The fourth round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will offer a smattering of excitement mixed with nostalgia, as Andrew Jordan continues to be the man they all chase heading to Oulton Park this weekend.
The weekend on 7/8 June will be a throwback in more ways than one; the visit to the Cheshire circuit being the first time that the full 2.69-mile International circuit layout has been used since 1996, when Jo Winklehock and Rickard Rydell were victorious.
The second blast from the past is the support act to be played by the visiting Super Touring Trophy, bringing a packed grid of classic Super Touring entertainment to the party that includes double BTCC champion John Cleland, as well as former rival Patrick Watts in their late-90s Vauxhall Vectra and Peugeot 406 machinery.
Jordan in fine form heading to Oulton
Reigning champion Jordan will head the modern day’s field of 2014 into the fourth meeting of the season looking in the best shape he has ever been, after a sensational weekend at a Thruxton circuit he adores.
The Pirtek Racing man lowered the longest-standing BTCC lap record in a sweep of all Saturday sessions before claiming a third win of the season in race one the following day to firmly send out the message as to why he carries the number one plate.
Backed up by a second and fourth place finish in the latter pair of races, an eight-point lead is Jordan’s reward heading to Oulton Park, the Red Bull Athlete in fact the last man to win a BTCC race here after a hard-fought triumph in arguably last year’s race of the season.
“I love racing at Oulton but I think we’ll struggle a bit because we’ve got 45kg going into the weekend at the most weight-dependent circuit there is,” he said. “I’ve got to keep my head down and do the best job I can and see where we get to. We have to be very savvy.”
West Surrey Racing‘s Turkington stayed clear of major drama in Sunday’s action at Thruxton and concluded it in style for his second win of 2014 in the consistent BMW 125i, heading to a track he has won at four times including a double in 2009 at Turkington where BMW have often gone very well around.
While Turkington lies 18 points from the peak, Shedden’s race two win was his second of 2014 to prove that the Honda Civic Tourer was a plan handled more smartly than cynics would have imagined. The Scot looks to make it six wins at the circuit he took a maiden BTCC victory at in 2006 with the same Dynamics squad, aiming to trim the eight-point gap to Jordan.
Team-mate Matt Neal lost vital points in a race three skirmish involving his team-mate Shedden and WSR’s Rob Collard, the latter again fighting at the front to prove that he is back to being a victory contender again with the BMW squad. Neal meanwhile is an experienced hand at the Cheshire venue, having won six times including a double triumph in 2012.
Vital weekend for last year’s Oulton star Plato
This weekend will be a critical encounter for the MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save BTCC Team at a track they were so dominant at this time last season, Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff having lost vital ground at Thruxton.
Plato took a pole and two victories as the MG duo locked out the front row and first two steps of the podium in race one at the Cheshire circuit 12 months ago. A repeat of that would launch Plato back into contention after leaving the third meeting of 2014 disappointed through an unfortunate retirement in Thruxton’s final race, after Adam Morgan‘s fishtailing Mercedes A-Class was spun into his path.
35 points is the deficit from Plato to points leader Jordan heading into this weekend’s fourth round, but the MG has already shown in the previous two seasons that it enjoys this Oulton Park circuit – Plato also holding the joint-highest number wins at this circuit within the field at nine, tied with former Renault team-mate, Alain Menu.
Speaking of Morgan also, this circuit was the venue for his maiden BTCC podium during a chaotic final race of the 2013 Oulton Park weekend, the WIX Racing man hoping for a clean weekend to demonstrate the improving potential of the new Mercedes.
Menu will hope for a much-improved fourth round to what took place at Thruxton meanwhile, a seventh place matched by his team-mate Aron Smith as the BMR Racing team’s best results in troublesome weekend for the team, still showing they have strong pace in the Volkswagen CC.
The weekend was finally one to savour for Motorbase Performance, as Mat Jackson drove a superlative weekend at a sun-blessed Thruxton. The Ford Focus driver backed up fourth on the grid with a maiden podium of the season in race three from a hat-trick of top-five results, while team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi also battled to a first rostrum visit of 2014 in the day’s last encounter.
Tom Ingram will also hope to continue to pressure the front-runners in part four of his rookie BTCC season. The Speedworks Toyota driver – who qualified in the top five at Thruxton – dominated in Ginetta GT Supercup two years ago at Oulton Park, also claiming a brace of second place finishes 12 months ago in the one-make series.
Jack Goff claimed his first Renault UK Clio Cup win at Oulton Park in 2011 meanwhile, and he enters Cheshire’s visit having come off the back of a strong top five-contending meeting at Thruxton.
Belcher makes it to Cheshire
The feel-good news is that Simon Belcher will be present at Oulton Park, the Handy Motorsport squad seemingly pulling off a superb overtime rebuild to ensure the Toyota Avensis racer will be on the grid after he was last seen rolling through the greenery at Church corner in a now well-documented race three accident.
Robb Holland will also make his return to the series in a rebuilt Rotek Racing Audi S3, the American an absentee in the previous meeting following his heavy shunt at Donington.
Another of the victims of Church corner at Thruxton last time out may not be so lucky, Welch Motorsport still facing a race to get their second Proton repaired in time for Ollie Jackson after the car suffered heavy damage in the separate shunt.
Sunday’s action sees the trio of main BTCC races get underway with race one at 12:17, race two at 14:29 and race three finally at 16:57, and you can follow all the action with thecheckeredflag.co.uk.