The wait is over, as Snetterton marks the second half of an entertaining 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship campaign this weekend (8/9 August).
The most encouraging sign for fans is that the 2015 season has already proved to be as unpredictable as initially expected before the opening lap was turned at Brands Hatch in April, with eight different winners sharing the 15 visits to the top step of the podium thus far.
Twice it has been Gordon Shedden that has stood above the number one step, the 2012 BTCC champion revived along with Honda Yuasa Racing and team-mate Matt Neal thanks to the latest Civic Type-R model.
Two wins each for Shedden and Neal leave them buoyed, the former leading the championship by a slender cushion of 10 points over Jason Plato, the double champion a further 12 ahead of sparring partner Neal after a dramatic first half to his maiden campaign with Volkswagen and Team BMR.
In fact, the championship fight sees only 39 points spread over the top six drivers, Andrew Jordan the last of those while a superlative visit at Croft moved the only non-champion from the group – Sam Tordoff – up to fourth spot.
Plato No Stranger To Snetterton Success
When you talk about Snetterton and the BTCC, any knowledgeable fan of the sport will know that the Norfolk circuit is a haven for success for double champion, Plato.
Four wins have already come Plato’s way in 2015, more than anyone else on the grid alongside pole position at Oulton Park.
Galling for his rivals ahead of this weekend’s sixth meeting is the success rate of Plato around Snetterton.
In 43 outings at the venue, which has undergone numerous changes in that time since 1997, the BMR Racing man has been triumphant 13 times – an average of just over 30.2%.
Current BTCC Drivers’ Snetterton Wins:
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A double win was hard-fought for last season against eventual champion, Colin Turkington, but the slippery Volkswagen CC’s straight-line speed and Plato’s lighter machine, compared to the 75kg-laden Civic of Shedden, should undoubtedly give the BMR man a shot at claiming the championship lead back should the form book remain to script.
Turkington meanwhile has only won once this season for BMR, but proved to be a quiet, yet classy assassin while still not entirely comfortable with the car, as he told TCF despite his consistent improvement since pre-season testing.
Aron Smith has already given himself the unlucky tag after problems at Croft added to a list of misfortunes since the season opener concluded, although he has happy memories of his third BTCC win right here 12 months ago.
Can BMW Keep Up The Fight?
As previously glossed over quite briefly, the real mover has recently been West Surrey Racing‘s Tordoff, now already on the same number of wins for the BMW squad in his last four races as he managed in two seasons with Triple Eight and MG.
Tordoff himself has plenty of success here in the BTCC feeder series’ prior to adding a maiden pole position and race victory of his touring car career in 2013, the Leeds racer comfortable around the circuit and now in his new environment he says.
A clean sweep of the podium in race one and all three race victories at Croft showed BMW still have a fine chassis in the 125i M-Sport, which should be strong through the technical section of the lengthy 300 circuit as displayed by another 2015 winner, Andy Priaulx, in the recent Dunlop tyre group test at the same venue.
MG and Triple Eight meanwhile must wonder when they will pick up their first win of the season, although their pace has steadily improved and the squad also have the comfort of knowing that 2013 champion Jordan will be on the grid until the end of 2018.
Jack Goff‘s season has been quiet since narrowly missing out on victory at Brands Hatch’s third encounter, but the pace of the MG6 GT around Snetterton has always been potent – winning at least one race from each visit since 2012.
Ford And Motorbase Make Their Return
Motorbase return to the BTCC at last, bringing with them an updated Ecoboost Ford Focus ST model that was blisteringly quick immediately in testing, plus the group visit to Snetterton last month.
It also marks a welcome return through the gates for Mat Jackson, the man who enjoyed one of the best runs of anybody in the second half of 2014 with the Kent-based squad that included a brace of wins.
A confident Jackson will have nothing to lose, focused only on silverware for himself and the Ford outfit, joined by James Cole as he looked to make amends for narrowly missing out on a win here last year.
Toyota’s flag is upheld by the impressing Tom Ingram, finishing all three Croft outings inside the top-10 and boldly stating that a podium finish will come by the end of the season for Speedworks.
Chevrolet still appear an interloper on the grid this season with Dave Newsham and Josh Cook, the former’s Power Maxed Racing Cruze surviving a recent excursion at CarFest in the hands of Great British Bake Off’s own Paul Hollywood.
Cook meanwhile – barring a big shunt at Croft – has enjoyed a rookie season to remember thus far, last year’s Renault UK Clio Cup runner-up already fighting for top-10 results besides leading the Jack Sears Trophy.
Welch Absent After Week Of Woes
Missing however will be Welch Motorsport, the Proton squad suffering a tumultuous week that began with the departure of Andy Wilmot, before ending with the announcement of their absence at Snetterton due to supply issues.
Max Coates enjoyed a reliable debut outing with Support Our Paras Racing meanwhile, entering full of optimism in a similar manner to Nicholas Hamilton, who takes part in his second BTCC meeting this weekend also looking for a rise in performance.
Weather and Timetable
The weather reports currently look very flattering for the weekend at Snetterton, indicating sunshine across both days in a summer of often typically bemusing British conditions.
Temperatures of up to 24℃ are expected as of mid-week, so tyre life could well take a beating in particular for the front-wheel drive competitors on Sunday.
Free practice one – 09:30
Free practice two – 12:10
Qualifying – 15:45
Race one – 12:02
Race two – 14:35
Race three – 16:57
(All times provisional)
TCF’s Dan Mason and Simon Paice will bring you all the action from the BTCC and support championship paddocks at Snetterton, which you can keep up to date with right here at www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk, or via Twitter at @tcfBTCC.