BTCC ‘Rock’ stars ready to race
Northamptonshire next up for Britain’s top series
Just nine races remain in the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, and a crucial outing at Rockingham is in prospect as nearly 30 drivers will go all out for glory next weekend (5/6 September).
Rockingham is a unique stop on the schedule – as the most recently built racing facility in the UK it provides unparalleled panoramic views of the entire circuit from the goliath grandstands and is also a fantastic challenge for the drivers and teams.
Blending a flat out blast around the outer oval with a tricky technical infield, Rockingham is a circuit that doesn’t favour any particular car, making the three BTCC encounters even more tantalising and unpredictable.
Reigning champion Colin Turkington doubled up in 2014 at the Corby speedbowl, with fan favourite Rob Austin grabbing glory in the final race. Turkington didn’t take another victory after Rockingham, making it an undoubtedly pivotal point in the title race, and it’s sure to throw up more surprises before the 2015 champ is crowned.
The circuit is just 30 minutes from Leicester, Peterborough and Northampton, and fans are set to pour in to see the ‘Rock’ stars perform their amazing on-track show.
Story so far: Plato hangs onto top spot
Following an intense weekend of action north of the border at Knockhill, the title race is hotting up with Team BMR RCIB Insurance’s Jason Plato just holding onto top spot.
It was, by the double champion’s high standards, a relatively quiet weekend as he qualified in his lowest ever championship position and scored just one top ten on Sunday. Despite this he only lost a handful of points to his main rivals, leaving him in the driving seat as the series heads to Rockingham.
Gordon Shedden had a successful home weekend taking another victory to haul himself into second in the standings, with fellow Honda man Matt Neal who lies third also securing a win.
It was a tough time for Colin Turkington in Scotland as he slipped down to fourth, while the ultra-consistent Andrew Jordan is fifth despite not having summited the podium so far in 2015.
Talking point: Anybody’s guess
Rockingham’s 2.43 miles of asphalt always lead teams in the BTCC to a compromise. The two cars currently at the head of the pack are the Team BMR RCIB Insurance VW CCs and Honda Yuasa Racing’s Civic Type Rs, but the fact that such different designs can compete so closely is testament to the regulations in place in the championship. With Rockingham presenting such a mixed bag of tight corners, long radius corners and flat out straights, no-one is sure who will come out on top.
“We’re looking forward to Rockingham,” said Honda’s Matt Neal. “The VWs will be strong and the BMWs go well there too so we’ll all be in the mix.”
Championship leader Jason Plato adds, “It’s game on at Rockingham, we tested there recently and we’ve got a good set-up for both qualifying and race. Compared to Knockhill there are more longer corners where our car comes into its own.”
Of course there are plenty more BTCC machines in the mix and the likes of MG Triple Eight Racing, West Surrey Racing’s BMW 125i M Sports and the Mercedes A-class cars of Adam Morgan and Aiden Moffat which locked out the front row of race three at Knockhill are sure to be right up there. Rob Austin will be gunning for glory in his Audi A4 – something of a Rockingham specialist, Rob has won there in the past two seasons.
The wildcard effect of Motorbase Performance will be another aspect to watch out for, as Mat Jackson was flying last time out in his Ford Focus. He powered to two podiums in the Scottish hills and with no success ballast on his car will be chasing a first victory as the paddock forms up at Rockingham. “We’re here to win, it’s as simple as that,” said Jackson. “We don’t have a championship to worry about, so it’s maximum attack until the chequered flag!”
Local heroes: Familiar at the front
Now a consistent front-runner, Adam Morgan has become a familiar face on the BTCC podium. His WIX Racing squad has its head office just up the road from the incredible Rockingham facility. Adam has already taken a win this year at Thruxton, plus four other podiums. The Lancastrian was moments from a second success of 2015 in the final encounter at Knockhill, but collected debris on the penultimate tour that ultimately demoted him to second place.
With a fifth and two DNFs at Rockingham last year, Adam will be hoping for a big points haul to propel him towards the top six in the drivers’ standings.