With three rounds remaining, Jason Plato still heads the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pack as they head next to Rockingham Motor Speedway this weekend.
The 5/6 September will see the 1.94-mile infield layout of the Motor Speedway play host to the eighth meeting of the 2015 season, one that remains a completely wide open affair with just 30 points covering the top five title contenders.
Nine drivers have also taken victory at some stage during the 2015 season, not even including 2013 BTCC champion Andrew Jordan, who sits fifth overall in the standings ahead of the likes of West Surrey Racing‘s trio of race winners.
Heading the way in the championship is the man who ominously has also claimed the most Rockingham victories from the current BTCC field.
Five times a winner here, Team BMR‘s Plato admitted that the previous three races at Knockhill in Scotland were all about damage limitation – an achievement he passed to be rewarded still with the series lead.
BMR Survive Their Bogey Meeting
Damage limitation it certainly was, the Volkswagen CC man enduring the worst qualifying performance of his BTCC career before sacrificing his opening race for the second time in the season, matching his Croft tactics to enjoy a greater grid slot for the latter pair of encounters.
Solid top-10 results kept Plato 11 points clear of his nearest rival, who is now Honda Yuasa Racing‘s Gordon Shedden.
The works Honda squad enjoyed a much better weekend in Fife, moving up to second and third in the championship as local hero Shedden and team-mate Matt Neal both grabbed thrilling wins to keep the pressure on Plato heading to a Rockingham circuit the previous Civic Type-R models have often excelled at.
Both drivers have claimed four wins in the past, Neal in fact winning the first ever BTCC race held around the Corby venue when racing for the same works Dynamics squad 12 years ago in 2003.
Plato and team-mate Colin Turkington admitted that the visit to Scotland was likely to be their ‘bogey’ circuit of the season, the latter suffering at Knockhill as he dropped 28 points adrift of his BMR team-mate to fourth.
Turkington does however have good memories here 12 months ago, beating Plato in a straight fight twice in his title-winning season.
BMW And MG Need Wins
The #77 Pirtek Racing MG6 has yet to reach the flag first in any of the 21 encounters so far this season, Jordan persisting and methodically analysing his every move with the machine since joining in the winter season.
Victory around a Rockingham circuit that MG took pole position at 12 months ago would be very uplifting for the vastly-experienced Triple Eight squad, Jordan in particular looking to keep his name in the hat with nine races to go should the top four slip up.
BMW meanwhile have had a very mixed campaign compared to Turkington’s merciless 2014 title trail, their lead driver now suddenly the in-form Andy Priaulx in sixth spot, although his BMW 125i will be this weekend piloted by the returning Nick Foster – Priaulx off on sporstcar duties for the German manufacturer in Paul Ricard.
Sam Tordoff will have left Knockhill one of the most disappointed figures from the paddock, after a golden chance to steal big chunks out of Plato’s title lead evaporated thanks to puncture and damage-related non-scores which hit his title chances hard at arguably BMW’s strongest circuit.
Third Rock’ For Austin?
Rockingham circuit is a place for spoilers to show their card, particularly a crowd-pleasing figure of the past two seasons, Rob Austin.
The Audi driver has clinched a victory here in both of the last two years, wanting to add some silverware to an otherwise undramatic season that sees him currently sit 13th in the standings, the team’s second TBL license also suspended after Knockhill.
Mercedes continue their rise in BTCC meanwhile, Adam Morgan denied a second victory of the season by misfortune and a Neal lunge on the penultimate lap of the final race at Knockhill, while Aiden Moffat was handed a personal best result of third place in the same encounter.
Nic Hamilton meanwhile returns for AmD Tuning, while Robb Holland will make his final appearance potentially of the season for Handy Motorsport at Rockingham.
Weather and Timetable
The British weather has begun its cycle from summer to Autumn it seems, meaning that the highest temperatures predicted are currently 16 degrees across the weekend.
At this stage such forecasts are not entirely definitive, although the circuit has been prone to mixed conditions when the BTCC visits.
The most obvious example came back 2003 when Rockingham played host to the series for the first time, initial sunny conditions soon warping into a lightning storm that forced organisers to evacuate the open grandstand prior to its arrival, just as Yvan Muller grabbed the lead from an Anthony Reid slip-up in race two.
Free practice one – 09:25
Free practice two – 12:40
Qualifying – 15:40
Race one – 11:37
Race two – 13:52
Race three – 16:40
(All times provisional)
TCF’s Dan Mason and Simon Paice will bring you all the action from the BTCC and support championship paddocks at Rockingham, which you can keep up to date with right here at www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk, or via Twitter at @tcfBTCC.