire, and the circuit suits the Civic – when boost doesn’t kill it, it’s fast in a straightline, and its well-balanced chassis allows the drivers to attack the twist Complex and really stand on the brakes at the chicane.
Of course, Shedden and Neal had a nightmare qualifying session in 2012 but fought through with incredibly haste and the Scot took a memorable double to aid his path to the eventual title. So, assuming they get Saturday right this time around, there’s no reason to expect anything other than front-running performance from the reigning champions. Not that Plato will be eager to allow that to happen – but at Donington the Civics were just a bit too strong.
In the reversed grid affairs, the picture is nowhere near as clear. Success ballast – and, now we are beyond the first couple of races, the unpopular boost equalisation system – will play a big part and while the Hondas and the MGs are still slightly ahead, the BMWs, Toyotas and Motorbase Fords are race three protagonists.
Plato’s MG teammate Sam Tordoff is the likeliest race three winner on pace. He’s slightly behind his significantly more experienced teammate – but not by much. It’s probably enough for him to lose out in qualifying, and be outraced in the early events, but for race three (as Brands and Donington showed) he is more than a match. If he’s going to win this year, race three is the most likely place to see him break his duck.
Behind, the battle’s even fiercer. Adam Morgan has emerged as the best of the rest, his Donington weekend backing that up. Frank Wrathall‘s probably the faster of the two on raw pace but is proving a tricky man to peg – blindingly quick, but frustratingly inconsistent. Where will the factor in at Thruxton? Probably in their usual-to-2013 spot behind the works cars (and Jordan), but just ahead of the low-key Motorbase duo and the new WSR BMWs.
The Airwaves-backed Focuses of Mat Jackson and Aron Smith have been stuck to the fringes of the top ten since pre-season. There’s plenty of head-scratching going on as the car, stiffened over the winter in response to its key weakness upon the NGTC version’s introduction at Snetterton, just lacks pace. Smith remains ever the optimist but Jackson seems frustrated. The duo are driving well but the car has gone from a race winner to a top ten straggler in six months. Is boost to blame? Possibly. With its (rolling) return this weekend, maybe that will be the tonic the car needs to overhaul the gap to the top six.