The ninth round of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to the short national layout at Silverstone this weekend, where Colin Turkingotn has his first opportunity to potentially wrap up his second title…
Turkington lay down one of the biggest markers of the season with a double victory at Rockingham three weekends ago that crushed his opposition, moving 55 points clear of nearest rival Jason Plato in the championship to place one hand ever closer towards the trophy with six races remaining.
The lights-to-flag double success surprised even the West Surrey Racing man himself as he said after the visit to Corby, as BMW continued to show the big steps they made between 2013 and the present day in their stride towards a potential first BTCC success for both Dick Bennetts’ squad and Turkington himself since 2009.
Turkington Expects Brands Decider
The scenario is simple, but not entirely truthful in similar fashion for the title to be wrapped up early this weekend.
With 67 points available at both Silverstone and Brands Hatch GP, the simple maths state that Turkington needs to outscore Jason Plato by 13 points at Silverstone this weekend and Gordon Shedden by four, to be out of reach by the time the pack even head to Kent on 11/12 October.
Colin Turkington would (provisionally) wrap up the title this weekend if:
He outscores Jason Plato this weekend by 13 points or more, and:
He outscores Gordon Shedden this weekend by 4 points or more
The more pressing difficulty for WSR and Turkington is that Silverstone’s 1.64-mile national circuit is not one that entirely suits the BMW squad, and has certainly been a happy hunting ground for the Triple Eight MG team of his nearest rival, Plato, who holds the most wins by a copious margin with 10 at the home of British motorsport in BTCC since his debut season in 1997.
Turkington feels that the title fight will go down potentially to the final round of the season however with his knowledge of the strength of Plato and MG, telling TCF in the build-up: “There’s still too many races to go yet and so many points up for grabs these days.
“It’s not over until it’s over, and Silverstone is the one that we think we’re going to have to work really hard at to get some results.”
Plato has claimed both pole position and a pair of wins in his previous two visits with MG in 2012 and 2013, including a sublime recovery from the tail of the field two seasons ago through the pack for arguably one of the best BTCC wins of his career.
MG’s one-two in qualifying here 12 months ago should also be seen as a warning sign to Turkington and BMW that it could be one of the most difficult rounds they face, the Northern Irishman remarkably not holding a win next to his name around this circuit. His results have however been anything but shabby, with 12 top-five finishes since 2002 and five podiums along the way.
MG, Honda Lead Call For Regulation Re-Think
The MG man has however been the most outspoken on the current state of BTCC regulations, declaring at Rockingham that there are “two championships” and that equalisation measures should be applied to avoid BMW stretching their legs.
Plato said: “It’s great to be ahead of Gordon (Shedden), but it isn’t what it seems, there are two championships here; there’s a championship for one car and a championship for the rest.
“I’m not taking anything away from Colin as a driver or WSR as a team; they are operating fantastically well, but my aim as the season has progressed has been to become the best of the rest. Realistically I can’t do anymore than that.”
Plato must see this as his best chance to close the 55-point buffer, although Honda Yuasa Racing driver Shedden on the other hand feels his chances are now very slim.
A nightmare visit to Rockingham included his only DNF of the 2014 season, his remarkable consistency unrewarded as he heads to a circuit he feels Honda will struggle at – with an emphasis on straight-line performance more visual in Northamptonshire.
Shedden – a winner here last season – echoed Plato’s views on greater parity for 2015, adding: “You see anything about this and people assume you’re moaning. We’re not. It’s because you just want to have a level playing field so that everyone can have a dig. We think of it a little bit as equalisation, but obviously this is our livelihoods.”
The Rockingham weekend left Honda themselves placing their future participation under a cloud, Matt Neal hinting that the manufacturer were about to call it quits surrounding the regulations, but recent news said that they may consider introducing the newest Honda Civic Type R in 2015.
Neal famously won two of his three BTCC crowns here at Silverstone (in 2006 and 2011) with Honda, but enters already out of contention this weekend, only one win so far to his name this season at Knockhill having claimed three race wins at Silverstone down the years with Dynamics.
The Fight For Fourth Continues
A separate and equally entertaining scrap that has developed during the season has been the one for fourth in the championship, now a three-way dice it seems.
Andrew Jordan looks as though he will relinquish the #1 plate at the end of this year although he fully returned to fighting form at Rockingham last time out, fending off Turkington’s every move for a well-deserved rostrum return in race three to re-take fourth in the standings.
The Pirtek Racing man came close to a maiden Silverstone win in a thrilling second race scrap with Plato last year, but now lies 111 points adrift of Turkington with six races to go, stating that the Independent squad desire similar equipment to Honda’s works squad for 2015 should the latter continue their involvement.
Rob Collard and Nick Foster know that their task should be to support their championship-contending team-mate Turkington when necessary, although the former has a fight for fourth place in the standings on his hands with Jordan to concern himself about also.
Airwaves Racing team-mates Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi came to blows at Rockingham on several occasions in the day’s opening two races, but both will fancy their chances here at a Silverstone circuit that has seen Jackson notch up four wins – including a burn from virtually the stern end of the field in the latest Ford Focus back in 2012.
His hat-trick of podiums and double win of 2009 with Chevrolet showed his race craft around the shorter, six-corner strip of tarmac, and sixth place in the points is where the consistent 2008 runner-up currently sits as Airwaves Racing hope to shine in front of new sponsors, Whirlpool Corporation.
Morgan, Ingram Return With Good Memories
Adam Morgan was unlucky at Rockingham not to have converted his best qualifying performance of the season into a possible podium on the Sunday, his chances dashed by an object fatally wounding his engine having penetrated the front of his improving Mercedes A-Class. Ciceley Racing’s repairs mean Morgan will join the fight at Silverstone, and he aims for a podium visit in the remaining pair of meetings.
Morgan famously stole the Ginetta GT4 Supercup title from under the nose of Carl Breeze back in 2011, while a dominant Tom Ingram did the double in the same championship one year ago. A pair of top 10 finishes for Morgan showed that Toyota had the pace 12 months ago, also displayed by Dave Newsham who challenged the front-runners when driving for the Speedworks Motorsports squad Ingram now races under.
Alain Menu finally graced the podium of a BTCC race for the first time since 2000 at Rockingham three weekends ago, the BMR Racing man enjoying the best meeting of his comeback trail in an incident-free round which pleased him most of all.
The Swiss ace was however beaten to victory in that third and final race by Rob Austin, who rekindled memories of 2013 by winning at the same Corby venue from lights-to-flag on a fine weekend for the Audi squad. Team-mate Hunter Abbott also clawed himself into the top 10 for the second time this season, battling from 31st and last up to 14th place in a charging drive that sees him a contender for the Jack Sears Trophy.
Menu currently leads by 14 overtakes in 2014 ahead of Abbott for that title, set to be wide open as just 30 places separate the top seven drivers.
Former Winner Hines Returns To BTCC
A former Silverstone race winner in BTCC will also make his return to the series for the first time since 2005, as Luke Hines fills in for United Autosports alongside James Cole in the second Toyota Avensis, following the immediate suspension of Glynn Geddie following charges regarding a drink driving offence.
Enduring a very trying year in 2014 have been Welch Motorsport, who intend to battle on with development of their self-built engine for the 2015 season. Straight-line speed issues have proved the main drama when discussing their race performance, while reliability has not been on their side one bit this year.
On the view of 2015, Rotek Racing meanwhile continue to tell of their intentions to run a two-car operation for next season. Robb Holland‘s second points finish of the season in the Audi S3 machine came at Rockingham last time out, and the American plans to expand the operation – with a TOCA license still available for a potential second entry – to aid the testing process for the team for data gathering.
Lea Wood meanwhile expects to have his Houseman Racing Toyota Avensis fully repaired in time for this weekend’s action, following a heavy shunt involving Warren Scott at Rockingham in the day’s opening race.
Timetable And Weather Reports
The weather reports for Silverstone indicate currently that both Saturday and Sunday will be dry affairs, the timetable as follows (subject to possible alterations):
Free practice one – 9:30
Free practice two – 12:15
Qualifying – 15:45
Race one – 11:57
Race two – 14:32
Race three – 17:17
TCF’s Dan Mason and Simon Paice will bring you all the action from the BTCC and support championship paddocks at Silverstone, which you can keep up to date with right here at www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk, or via Twitter at @tcfBTCC.