The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads north with a capacity 32-car field due to battle for honours at Cheshire’s Oulton Park (4/5 June), for rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the season. The UK’s premier motor sport series will blast around the picturesque circuit in front of what is expected to be one of the biggest crowds of the campaign, with in excess of 40,000 fans flocking to the track in recent years.
The 2016 BTCC season is in full swing with the first three weekends of the year providing typically unpredictable action – seven different drivers have stood on the top step of the podium from the nine breathless rounds raced. On top of that, five different marques have reigned supreme. The championship race is really hotting up as we move into the summer months, with the Honda of Matt Neal and BMW of Rob Collard currently sharing the standings lead, while just 21 points separate the top eight drivers in the table.
A record 33,000-strong crowd descended on Thruxton in Hampshire last time out and next weekend’s encounter at the renowned Oulton Park circuit will be no different as spectators clamour for a slice of the BTCC action in the flesh, whilst many more will watch the unmissable drama unfold live on ITV4.
Oulton Park always generates a festival atmosphere when the BTCC rolls in, and 2016 looks set to be bigger and better than ever. A favourite for family campers, the fields around the circuit will be packed with fans of all ages ready to cheer on their favourite drivers and local heroes.
Talking point: Who will take the initiative?
With just three weekends of the year completed, there has already been no fewer than eleven drivers that have made the BTCC podium. No driver has yet been able to stamp any real authority on the season as seven have shared top honours over the opening nine rounds of 2016 – only WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan and Motorbase Performance man Mat Jackson have doubled up. The only thing that is certain ahead of Oulton Park is that there is more uncertainty to come.
The no-holds-barred and unpredictable racing provided by the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is not only what the fans love, but also serves to cement its position as the country’s top motor sport series.
Halfords Yuasa Racing duo Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal starred at both Brands Hatch and Donington Park, with the latter then leading the championship from his team-mate, but the multiple champion squad have not had it all their own way since. At Thruxton, a double non-finish for champion Shedden put a hole in his points tally.
Neal fared slightly better, with a race three podium making up for earlier disappointment. An uncharacteristically ‘off’ weekend for Honda, perhaps more through bad luck than a lack of competitiveness, left the door open in the Manufacturers’ standings. West Surrey Racing duly obliged with Rob Collard, Sam Tordoff and Jack Goff providing the points to propel them to top spot, also closing the gap to Honda at the summit of the Teams’ running to just a point.
Tom Ingram has been just one of an ever-growing number of young talents in the series to impress this year as the Speedworks Motorsport driver blasted his Toyota to a first ever pole position and race victory in the Brands Hatch season opener. He scored another pole at Thruxton, which led to a second place finish in the first contest, but two disappointing results followed. He’ll be hoping for better consistency at Oulton on Speedworks’ patch. Morgan’s Mercedes has been in fine fettle and his incredibly strong weekend last time around, where he completed a podium hat-trick, has left him optimistic ahead of the fourth weekend of the year.
Motorbase Performance enjoyed another strong outing in Hampshire, underlining its Independents’ standings lead with a second win of the campaign for Jackson and a maiden win in the Pirtek Racing Ford Focus for 2013 champion Andrew Jordan – his first BTCC victory since Croft 2014.
MG have featured at the front throughout the 2016 season so far and its two young drivers – Josh Cook and Ashley Sutton – will again be keen to impress.
Jason Plato and Colin Turkington – both double BTCC champions – would arguably settle for a trouble-free event in Cheshire next weekend. Not a desire you would normally associate with two drivers renowned for winning races, but the duo are part of the four-car Subaru squad that is currently developing the all-new Levorg model. The programme is in its infancy and there’s still some way to go before the Japanese marque can be considered genuine contenders, but its legions of fans will watch their progress with great interest at one of the toughest and tightest tracks in the country.
Despite the aforementioned BTCC legends still finding their feet in 2016 there’ll be no shortage of challengers next weekend, with experts predicting anyone from a list of 12 to 16 drivers to be in with a chance of victory!
Local Heroes: Race winners, fast cars and acting stars!
A number of teams and drivers call Oulton their home circuit. Speedworks Motorsport which runs Tom Ingram, while Ciceley Motorsport – the team behind the Mercedes A-Class machines of WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan – himself a local driver, placed third in the Drivers’ standings – and Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat, is located near Preston in Lancashire. Power Maxed Racing’s star racer, Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher is also a Lancastrian. He’ll be looking to make good on a positive start to his season in the Chevrolet.
Following an extraordinary weekend at Thruxton, which included a hat-trick of podiums for Morgan, the WIX Racing man is looking to capitalise at his home circuit – something he’s struggled to do in the past.
“It’s my local track, unfortunately it’s not been kind for me in terms of results but hopefully I can turn that around,” he said. “Consistency is key in this championship and the points we’ve taken from Thruxton have been massive for us. If we can match that up with three top tens at Oulton it would be fantastic – it would keep the championship fight going.
“The Hondas are going to be quick and so will the MGs but it also suits the rear wheel drive guys as well. It’s a pick of more than ten for the win really – it could be anyone. We’ve proven our car works really well at places like Thruxton – I don’t see why it can’t work at Oulton and we’ll be having a go.
“It’s always incredibly close racing at Oulton. The track is tight and narrow with lots of opportunities for overtaking. It always brings a spectacle and plenty of rubbing and racing – proper good fun. It seems to attract the biggest crowd of up to 40-odd thousand and more. You come out on the green flag lap and you just see waves and waves of people. It’s great to be a part of it and be involved.”
Timetable and tickets
All three BTCC races on Sunday, 5 June – and many of the day’s other races – will be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4. Those in attendance at the circuit can stay in touch with the commentary and live timing from every session, available on the btcc.net Live Zone throughout the weekend.
The support series on the TOCA package are also guaranteed to thrill with a double digit total of races set to entertain the crowds. Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Renault UK Clio Cup, MSA Formula Championship and the Ginetta championships will all be in attendance in Cheshire, making for a jam-packed weekend of truly unmissable racing.
Discounted advance tickets are on sale online from just £27 for Sunday, 5 June and they are available on the gate at £15 for Saturday, 4 June, with weekend tickets including Paddock Pass available for just £35.