The summer break reaches its end this weekend as the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship sparks back to life for the sixth meeting of the season at Snetterton’s 300 circuit.
The 2.99-mile Norfolk circuit plays host to rounds 16, 17 and 18 of the 2014 campaign on 2/3 August, often a happy hunting ground for double champion Jason Plato and a route for unpredictability as the championship fight resumes following a five-week gap from action.
Colin Turkington leads the way for West Surrey Racing after the opening 15 races of the season, springboarding to the top of the table after five wins in the last seven races as the BMW 125i now appears the machine to beat in its second year.
The recently-married Northern Irishman tips the team to continue their form and will hope to add to his single Snetterton win of 2009 this weekend, but adds that a canny attitude to points scoring is vital from here on.
The performance of the BMW has shown through the technical sections of recent circuits, and all three WSR drivers maintain that they have one of the strongest cars on the grid at the moment.
Rob Collard, fifth in the championship after a strong opening half of 2014, said also that the front-wheel drive cars have not shown their cards yet after previously being dominant in the BTCC’s NGTC era, Gordon Shedden‘s consistency keeping him just seven points behind Turkington after no finishes lower than sixth so far this year.
Plato A Snetterton Specialist
Snetterton’s 300 circuit offers BMW more opportunities to excel with their stable package in the twisty infield section, although last season it was MG and Honda that came out on top in a panel-bashing weekend that saw Turkington spat off the road from the lead of two of the three encounters in 2013.
The team that must begin their fightback is Triple Eight, and their MG6 was initially unstoppable at Snetterton last year as they locked out the front row in qualifying and dominated race one on Sunday. Snetterton specialist Sam Tordoff lead his experienced team-mate home as he claimed a rookie pole position and maiden victory in the BTCC before mechanical problems robbed both in race two, having emphatically dominated the previous season in the supporting Porsche Carrera Cup GB’s visit to Norfolk.
Plato meanwhile lies 49 points behind Turkington and a comfortable fourth in the standings with little to worry about in terms of penalty ballast, but he is in a class of his own when you talk about success at Snetterton.
Plato holds 11 wins here – eight of those since 2006 alone – at a circuit where he famously took his first ever BTCC win back in 1997 as he lead his Renault team-mate Alain Menu home in the race which ultimately saw the Swiss crowned champion. Plato will accept nothing but success this weekend, and he could well bring his team-mate Tordoff in his tow for assistance given the pair’s strengths here, plus the MG’s performance at Snetterton.
The threat from Honda will come predominantly from Shedden, waving the flag high for Yuasa Racing‘s impressive Civic Tourer that is no longer causing distractions due to its appearance. Shedden is a four-time Snetterton winner, and will aim to keep his 100 per cent record of finishing in the top six this season intact at a meeting prone to messiness down the years.
Honda Look To Spoil BMW Party
Team-mate Matt Neal has often not enjoyed the best of luck at the Norfolk venue in his illustrious BTCC career however, and needs a change in fortune after a sloppy Croft dropped him 101 points adrift of the series leader.
Pirtek Racing‘s Jordan has won eventful second races here during the previous two seasons, and needs another stellar drive to recover from a 10-place grid penalty he carries into the opening race after his collision with Fabrizio Giovanardi on the opening lap of race three at Croft – one which he was then victorious in.
Jordan has looked even more rapid than in his championship-winning 2013 season so far, holding the second-highest number of wins on four, but playing catch-up after the cards in qualifying fell any way but his at Oulton Park.
The fighter in Jordan will no doubt come out in full force on Sunday regardless of the Red Bull Athlete’s starting position, so expect fireworks to come from the Civic driver as he bids to close that points buffer.
Honda last season showed their pace on the softer Dunlop tyres, which gained more attention at Snetterton than any other round in 2013. Charges through the pack on the quicker rubber have not been as much of a feature in 2014, but this is the place where strategies could differ among front-runners more than any other on the calendar.
Airwaves Racing have great memories of Snetterton, proudly debuting their current in-house built Ford Focus ST to current regulations back in 2012, returning to the podium during a testing 2013 season for the Kent squad 12 months later.
Mat Jackson holds two victories here and has been a consistent threat to the podium all season to remind onlookers just how quick he really is, while double champion team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi – renowned for putting on a show at Snetterton down the years – has finally felt more at home in the Focus and will be hungry to add to his three victories at the Norfolk circuit in this weekend’s visit.
Vauxhall Absent For First Time Since 1988
Giovanardi’s three Snetterton victories all came under Vauxhall, the marque synonymous with the BTCC since 1988. Vauxhall however will not be represented this weekend remarkably, as BMR Chrome Edition Restart Racing will appear at Snetterton with four Volkswagen CCs – Jack Goff and team principal and driver, Warren Scott, dropping their Insignias for a further pair of Volkswagens.
Aron Smith gave the CC its fist win at Oulton Park and claimed a podium here last season with Motorbase, while Alain Menu should be hoping to avoid incident in a battle-scarred first half of his BTCC comeback trail at a track he has only won at twice.
Dave Newsham famously became a BTCC winner here back in 2012 – ironically also for Vauxhall – and has often gone well here at the same Snetterton circuit, while Tom Ingram will look to once again lead Toyota’s fight for victory this weekend after a promising first 15 races for the 2013 Ginetta GT Supercup champion.
Aiden Moffat begins his independent team’s partnership with Ciceley Motorsport, and already says that their recent test at Donington unearthed some much-needed performance in the Chevrolet Cruze, following a luckless start to 2014 thus far for the Scottish teenager.
Ciceley’s Adam Morgan meanwhile should feel he has a strong second half to 2014 approaching, as the Mercedes A-Class showed plenty of pace at Croft despite a race one accident ruining the opportunity to fight for a podium spot. Morgan feels great things are not far away for WIX Racing however, and his strong showings at the track confirm that this weekend is a great chance to snatch a good result.
A total of 31 cars are expected to grace the Snetterton 300 circuit’s grid this weekend, while the weather forecast also hints that the cars could be joined there by rain – threatened from Thursday onwards.
Qualifying is scheduled to commence at 15:20 on Saturday, while racing on Sunday takes place as follows:
Race one – 12:02
Race two – 14:35
Race three – 16:57
CLASSIC BTCC: Snetterton seems to attract drama and terrific racing every single season the BTCC circus rolls through its gates, famously delivering fall-outs between the likes of Neal and Plato, breathtaking fightbacks from the rear of the field and new winners gracing the podium. We at TCF therefore look back at some of those classic BTCC races, which you can feed your nostalgia from right HERE.
You can follow all the happenings including race reports, interviews and news as it comes from Snetterton with us at thecheckeredflag.co.uk, as well as all the support race action from the weekend. You can also keep up with us on Twitter via @tcfBTCC.