BTCC Snetterton Preview

Josh Cook at last years Snetterton race. Image courtesy of BTCC

This weekend is the sixth meeting on the 2018 BTCC calendar, and also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the BTCC forming. There are numerous things to be discussed about the weekend, most notably the special ‘Diamond Double’ race, which is a mouth-watering prospect for both the drivers and their fans. First, however, let’s recap.

Recap

Last time out at Croft was a hectic event packed with action as well as a resurgence from the reigning champion Ash Sutton. Sutton scored his first win of the season in round thirteen and his second in round fourteen. Dan Lloyd took to the top step of the podium in round fifteen after benefiting from the reverse grid. Colin Turkington emerged from Croft as the championship leader, despite having only won a single race so far this year. The BMW driver, however, has finished on the podium an impressive five times, showing that consistency has been key to the season thus far. His nearest challengers, Tom Ingram and Matt Neal, aren’t far behind. Neal in particular should be one to watch this weekend, with the Hondas having run fastest in the two day test at Snetterton.

Ash Sutton at Croft 2018. Image courtesy of BTCC
The circuit

The circuit itself is an exciting one, with two of the longest straights in the country as well as the iconic ‘bomhole’. Rob Collard is the man with the lap record, a 1m56.352, which was set in 2016.

Diamond double

The drivers will have the perfect opportunity to set a new lap record in the third race of the weekend. Dubbed the ‘Diamond Double’, round eighteen of the season has a completely different format to the other races. The race will be for double points, with its own qualifying session used to determine the grid. All cars will be on base weight and the length of the race is approximately double that of a regular one. The double points on offer will allow drivers to potentially close gaps (or open them) throughout the championship standings. Expect a highly competitive race with perhaps a hint of caution, as not finishing this race would be very detrimental to driver’s championship hopes.

Overall this weekend looks set to be another thrilling chapter of this season’s BTCC championship. Be sure not to miss the action, especially the Diamond Double race. Going into the business end of the season, it could be hugely significant.

BTCC Oulton Park 2018 Preview

This weekend sees the return of the British Touring Car Championship to the Cheshire circuit of Oulton Park.

Map of Oulton Park Circuit.

The 5th event on the calendar this year, Oulton Park marks the midpoint in the hectic season that defines the BTCC and what a season it’s been so far!

With Adam Morgan currently holding a precarious one point lead at the top of the championship, this weekend could be the location for large amounts of reshuffling with the top 5 separated by a mere 18 points! Oulton Park is a circuit renowned for exciting racing with its varying gradients and hills such as Knickerbrook as well as possessing a number of tight corners ideal for overtaking such as Lodge Corner. Be prepared to see big reshuffles of the standings throughout races as there are simply countless areas ideal for overtaking.

With low chances of rain and predicted temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius, the fans will be turning out in droves with an estimation of around 40,000 coming to the circuit over the weekend. It’s sure to be an enjoyable weekend for them if they are lovers of adrenalin fuelled overtaking and gorgeous weather!

The make-up of the grid was confirmed after qualifying today and there was a shock at the top of the grid.  Matt Simpson set pole with a lap over two tenths faster than second placed Sam Tordoff. In terms of the title race, it was expected to be a tricky qualifying session for championship leader Adam Morgan with the 75 Kilogram success ballast that accompanies the top spot. He ended up 19th. This leaves considerable work to be done on race day for Morgan but it also presents a glorious opportunity to his championship contenders, especially Matt Neal. After struggling in the early rounds of the Championship Neal has gotten to grips with the new Honda Civic sealing a win at Thruxton, he currently sits 6th in the standings but has qualified 5th at Oulton. If there’s a man to watch this weekend I’d point towards Matt Neal.

It’s sure to be a great day of racing at Oulton Park with many thrills and spills along the way so start your countdown to round 12 of the season, it’s going to be an interesting one.

James Clinton Hunt

Featured image courtesy of BrianDeegan.co.uk under creative commons

BTCC – Rule Changes & 60 Mile Race

Heading into the 2018 season TOCA and BTCC have made two announcements. One relates to the rule changes for the 2018 season and the other marks a special championship race to mark the 60 year anniversary.

Here are the announcements from BTCC:

Rule changes agreed for 2018 BTCC season

A number of rule changes have recently been ratified by TOCA that will take effect from the opening round of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship:

Increase in driving standards penalties

– Fines will be increased, with a significant additional championship fine applied on top of any MSA fine.

– From next year a ‘strike’ will last for 12 months from the date applied, rather than just the same season (This then brings them into line with the 12 month penalty points system on MSA race licence).

– Strikes gained during a 12 month period will result in the following penalties;

3rd strike – back of the grid

4th strike – one race ban

5th strike – two race ban

6th strike – three race ban

7th strike – banned from the championship for the rest of that season

– A relatively minor but straightforward on-track incident, involving and affecting only two cars, that can be simply rectified by swapping their finishing positions post-race (or which has already been fully redressed within one lap by the offending driver) will not necessarily constitute a ‘strike’.

3rd race grid draw

The partial reverse-grid draw will now extend to 12 ……i.e. the reverse-grid draw will be from positions 6-12 (rather than 6-10).

Jack Sears Trophy

Eligible drivers will be those that have never scored an outright podium position.

Any driver subsequently scoring an outright podium during the season, will be ineligible for the JST from the next season.

Boost adjustments

If needed, these will take place once per season – at around the mid-season point – as was done in 2016.

Driver changes

A team is now permitted a maximum of two permanent driver changes per season (previously one).

Mandatory Driver and Team manager regulations tests

A driver or Team Manager cannot take part until they have successfully passed a mandatory regulations test.

60 mile BTCC showpiece to take place at Snetterton in 2018

A special ‘Diamond Double’ race has been announced as part of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s 60th anniversary diamond jubilee celebrations in 2018.

The third race at Snetterton on Sunday 29 July will be an extended 60-mile contest, with all cars competing without any success ballast and with double championship points on offer.

Furthermore, there will be a separate qualifying session on Saturday 28 July for this showpiece race, with all cars qualifying at their base weights.

The 2018 season will still comprise of 30 races across ten weekends, with all other races following the regular format as per recent seasons.

Snetterton – also well known for the BTCC Night Race in the 1990s and 2000s – has long been a staple of the summer calendar for race fans and this exciting addition is set to add yet further fever to the festival atmosphere.

Alan Gow, BTCC Series Director, said:

“We are delighted to confirm this special extended race as part of the BTCC’s diamond jubilee celebrations. As well, there will be a number of additional activities to celebrate our 60th anniversary throughout 2018 which will be revealed over the next few months. We believe this 60-mile race, roughly double the distance of a normal BTCC encounter, will add a further sporting twist to what will be a fantastic and memorable season. I am sure our loyal teams, drivers, venues, officials, sponsors, partners, marshals and of course our fans will share in this excitement, making the Snetterton race weekend an unmissable event in 2018.”

The 2018 season will begin on 7/8th April at Brand Hatch.

(c) photographs courtesy of BTCC

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

BTCC Title Race Gathers Pace

Tom Ingram (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis

Bank holiday crowds set for enthralling Rockingham encounter

It’s all-change at the top of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heading into Rockingham (26-27 August) for Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2017 campaign, with Team BMW’s double champion Colin Turkington holding prime position atop the Drivers’ standings with three events to go.

The trip to Northamptonshire is often a pivotal one as drivers fight to stamp their authority on the title or make their move to put themselves in the shakeup for the biggest prize in British motor sport, but is a shift in power already underway?

The pendulum swings

A week ago at Knockhill, reigning champion Gordon Shedden had to settle for damage limitation, as he and Honda contended with the rear-wheel drive might of the BMWs and Subarus – well suited to the stop-start ups-and-downs of the Scottish circuit. Home hero and triple champion Shedden had to make use of his local knowledge to notch a podium, as he battled through to hold onto a net third in the championship tally, 12 points down on new leader Turkington.

Rory Butcher (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo Ford Focus

The Ulsterman has launched himself to the fore with consistency over recent rounds – that trait a must for any prospective champion. Five podium finishes from the latest five races sent a shot across the bow of his immediate rivals. Team BMW team-mate Rob Collard is also racking up points round-by-round, leaving him well-placed in fourth. In fact, Knockhill was the first event this season where the Hampshireman had failed to make the podium, though he’s the only man to have scored points in every encounter this year.

Senna Proctor (GBR) Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra

Form man Ashley Sutton, of Adrian Flux Subaru Racing, notched a race two win to cement his status as the man in form with a high of five victories to his name this season. That latest followed a first of the season for rejuvenated BTCC legend Jason Plato, who believes his squad have finally found the ‘gremlin’ that has hampered his progress since an accident on the opening Brands Hatch weekend.

Sutton harbours second in the overall running just four points shy of Turkington, and while Plato will be going all-out to reach an unprecedented 100 wins in the series, he will be doing what he can to help Subaru and Sutton as the title fight heads towards its conclusion.

“I’ve had a right good kicking this year, and it’s just nice to take another step forward towards being competitive again,” said Plato. “It’s not just the winning it’s about being competitive and it’s nice to be there. I’m pretty awful to be around when things aren’t going well – this is my life.

Ashley Sutton (GBR) Team BMR Subaru Levorg

“We had a complete change of the differential and the car’s a different machine now. We think we’ve found the gremlin and I’m just so happy to be competitive again.

“I’m going to start enjoying myself. I think the 100 wins might be doable (he currently stands on 96). I’m playing myself back into the game and I could have been a bit more robust with Ash but what would have been the point?

“He’s got stuff to crack on with. I’m not going to give up wins, because I’m not going to take a financial penalty. But anything other than a win – he can have it! That is the way it goes and I’d expect that in return.

Gordon Shedden (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R

“I will play it honestly and nothing would give me more pleasure than to see Ash crack it and if I can help, I will. I have Ash at the forefront of my mind, most definitely.”

Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram made a long-awaited return to the top step of the podium after his start to the season had earmarked him as the early benchmark. Bad luck has conspired against the Toyota man in recent rounds, though at 61 points shy of the summit with more than 200 points still to play for, he’s not done yet.

Colin Turkington (GBR) Team BMW BMW 125i M Sport

 

All three BTCC races on Sunday, 27 August – and 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 at btcc.net/live throughout the weekend.

Advance tickets can be booked online at www.rockingham.co.uk or via the hotline on 01536 500500 (option 1), until midday on Friday 25 August. Weekend passes cost £38, Sunday race day tickets are £30 and Saturday entry price is just £12.50.

 

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Photographs: Copyright © 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Media Office

Interview With Matt Neal

 

An Interview With Matt Neal

He made his BTCC debut at Silverstone in 1991 and has competed in 600+ British Touring Car races, has 60 wins, 16 poles, 49 fastest laps and is a 3-time BTCC Drivers’ Champion and 6-time Independent Drivers’ Champion. He has raced in Australia and Europe and was awarded the Autosport National Driver Of The Year in 2005 and 2011.

What is your favourite circuit?

In the UK Brands Hatch – Been a good hunting ground and is more old school. Overseas either Bathurst or Nordschleife. 

Who was your motor racing idol?

Nigel Mansell – He was always a fighter.

Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?

My team mate Flash (Gordon Shedden).

Do you have a pre-race ritual/superstition and if so, what is it?

I have lots, I am annoyingly superstitious. 

Is there a race or series you never competed in, but would like/have liked the opportunity?

Not having done Le Mans is a regret, but I ain’t done too badly so I’m not complaining.

What is the best race you have been involved in? For what reason?

Bathurst 1,000km 1998, we almost won it as complete outsiders and underdogs, so it was what we all achieved together.

Personal Racing Number? What is yours and the meaning behind it?

Used to go with 5 as felt it was lucky and Mansell was always red 5, currently I’m 25 because that’s how long I’ve been racing, plus I had a big win years ago running as 25.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in your racing career?

A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.

Who is the funniest person or your best friend in racing?

Steve Thomas is one of my best mates, his laugh is infectious.

Considering drivers over all-time and series’, if you were a team principal, which two racers would you have in your team if you owned one?

Current drivers, Flash and Tom Onslow-Cole

Touring car fans will be familiar with you commentating on the WTCC, is this an area you would move into in the future and what do you enjoy about it?

It’s ok I enjoy it and the people I do it with.

How did you get into motor racing, what ignited that spark to race?

All I ever wanted to do from a child was race, as soon as I could drive at 17 I bought a motocross bike and trailer as cheapest thing to get into for biggest adrenalin rush, raced that for 4 years then my Dad got me into a car simply to get me away from bikes and went from there.

Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your racing career?

My Dad without doubt.

British Touring is gaining more and more exposure recently (and rightly so) but is there anything you would like to see happen in the media to improve this?

I’d like a two driver race back like in Australia be fun and add another dimension, although that’s not exactly media related.

Outside of racing, how do you relax, what are your hobbies or favourite other sports?

I’m away so much it’s lovely to go home and spend time with the family. But mountain biking, martial arts and training I keep myself pretty busy.

If you could invite 4 famous people (dead or alive) for dinner and drinks, who would they be?

JFK, Elvis, Adolf Hitler and the Queen, just be really interested on each of their takes on life.

Who is your favourite artist or band?

Paul Weller is pretty cool and has some absolute classics all through his career.

And finally…….If you could give advice to anybody (in racing or in life), what would they piece of advice be?

Get a good education and make sure you have a good exit strategy because more don’t make it than do.

This interview took place last year and I would like to thank Matt for taking the time out to answer these questions and wish him the very best for the remainder of the season.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

BTCC title race hots up after Sutton double at Snetterton

Ashley Sutton did his British Touring Car Championship aspirations no harm by taking two wins at Snetterton this weekend.

The Subaru driver closed in on title leader Gordon Shedden and proved his car has the potential to secure an unlikely title win.

It was Honda who took pole position with Eurotech backed driver Jack Goff taking the top spot. Colin Turkington in the BMW was second with Sutton taking third.

There was drama however as BTCC legend Matt Neal’s time was removed due to a failed ride height test. However due to some stipulations regarding the stewarding, his time was reinstated and he started fourth.

Turkington jumped Goff at the start and took the lead, with Sutton following behind in the Subaru. There were a few bumps and scrapes throughout the race as Ford’s Mat Jackson was almost spun round by Chevrolet driver Dave Newsham at Agostini.

The drama didn’t end there however as at the very same bend, Rob Austin dove down the inside of Tom Ingram, with the pair colliding and Austin’s Toyota suffering a puncture. He limped back to the pits but the damage was already done.

Back at the front Turkington lost the lead as he went off track, handing Goff the lead. Sutton was closing in on Goff, with the pair fighting hard, but on the exit of Agostini in to the following chicane, Sutton got past Goff and took yet another win in his Subaru. Goff took second with Neal rounding off the podium.

Race two was a much calmer affair after the opener, with Sutton taking a lights to flag win, pulling away from the chasing pack. The real fight was between BMW pair Turkington and Rob Collard. The pair were battling all race for second place, with Goff joining in the action.

Turkington managed to edge out Collard by just seven tenths, with Mat Jackson in the Shredded Wheat Ford in fourth and Goff in fifth.

Race three was unsolicited carnage, as the last race of the day burst into life, Ash Sutton, winner of the last two races, was hit off the track and suffered race ending damage, losing his hopes of a Snetterton hat trick.

Other notable crashes included Josh Cook in the MG being punted in the rear and retiring, as well as Matt Neal running wide and sliding into the wall.

Neal’s team mate Gordon Shedden took the win to preserve his title lead, with Collard and Turkington in second and third respectively. There was cause for celebration in the Power Maxed Racing garage as rookie Senna Proctor finished a career best ninth after starting 23rd.

With Shedden leading the championship lead by just two points from Rob Collard, and 11 points separating the top four, there will be a few twists and turns before the end of the season.