Sam Tordoff leads the way as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Rockingham this weekend, the top six drivers separated by less than 50 points with nine races to go.
The 1.94-mile Motor Speedway in Corby hosts the eighth meeting of the 2016 BTCC season, a place that has thrown up classic races and unpredictable results in the 10 visits since 2003.
Seven of those visits saw the season’s eventual champion claim a race win on the day, something which would give West Surrey Racing‘s Tordoff high hopes with a nine-point lead currently in his pocket over triple champion, Matt Neal.
Knockhill showcased a cautious side to Tordoff’s bigger picture, involved in battles for victory throughout but evading scuffles whenever possible in Scotland.
WSR team-mate Rob Collard on the other hand found himself involved in a race three collision with Colin Turkington, both slipping to 32 and 48 points adrift respectively.
Neal upheld the flag for Honda and Halfords Yuasa Racing with a canny race two triumph in Fife to move his season tally to three wins, while Jason Plato finally picked up his first for Subaru as he surpassed 500 BTCC races.
Plato Finally Off The Mark
It had been coming, but Knockhill was the moment that saw Plato tick off a first victory in Silverline Subaru Team BMR colours.
BTCC Wins At Rockingham:
The result moved him within 53 points of Tordoff in the Drivers’ Championship, heading to a circuit at which he holds the most wins of anyone on the grid with six.
Plato however found himself under fire from series boss Alan Gow after Knockhill, relating to comments regarding engine equalisation. Subaru and Honda have both struggled in speed traps in recent meetings, although the former have now claimed three pole positions and four race wins since their Thruxton withdrawal.
Turkington was yet to see success at Rockingham until a double during his 2014 title-winning campaign, joined on two wins by the likes of Andrew Jordan and the man with the most wins this season on four, Mat Jackson.
Who’s On Form With Nine To Go?
WSR have only claimed four wins in 29 BTCC races at Rockingham, but Dick Bennetts’ squad look stronger than ever in 2016.
Collard will be relieved to lose success ballast for topping the championship prior to Knockhill, that 75kg heading to the BMW 125i of team-mate, Tordoff, both eager to break their duck at Rockingham.
Ford and Motorbase Performance excelled here last year with pole position and a race victory for Jackson, although consistency has cost the Focus driver this season alongside four wins.
Honda, however, have brought themselves right back to the fore after a troublesome middle third of their season.
The Halfords duo of Neal and Shedden now hold five wins between them in 2016, utilising the softer tyres efficiently in Scotland most recently to put pressure on their BMW rivals.
Together, the pair have claimed nine wins at Rockingham, Neal famously claiming the very first back in the 2003 visit before a lightning storm descended in Corby that evening.
The Happy Place For A Fan Favourite
Another driver holds two very popular wins to his name at this circuit, that man being Rob Austin.
Twice victorious in an Audi A4 with his own outfit, Austin will participate in a Toyota Avensis this season for the Handy Motorsport squad, having earned one podium visit at Snetterton last month.
Toyota almost claimed a win at Rockingham last season thanks to a resurgent Tom Ingram, who earned hearty plaudits from former mentor, Plato, en route to his maiden podium finish that afternoon.
MG have only claimed one win here, which came back in 2012. Ashley Sutton and Josh Cook will hope for a change in fortune after two luckless meetings, where ninth place for Cook at Snetterton proved Triple Eight‘s best result since the summer break concluded.
Cook does however have fond memories of the Corby circuit from last year, scything through the pack to claim an overall podium finish alongside romping towards overall Jack Sears Trophy success.
Gilham Returns To Team HARD Seat
Team HARD‘s latest driver change sees the boss himself, Tony Gilham, return to the driving seat this weekend in place of the injured Michael Caine.
Power Maxed Racing again welcome Dave Newsham in place of Kelvin Fletcher meanwhile, as the latter continues to await the arrival of mini Fletcher.
Newsham showed his BTCC experience in his most recent outing at Knockhill, claiming 16 points to his name alongside a best result of seventh in the opening race for the Chevrolet Cruze squad.
Timetable And Weather Report
The British weather continues to bemuse and confuse this week, with showers expected to descend on Rockingham at some stage stage over both days according to mid-week reports.
Expect more than seven hours of ITV4 coverage across the weekend, while tickets for both days can be booked online at www.rockingham.co.uk.
Free Practice 1 – 09:25
Free Practice 2 – 12:00
Qualifying – 15:30
Race one – 11:37
Race two – 13:52
Race three – 16:40
TCF will be reporting live from Rockingham this weekend, so keep up with the BTCC and support race action here and via @TheCheckerFlag throughout the two days.