The 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship now holds just three more races in its locker to decide a champion, but which one of the five drivers will escape from Brands Hatch lifting the trophy?
Andrew Jordan‘s fine performances at Rockingham and Silverstone have outlined him as the favourite heading into the finale, 34 points ahead with 67 still on the table. However, going all in this weekend are Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden, Colin Turkington and Jason Plato – all former champions of the series.
The latter quartet know what it is like to win a BTCC title decider at Brands Hatch, while Jordan’s visit last season saw him taste his first touring car crown by scooping the Independents Championship.
12 months later it now gets more serious, as the Pirtek Racing man carries the weight – not just the 45kg of penality ballast – of leading the championship into the final three races of the season at the Kent circuit in a bid to snatch to coverted the overall prize for the first time in his still brief BTCC career.
“It’s brilliant to have extended the championship lead to 34 points after Silverstone,” said Jordan. “The car will be quick at Brands and I’ll be quick there. But we need to be sensible, especially in the first race.
“It will be a strong circuit for us, but anything can happen. Up to this point we’ve done everything we can and hopefully that will continue at Brands.”
The man that enters Brands Hatch as his nearest rival will be Neal, a man very familiar with winning British Touring Car Championship titles, his first of three being won at the same GP circuit for Team Dynamics when carrying a similar lead into the final round.
Neal feels that the pressure will be on Jordan, but fancies his chances at a circuit that the NGTC Honda Civic traditionally runs very strongly around at the technical Grand prix layout.
“I think we’ll be strong”, Neal told thecheckeredflag.co.uk. “I think the Hondas will be on fire. Obviously now I’ll have a bit of weight on, but it all depends on how my finger goes. We might even get a bit of boost back too.”
“It’s looking good for Andy at the moment. It would be great for him to win it; we work closely with him and his team but of course they’re essentially a satellite team, so obviously it wouldn’t look good so much on us if he went and beat us!”
Shedden’s race three win at Silverstone kept him hanging on in contention to defend his 2012 crown, the Scot having been in a similar position to Jordan 12 months ago.
The reigning champion stayed out of harm on that occassion to seal his fate, and believes that Jordan would do just the same should he evade drama in Kent this weekend.
“As long as he doesn’t do anything daft, Andrew is in a really strong position”, Shedden told btcc.net. “That said, this is touring car racing and anything can happen – I certainly didn’t expect to win a race around Silverstone so who knows what will happen at Brands.”
Turkington’s rebirth into BTCC has been a sideshow of the 2013 season, the Irishman having already picked up five wins and showed sublime speed all year in West Surrey Racing‘s new NGTC creation for the season, the BMW 125i.
The car was transformed into front-running material earlier than initially expected, and after Knockhill it looked as though Turkington would be a threat to claim his second title after vanishing from BTCC after his 2009 championship-winning season.
However, a race three exclusion at the Scottish meeting and retirement in the final round at Silverstone after contact with Mat Jackson leave him on the back foot, 48 points adrift of Jordan.
“Although I can mathematically do it the car won’t be significantly quicker than everybody else for me to be able to overturn that many points”, Turkington told btcc.net. “I’ll be fighting back at Brands Hatch, but realistically now my aim is the top three.”
The final contender, Plato, left Silverstone (after taking two wins) very assuring that he is going to attack the final weekend without any thought of the championship on his mind. The MG KX Momentum Racing driver was not aided in his championship fight with Honda last season thanks to an MG6 not suiting the sodden conditions of 2012, but lying 47 points behind, the pressure is off for Plato as he fights for wins in Kent.
“What’s important for me is to win and it’s maximum attack”, he told btcc.net. “I’m going to Brands Hatch with one thing in mind – while there are guys in front of me worrying about the championship, I’m going there to win, so they’d better get out of my way!”
Jordan also leads Turkington by 57 points in the independents’ standings, with the BMW man the only driver who can mathematically stop the Pirtek Racing driver from securing back-to-back Indie titles.
Team efforts could be vital
While Honda have only themselves to battle with, Jordan, Turkington and Plato also have their joker card heading to Brands Hatch for on-track assistance in the form of their own team-mates.
Jordan’s team-mate Jeff Smith has shown flashes of speed earlier this season, but has not been consistent enough to ensure Jordan will have the most reliable of backup at Brands Hatch, although Brands Hatch is the venue he scored well at in March.
Turkington on the other hand has now been joined at the front of the field by his experienced team-mate Rob Collard more often, a driver of whom is bound to feature in the Irishman’s fight for victories as an interloper.
Sam Tordoff has shown he has the talent to be a BTCC star of the future and, having claimed one win and been part of four MG front row lock-outs in 2013, will be a helpful distraction for Plato this weekend.
Ford and Toyota looking for first wins of 2013
Both Toyota and Ford are still yet to see a driver step up onto the top block on a podium this season, although the latter has been edging ever closer during a promising concluding half to the season.
Aron Smith famously won at Brands Hatch last season, and both he and Jackson came achingly close to victories in recent rounds, something the Airwaves squad hopes to rectify at their home track this weekend.
Toyota also have a win to their name from Brands Hatch last season courtesy of Frank Wrathall, but will need to have more of the same fortune if they are to end 2013 with a victory of their own, Dave Newsham now finally showing strong performances capable of that in recent rounds for the Speedworks squad.
Hollamby and Hill return, Barley debuts
The second WIX Racing Audi will be driven this weekend by promising youngster Jake Hill, the 19-year-old replacing Will Bratt for his second BTCC weekend at Rob Austin‘s squad having brilliantly taken an S2000 class win with Motorbase on his debut at Croft earlier this year.
Team HARD‘s final tactical substitution of the campaign will be Volkswagen Cup racer Tom Barley, who makes his jump to the big scene in the second Vauxhall Insignia which he impressed behind the wheel of in testing. He joins Jack Goff, while Aiden Moffat continues in the Volkswagen Passat.
The AmDTuning.com Volkswagen Golf will return to the grid for the final round of the season, team boss Shaun Hollamby returning to the wheel of the car he debuted back in 2010.
He hopes to send the car out on a high note by challenging Liam Griffin and Jack Sears Trophy champion Lea Wood for victory this weekend, the trio being the only present S2000 cars on the grid for Brands Hatch.
Championship standings after 27/30 races:
|1) Andrew Jordan||Eurotech Honda||378|
|2) Matt Neal||Honda Yuasa Racing||344||– 34|
|3) Gordon Shedden||Honda Yuasa Racing||343||– 35|
|4) Colin Turkington||eBay Motors BMW||330||– 48|
|5) Jason Plato||MG KX Momentum Racing||329||– 49|
BTCC entry list for Brands Hatch:
#1 – Gordon Shedden – Honda Yuasa Racing Team – Honda Civic – NGTC
#2 – Matt Neal – Honda Yuasa Racing Team – Honda Civic – NGTC
#5 – Rob Collard – West Surrey Racing – BMW 125i M – NGTC
#6 – Tom Onslow-Cole – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – NGTC
#7 – Mat Jackson – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – NGTC
#8 – Aron Smith – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – NGTC
#9 – Jake Hill – Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4 – NGTC
#10 – Daniel Welch – Welch Motorsport – Proton Persona – NGTC
#11 – Frank Wrathall – Dynojet Racing – Toyota Avensis – NGTC
#13 – Rob Austin – Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4 – NGTC
#16 – Aiden Moffat – Tony Gilham Racing – Volkswagen CC – NGTC
#17 – Dave Newsham – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis – NGTC
#18 – Nick Foster – West Surrey Racing – BMW 125i M – NGTC
#29 – Colin Turkington – West Surrey Racing – BMW 125i M – NGTC
#31 – Jack Goff – Tony Gilham Racing – Vauxhall Insignia – NGTC
#33 – Adam Morgan – Cicely Racing – Toyota Avensis – NGTC
#39 – Warren Scott – Tony Gilham Racing – Volkswagen CC – NGTC
#40 – Shaun Hollamby – AmD Tuning – Volkswagen Golf – S2000
#43 – Lea Wood – JWT Performance – Vauxhall Vectra – S2000
#44 – Andy Neate – IP Tech Race Engineering – Chevrolet Cruze – NGTC
#47 – Tom Barley – Tony Gilham Racing – Vauxhall Insignia – NGTC
#48 – Ollie Jackson – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis – NGTC
#55 – Jeff Smith – Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic – NGTC
#66 – Liam Griffin – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – S2000
#77 – Andrew Jordan – Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic – NGTC
#88 – Sam Tordoff – Triple Eight Race Engineering – MG6 – NGTC
#99 – Jason Plato – Triple Eight Race Engineering – MG6 – NGTC
BTCC Brands Hatch Timetable:
Saturday (October 12)
09:55 – Free Practice 1
12:25 – Free Practice 2
15:45 – Qualifying
Sunday (October 13)
11:32 – Race 1 (15 Laps)
14:22 – Race 2 (15 Laps)
17:04 – Race 3 (15 Laps)
– You can keep up with all the news, action and interviews from the final BTCC meeting of the season right here with thecheckeredflag.co.uk, and on Twitter through @tcfBTCC.