The second half of the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship gets underway this coming weekend (3/4 August) with rounds 16, 17 and 18 taking place at Snetterton in Norfolk.
Britain’s biggest and best motor racing championship makes its annual visit to the region, and is set to boast a huge grid of tin-top cars. The BTCC often attracts in excess of 40,000 spectators, making it one of the largest sporting events in the country on any given weekend.
The first five events of the season have been action-packed with 30 plus drivers contesting rounds all over the UK at Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Thruxton, Oulton Park and Croft. But now it’s the turn of Snetterton, with fans expected to pour in from East Anglia and beyond!
With the event taking place in the height of summer and with a whole host of off-track family activities to enjoy at Snetterton, a festival feel is guaranteed in this pivotal weekend in the BTCC season.
Season so far: Matt Neal targets a fourth BTCC title
The BTCC has four former champions and many well known racing stars in its line-up, but the first half of the season arguably belonged to the most successful of them all – three-time BTCC champion Matt Neal.
Neal’s form can be regarded as fast and consistent so far in 2013, having won four of the opening 15 races. Aside to his race wins, however, Neal has scored multiple podiums and finished outside the top six only once.
The Honda Yuasa Racing driver leads the standings but the title is on a knife-edge with no fewer than seven drivers in with a realistic chance of taking the title.
Of the drivers in contention who haven’t previously won the title, Andrew Jordan can be considered the most likely to grab a maiden championship having had a storming start to 2013. The 24-year-old has at times been the quickest Honda Civic driver on his way to claiming two wins and a total of seven podiums, which is no mean feat when you consider his independent Pirtek Racing squad is taking on the might of the manufacturer-backed Honda outfit.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden remains in hot contention to win back-to-back titles but will still be wondering how a number of excellent results have escaped his grasp. Wins at Donington Park and Thruxton have been dampened by a number of moments outside of his control, which have left him either down the order or out of the race. Shedden has been undoubtedly one of the fastest drivers so far, however, with the highest number of podiums of any racer.
MG driver and TV personality Jason Plato has endured contrasting fortunes at a number of events so far. Dominant in the opening weekend of the season at Brands Hatch and then again at Oulton Park in June were the notable highs, but a challenging weekend last time at Croft delivered his lowest points haul of the campaign. His MG KX Momentum squad has consistently improved the MG6 car, however, and the Oxford-based racer looked supremely fast at the recent Snetterton test.
Colin Turkington is the man of the moment having produced an absolutely flawless display at Croft with pole position, two wins and a second place firing him right into the title scrap. Like Shedden, the Ulsterman could consider himself a ‘reigning champion’ of sorts too as this is his first season back in the BTCC since he won the championship back in 2009.
Young gun Sam Tordoff should not be underestimated. With identical equipment to double-champ Plato, Yorkshireman Tordoff has proved his pace on several occasions so far. He’ll be buoyed by Turkington’s showing at Croft too, as it proves that one stellar weekend behind the wheel could thrust him into championship contention.
There’s a whole host of others to look out for too, arguably headed by multiple race-winner Tom Onslow-Cole. BTCC fans voted Tom’s VW Passat the car they were most looking forward to seeing in 2013 and he hasn’t disappointed in taking the brand new Team HARD-run machine to the podium on three occasions.
Talking Point: MG gains momentum
Jason Plato was the fastest man around the Snetterton 300 Circuit during a pre-event Dunlop tyre test in July, and his MG KX Momentum Racing team-mate Sam Tordoff was just behind him in second.
The BTCC field was out in force in quite literally scorching conditions and it was Plato who made the most of a solid two-days of running in Norfolk. Tordoff’s lap times were consistent, but by the end of the test Plato had pulled a gap of almost half a second to the rest of the field, which was also faster than the current lap record set in 2012.
Champion squad Honda Yuasa Racing was one of the few teams to skip the test, which makes comparisons difficult. The general consensus up and down the pit lane, however, was that MG had made solid progress with its car, “it was an important test – probably the best we’ve ever done,” said Plato.
Local Talent: Norfolk lights
Norfolk has produced a number of motor racing stars down the years; including names such as TV commentator and former F1 star Martin Brundle, and the region still boasts some of the UK’s top talent.
BTCC has an honorary local man in the shape of Ollie Jackson who resided in nearby Attleborough for a number of years. The Speedworks Motorsport driver recently had to move away from the area, however, but he’s still hoping to perform well in front of what he calls his ‘adopted home crowd.’
The support bill has two genuinely talented Norfolk lights in its ranks with both Josh Files and Carl Breeze the standout names in their respective fields.
Norwich’s Files leads the Renault Clio Cup UK – often seen as a stepping stone to the BTCC – and will be looking to cement his championship advantage at his home circuit.
“At Snetterton we’re going to be pushing for wins, podiums at the very least. I love Snetterton, it’s obviously my local track and we have a lot of people coming along to support us,” enthused Files.
The experienced Carl Breeze is a fan favourite at Snetterton having won a number of times at the venue. The King’s Lynn racer is the reigning Ginetta GT Supercup champion and is embroiled in another battle for the crown this season. “I can’t wait to kickstart the season again at my home circuit, Snetterton 300 is one of my favourite tracks,” commented Breeze. “I have a great winning record on my home turf and I always enjoy a massive following of local support, so I am hungry to win all three races!”