There are little more than two weeks to go before Scotland hosts its only round this year of the UK’s premier motor racing championship, the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, at the spectacular Knockhill circuit on the weekend of 3-4 September.
The BTCC’s annual arrival at the Fife venue just north of Edinburgh represents Scotland’s biggest motor sport fixture of the year and 2011’s event looks set to attract a bigger and even more enthusiastic trackside crowd than before.
The reason is Fife’s Gordon Shedden who is better placed to win the BTCC crown – one of the most coveted in motor sport in the world – than any Scottish driver for more than a decade.
Shedden will go into his home round lying second in the standings after an extraordinary piece of precision daredevil driving – two weeks ago while rounding a corner at 100mph at Snetterton in Norfolk he deliberately drove his Honda Civic into a barrier to remove its mangled front wing. It meant he avoided having to make a costly pit stop for repairs and instead was able to go on and score a few more valuable points.
Earlier in the day, in the second of three races, he’d taken his third win of the season to briefly lead the BTCC table for the first time in his career. Now three more races await him and his BTCC rivals at Knockhill (4 Sept) and he’ll start them just eight points adrift of the leader, Airwaves Ford Focus driver Mat Jackson and, crucially, ahead of his own Honda team-mate Matt Neal and reigning champion, Chevrolet’s Jason Plato.
‘Flash’ is clearly hoping that at Knockhill he can move back to the top and stay there to go on and become the first Scottish driver since John Cleland in 1995 to lift the BTCC Champion’s trophy.
Shedden, aged 31 from Dalgety Bay, commented: “The move at Snetterton was very risky – I don’t know if I could do that again if I was given another 100 attempts! But I had nothing to lose and it paid off and although Mat Jackson won the race and slipped ahead of me in the championship it means I’m just that little bit closer to him.
“Racing in the BTCC in front of my home crowd is always awesome but this year it’s going to be even more special. I’m in the strongest position I’ve ever been in and doing the business at Knockhill and leaving with the championship lead is of course the dream scenario.
“The gap to Jackson is only eight points – there are 15 for a win and three races on the day so there’s a lot to play for. This is also the most competitive season I can remember in the BTCC with so many different drivers and different types of cars capable of challenging for a place on the podium. I’ve driven thousands of laps around Knockhill but it counts for zero – the drivers at this level are into the groove with any track within five laps. I’ve got a great car in the Honda Civic and a great team in the Honda Racing Team but we will all have to be at the top of our game on Knockhill weekend to keep our championship challenge going.”
In addition to Shedden, the trackside spectators will have another ‘local’ to cheer on in the BTCC’s three races at Knockhill (Sun 4 Sept), namely Dave Newsham. The Inverness racer will be making his first appearance in front of his home crowd as a BTCC driver after winning last year’s Renault Clio Cup title. Newsham will arrive at Knockhill off the back of his best showing to date – he was in the points in all three races at Snetterton, even leading one of them briefly in his Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon.
Meanwhile Knockhill’s big BTCC race weekend (3-4 Sept) will feature 11 more races for the ‘resident’ supporting Ginetta Junior, Ginetta GT Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup categories as well as the guesting Scottish Classic Sports and Saloons and Mini Cooper Cup championships.