Preview: 2018 British Touring Car Championship – Croft

by Stuart Richards

It seems only yesterday when all the teams and their respective drivers rolled out at Donington Park for the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship media day. After all the action this weekend at Croft, the Summer break will see teams and drivers all recharge for a push towards the end of the season.

With talk of the relative youngsters taking over and making it their championship, Colin Turkington has come from nowhere and taken a twelve point drivers championship lead ahead of his nearest rival in second. Oulton Park was a great weekend for Colin and proved to fans and pundits alike that you do not write off the Northern Irishman.

Turkington has the record for the most amount of BTCC wins at Croft and this must be quite the omen for his rivals. Colin is going to be tough to beat this weekend and a visit to the top step of the podium may be possible multiple times considering his strengths at the circuit.

Can anyone stop this man? Credit: btcc.net

Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher finally reached the podium last time out after weeks of hope and determination. Up until round ten, bad luck had seen both Tom Chilton and James Cole near and yet so far. But finally, the duck was broken with two podiums for Tom in Cheshire and James scoring his equal best result of fifth in 2018 so far. With momentum set to continue, they could be a team to look out for at Croft.

Having not visited the podium since his win in race two at Donington, Tom Ingram and Speedworks Motorsport will certainly want to get their championship hopes back on track. A mid-season slump akin to the one he suffered last season could be a disaster if it’s to happen again. Starting near the rear of the field certainly didn’t help at Oulton Park, but with slightly less ballast for Croft a good qualifying position may result in Sunday performance for the former championship leader.

Matt Neal has certainly staked claim for a title push as his Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R has been getting better and better as the season has gone on. With another podium scored at Oulton Park you can’t bet against the veteran continuing this trend. Plus with team-mate Dan Cammish heading to his home circuit for the first time in the BTCC, confidence will be high in the Honda camp. Dan will also be looking to retain his lead in the Jack Sears Trophy.

Credit: btcc.net

Plenty of drivers will be hoping to put Oulton Park disappointment behind them this weekend. First will be Matt Simpson.

Finally scoring a breakthrough pole position and win, the second and third races of the day had to be sat out due to engine issues with his Civic Type R. Coming from such a high with a crashing bump must have been disheartening but that’s motorsport. Now as a proven winner he’ll be trying to show people that it wasn’t a fluke.

Touring Car’s unluckiest man Sam Tordoff wasn’t given a break when a fire in race two saw him having to miss out on race three as the damage was too great. Speed isn’t a problem for the 2016 runner-up but that luck has to change at some point.

With an anonymous weekend rounded out with retirement in race three for both cars, BTC Norlin Racing drivers Chris Smiley and Dan Lloyd will be hoping to finally return to the form that their vehicles are capable of showing. Form which saw Smiley take a podium at Donington Park. More silverware cannot be too far away for the team.

It’s crunchtime for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing. Ashley Sutton isn’t enjoying a competitive title defense and the mentality of Jason Plato must not be in a good place. With whispers of retirement or a move to another series for the two time champion, Croft is going to be hugely important for Team BMR in 2018.

Considering the highs the team have seen so far this season, Power Maxed TAG Racing will be hoping that the blip of Oulton Park was temporary and they can get Josh Cook back fighting at the front of the championship. Lying only fifth in the drivers standings, he isn’t too far away from the top. But, to suffer a similar weekend akin to the one in Cheshire will not be ideal for the two time race winner.

The BTCC returns this weekend 23/24 June at Croft where qualifying will be live on itv.com/btcc Saturday and all three races shown live on ITV4 on the Sunday.

 

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