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Silverstone set for five way battle

The final three races of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season take place this weekend on the National circuit at Silverstone, Northamptonshire and according to one of the title protagonists; he’ll need the influence of the weather if he is to defend his crown from 2010.

Jason Plato (Silverline Chevrolet) heads to Silverstone as one of five drivers who can be crowned Champion. Plato has a five point deficit to make up over Championship leader and arch rival, matt Neal, while waiting in the wings is Gordon Shedden. With the two Honda Racing drivers and the Silverline Chevrolet driver up front, you could see a new Champion.

If, however, the top three all have bad weekend’s then both Mat Jackson (Airwaves Racing) and James Nash (Triple Eight Racing Engineering with Collins Contractors) could secure the crown – Jackson stole second in the 2008 final from Jason Plato, a forty two point weekend at Brands Hatch was enough to steal second outright.

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Both Jackson and Nash are the outside bets but they still have plenty to play for in the Independents’ – seventeen points separate the duo with forty five up for grabs while their teams, Airwaves Racing and Triple Eight are still in the fight for the Independents Teams’ Trophy, Airwaves Racing trail by fifteen points.

Speaking to about the final weekend and who he feels will end up as Champion in the outright drivers and Independent drivers Championships, Shaun Hollamby of AmD Milltek said: “I’d like to see Gordon win it, just for the Snetterton move, where he took the wing off to keep himself in the hunt.

“In the Independents, I think Mat Jackson will win it. The Motorbase team have done a fantastic job and if it hadn’t have been for the luck in the earlier rounds, he would have been up there for the outright crown.

“Seeing James Thompson returning is fantastic,” added Hollamby. “He will have 45kgs ballast on board which will hamper his speed slightly but he should be up inside the top ten. How much help he will be to Mat I don’t know. I’m surprised they didn’t bring him in earlier, nor that Honda or Chevrolet has gone for the third car.”

Drivers’ Standings After 27/30 Races.

Driver Wins Seconds Thirds Points
Matt Neal 6 3 1 225
Jason Plato 8 1 2 220
Gordon Shedden 5 4 3 220
Mat Jackson 4 5 1 189
James Nash 1 3 2 181


A Brief Overview of each Champion Contender’s Season to Date:

  1. 1. Matt Neal. 225 Points.

Matt Neal heads to Silverstone leading the way with a slender five point advantage. This means that heading into qualifying and the first race, he will have the maximum amount of success ballast on board his Honda Racing Civic – which won’t assist him on the power hungry Silverstone National Circuit.

Neal will be crowned Champion as long as he doesn’t lose more than four points to Jason Plato or five points to team-mate Gordon Shedden. If he finishes ahead of both Plato and Shedden in two out of the three races and doesn’t lose a massive amount of points in the other race, the title could be his.

What Neal must avoid is another situation like Oulton Park, where he took off team-mate Shedden at the final corner – another incident like this could cost him or Shedden the title.

Overall, Neal should be in the best position but what could count against him is his team-mate, who will also be after the Championship title and the team’s go for it but don’t take each other off approach.

Championship Prediction: 2nd.

  1. 2. Jason Plato. 220 Points.

2010 Champion Jason Plato has stayed in contention for the crown despite being in a normally aspirated S2000 Chevrolet compared to most of his rivals using NGTC Turbo power.

Yes, he has been vocal about the lack of parity between the best S2000/NGTC Hybrid and full S2000 – the Honda Racing Honda Civic and his RML run Silverline Chevrolet.  Eight wins in the season have helped his cause but has also had seven no scores.

He doesn’t expect Silverstone to favour his Chevrolet against the more powerful Turbos and is hoping for the weather to play its part to give him a chance.

Plato does have the advantage if either he and Neal or Shedden finish as joint Championship leaders – he has eight wins compared to the six of Neal and five of Shedden.

All Plato will need to do is outscore Neal by five points to ensure his third BTCC title and second in succession for Silverline Chevrolet – if Plato pulls it off, then Chevrolet will have a clean sweep of Touring Car Titles – World, British and Scandinavian.

Championship Prediction: 3rd.

  1. 3. Gordon Shedden. 220 Points.

Gordon Shedden heads to Silverstone wondering ‘what if’ after a number of incidents during the season mean that he arrives in Northamptonshire not with a comfortable Championship lead but a five point deficit to Neal.

Free Practice One accident at Brands Hatch which he had to start at the back of the grid, losing a sure fire win at Oulton Park after Matt Neal slid into him at the final corner, contact from Nick Foster at Rockingham, the puncture during the opening race at Brands Hatch Grand Prix…

Shedden was predicted as one of the pre-season favourites and his performances tell their own story – he has finished on the podium more times than anyone else this season and has been driving like a Champion in the making.

Arriving behind Neal in the standings at Silverstone could relegate Shedden to the wingman duty but the Scottish driver will want to give the Scottish fans something to celebrate as well as becoming a new Champion in the history of the BTCC.

What he has to do? Stay out of trouble and outscore Neal by five points – Neal has the advantage in terms of race victories but consistency is the key to securing a Championship title.

Championship Prediction: Champion.

  1. 4. Mat Jackson. 189 Points.

For Mat Jackson, the 2011 Championship situation is quite akin to what he faced in 2008. He started off strongly before a lull and then came back strongly at the end to snatch second outright.

He arrives at his local circuit with a thirty six point gap to make up over Matt Neal and knows that he’ll need a strong opening race to ensure that he can take the fight into the second race – with a maximum of fifty two points available from the three races, he has to be within thirty four at the end of race one.

The omens are good for Jackson – since he joined the BTCC in 2008, he has secured three victories at Silverstone (2008, 2x 2009) and has finished on the podium in every season – including all three podiums in 2009.

Jackson also has his eyes on the Independents Crown and has to make up a seventeen point deficit to James Nash to secure his first Independent crown – having finished second in 2007 and 2008, 3rd in 2009 and 4th last year.

Jackson could have been away and gone in both the Independents and main Championship had it not been for one point in six races at Knockhill and Rockingham – having led the Championship after Snetterton, it was looking good.

One good interloper for Jackson this weekend is the addition of the third Ford Focus ST for former double Champion James Thompson – Thompson has been there and done it.

What did Jackson have to say: “I think the Airwaves Focus has potential, the circuit suits the car, and it is going to be interesting with the two best of friends, Matt (Neal) and Jason (Plato) right up there. There could be fireworks. All we can do is the best job we can.”

Championship Prediction: 4th, Independent Champion.

  1. 5. James Nash. 181 Points.

James Nash returns to the circuit where he secured his maiden podium finish in the BTCC with an outside chance of overhauling those ahead of him to secure the outright drivers’ Championship, while he also has the Independents’ Drivers’ Championship lead to defend.

Nash was the early season pace setter, having taken five podiums in six races at Brands Hatch Indy and Donington Park but a mid-season slump in form saw him fall out of contention.

A recent recovery, coupled with his maiden victory at Rockingham has given him an outside chance, but he will need to outscore Matt Neal by at least ten points in the opening race to take the fight to race two.

Nash needs to rely on those ahead of him to have seriously bad weekends’ while outscoring Jackson by nine points to secure his first Championship trophy.

With a seventeen point advantage in the Independents’, Nash just has to follow Jackson home in all three races to wrap up his first BTCC title, while his team, Triple Eight Race Engineering, will hope to sign off the Vauxhall Vectra’s BTCC career in fine style.

Championship Prediction: 5th, Independent Runner up.

What Each Driver Has to do:

  • Neal: Stay out of trouble and pick up some solid points finishes.
  • Plato – Pray for rain, keeps his nose clean and hope Honda’s struggle.
  • Shedden – Beat Neal and not get caught up in any trouble.
  • Jackson – Drive the wheels off the Focus and hope that top three have a bad weekend (see 2008).
  • Nash – Focus on securing the Independents’ but be in a position to benefit from any misfortune from those ahead of him.

Away from the Championship battle, Silverstone will see the final race for the older BTC-T Specification car of Lea Wood as well as the Vauxhall Vectra’s of Pirtek Racing, the team recently confirmed their 2012 plans to contest the BTCC in a pair of NGTC Honda Civics with 2011 line up, Andrew Jordan and Jeff Smith.

For Wood, the Silverstone weekend will be a weekend of mixed emotions, as he explains: “Well it will be a sad day really; it’s great to think I’m the last person to race Integra in the championship.

“Such a great car to learn BTCC in to; let’s hope we get some great support for its last weekend.”

Due to make its debut at Silverstone is the NGTC Vauxhall Insignia of Thorney Motorsport with John Thorne driving, while all eyes will be on Geoff Steel Racing and their expected switch to turbo power in their BMW 320si with Tony Gilham.

Martyn Bell confirmed that it is “90% certain to be out but it all depends on the shakedown tomorrow,” while he also added: “I’d like to see Gordon (Shedden) win it for a couple of reasons. One, he’s a nice guy and never said a bad word about us and it would be a new winner in the BTCC.

“I think Matt Neal will win it but I’d also like to see the underdog win it, Mat Jackson.”

For those drivers who aren’t involved in the Championship battle, there will be pride to play for and the chance to make one last impression before the season draws to a close.

After a couple of strong weekends at Knockhill and Rockingham, the NGTC runners of Frank Wrathall and Rob Austin will be looking to bounce back from a tough weekend at Brands Hatch and finish the season on a high.

With thirty cars expected at Silverstone, setting a new record for the British Touring Car Championship, qualifying and the three races will be busy and you can follow all of it on

Silverstone Schedule:

Saturday 15 October.

09.55 – 10.35: Free Practice 1
12.45 – 13.25: Free Practice 2
15.10 – 15.40: Qualifying


Sunday 16 October.

11.35 – Pit Lane Opens
11.45 – BTCC Round 28 (22 Laps)
14.25 – Pit Lane Opens
14.35 – BTCC Round 29 (22 Laps)
17.05 – Pit Lane Opens
17.15 – BTCC Round 30 (22 Laps)

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