Four remain well in title contention for the British Touring Car Championship with six races to go, the next four this weekend taking place from the home of British motorsport at Silverstone’s national circuit.
The short, six-bend layout of the Northampton strip of tarmac will play host to the penultimate meeting in one of the most unpredictable BTCC seasons of recent times, with a pair of Team BMR Volkswagen CCs going head-to-head with Honda Yuasa Racing‘s Civic Type-R machines.
The latter hold the advantage thanks to 2012 champion Gordon Shedden at the moment, although the 75kg of ballast will not support the Scot who enters with a six-point cushion over BMR’s Jason Plato, already a five-time winner this season.
Four In The Fight
Shedden’s only blip in terms of consistency came in a dreadful Snetterton visit, hemorrhaging points but moving back to the head most recently thanks to a 10th podium of the season at Rockingham, despite Plato adding another triumph in a race three thriller.
With three wins and seven podiums apiece, Honda’s Matt Neal and BMR’s Colin Turkington remain the closest to the top two, 27 and 33 points adrift of Shedden with 134 remaining on the table.
Photos: Craig McAllister
Reigning champion Turkington amazingly has zero wins to his name at Silverstone, something he must put right with potentially one of the best machines on the grid for the shorter national circuit, thanks to the slippery Volkswagen chassis.
The Northern Irishman did however emerge from one of the most fierce battles of recent times at the same circuit 12 months ago, one which showed his fight in an iconic title-winning season to show his racing prowess.
Both Turkington and Plato will have added support from their team-mate’s, team boss Warren Scott and perennial front-runner Aron Smith both admitting they are ready to play the team game to help the Volkswagen squad to the title if possible.
Jackson Looking For More Silverstone Success
12 wins meanwhile puts Plato in a league of his own when discussing Silverstone success in BTCC, next up in that list being Mat Jackson on five.
Jackson added the last of those just 12 months ago at the same circuit, recently one of the form men with Motorbase having claimed both a maiden pole position and race victory for the updated Ford Focus ST which joined from Snetterton. The rapid pace in a straight line will suit the Focus with no weight on board, so consecutive poles could be a safe bet.
Andrew Jordan was a man who challenged him early on Saturday, but the Triple Eight man’s weekend suffered after a poor qualifying that affected his Sunday enough to see him fall to 46 points behind.
Although the tally is recoverable, Jordan admitted himself that the title challenge “is now over” for the MG squad.
West Surrey Racing appear to have surrendered their Drivers’ Championship meanwhile, a rotten Knockhill meeting for Sam Tordoff dropping him away from the front-runners to what is now 61 points behind Shedden.
The BMW squad will however have the returning Andy Priaulx at their disposal, the former multiple World Touring Car Champion having been the form man in the series prior to his Rockingham absence through Sportscar responsibilities.
The Future Looks Bright
Behind them, Rockingham created the platform for future BTCC championship contenders.
A glimpse of what could soon be, Josh Cook moved all but out of sight for the Jack Sears Trophy honours as top rookie, but charged to a podium finish at last for Power Maxed Racing in a giant-killing performance by rounding another rising star, Adam Morgan.
Above: Ingram (l) and Cook (r) starred at Rockingham (Photos: btcc.net)
This was followed up by Tom Ingram‘s stellar defensive effort and re-attack of Plato in the final race, the Speedworks Toyota Avensis driver now finally rewarded with a BTCC podium and a high praise from his double championship-winning rival.
The raft of youngsters may well soon be the names we discuss more intensely in the BTCC despite the current superstars still making their headlines, Rockingham a possible sign of the future.
Finally, Simon Belcher is expected to return to the wheel of the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis, Robb Holland having fought to a points finish during his three outings in the car.
Timetable And Weather Report
Drivers will take part on the smaller, but more frenetic 1.64-mile national circuit this weekend, featuring just six corners that invite a car with a strong engine to excel, alongside a brave brake pedal.
The weather forecast for this weekend’s action appears appealing despite Autumn kicking in, partly cloudy conditions expected with temperatures of around 18°C on Sunday.
Free practice one – 9:30
Free practice two – 12:35
Qualifying – 15:45
Race one – 11:57
Race two – 14:32
Race three – 17:17
TCF 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.