With statistics very much in their favour right now, can Subaru realistically be now considered as serious title challengers in their maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season?
The Japanese marque’s arrival on the grid was one of the main discussion points for 2016, Jason Plato and Colin Turkington spearheading the attack of an exciting and innovative project for a pin-up manufacturer icon of motorsport.
A design that has long been in the crosshairs of double BTCC champion Plato and long-time race engineer, Carl Faux, success came as early as the Levorg GT’s 10th race, when Turkington produced a lights-to-flag showcase in Cheshire at Oulton Park.
A sluggish start for the Silverline Subaru Team BMR quartet saw them amass a mere 13 points from the opening two meetings, although a severe scare arrived at Donington Park. A fiery exit for James Cole caused more dramatic ramifications at Thruxton in May, when a reoccurring fuel pressure-related mechanical problem resulted in the team’s Sunday withdrawal under safety grounds.
Since then, a remarkable recovery story has overtaken those headlines, while the statistics indicate that Subaru are upping the ante up front…
The minor 13-point combined tally from the opening three meetings is dwarfed by the 183 that followed at Oulton Park and Croft for Subaru, which included a brace of Turkington pole positions and race one victories.
Not just that, but five visits to the podium were the reward for team-mate Plato in those six encounters, meaning the duo have scored more points than any of their rivals with 96 and 87 respectively post-Thruxton.
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Subaru’s is also the best combined tally from their top two drivers in this six-race period, 44 points better off than current championship leaders BMW and West Surrey Racing.
More alarming is the margin that Subaru and their lead duo hold over the combined tally of Honda in this six-race phase. The BMR squad now sit fifth in the Teams’ Championship, as well as a much-reduced 141 points adrift of the Manufacturers’ Championship lead.
The current Drivers’ Championship situation?
Turkington’s rise to 11th sees him just 62 adrift of the series lead, while Plato lies 13th with an extra 16 points to make up on his team-mate.
Although with a lot still to do if title success is to come as early as 2016, Turkington and team boss Warren Scott both refuse to discount a BMR shock just yet.
“We’ll never give up but we’re obviously coming from a long way back”, Turkington told TCF. “Missing Thruxton is a big dent in our chances but you just have to build the points and keep the consistency. The way this championship is set up, we’re not carrying success ballast so we can come and get poles and wins.”
Scott added: “The BMWs have still got a bit of weight on compared to us. We’ve got a bit more work to do, but hopefully we’ll get more weight on soon and be right back up there in the championship.”
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Are Rivals Concerned?
With the blue touch paper very much glowing now, how have Subaru’s rivals reacted further above them in the points table?
Championship leader Sam Tordoff is not counting out a late surge by the duo, although he feels comfortable that a rise up the order could soon see their qualifying efforts hampered by penalty ballast.
“We can’t discount them. They’ll go to Snetterton with no ballast on and will probably be somewhere near the front”, the series leader told TCF after Croft.
“But the more [Turkington] does that, the more ballast he’s going to get and then he’ll be getting to the point where he’s carrying a reasonable amount of weight.”
With the maximum 75kg of success ballast onboard on two occasions this season, Subaru came out second best to WSR on both occasions.
Triple champion Matt Neal has been one of those fighting such additional weight in his Honda Civic Type-R during the first half of the season, adding to TCF: “It’s so close, so if you qualify down there, you end up racing down there. Ballast hurts you.”
Improvements To Come
As to where gains will be made in the second half of the season, Plato in particular pointed towards unlocking further steadiness by way of chassis development in the Levorg.
“It’s very good”, enthused Plato on the progress of the Levorg after just five meetings. “There’s still things I want to change, but we’ve still got quit a lot of gains to come in the dry.
“We’ve got some aero work to come in our wind tunnel and new aero plans for Snetterton. We’re going to make big gains on our development of the chassis. We’re not quite right yet, but somewhere near the theory now. Every step we get down this line, we get better and better.”
Polar opposite to aero gains, straightline speed is another area Plato pointed out for improvement. Turkington found himself no higher than eighth in the overall speed traps in qualifying at Croft, albeit on his way to pole position with zero ballast in his Levorg.
The situation surrounding boost equality continues to be the centre of an ongoing debate not just at Subaru, but indeed down the grid.
After a troublesome brace of meetings most recently at Oulton Park and Croft, Honda were another team feeling the pain of being towards the foot of the speed trap figures, reigning champion Shedden telling TCF: “We need to try and find a bit more magic.
“When it’s as tight as it is, competitive it is and as good as the teams and drivers are, you don’t want to be that far off.”
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With half the season done and dusted, one thing is for sure – the championship fight will remain unpredictable until the final flag is waved.
With that in mind….it’s over to you now, Snetterton.