Rounds seven, eight and nine of the 2012 British Touring Car Championship take place this weekend at the challenging 2.36 mile Thruxton circuit in Hampshire, with a number of probabilities and points of interest arising.
Which type of car will come out on top and will the weather play its part? People are predicting that the NGTC cars will have the advantage as their tyres will last longer than the S2000 cars, but the NGTC teams have never run their cars at Thruxton while the S2000 cars have been used before.
With the boost pressures being changed for the first time this season, will it make any difference? And the weather being unpredictable adds another dimension to an already unpredictable weekend ahead.
To date, five different drivers have shared the six victories with Honda Yuasa Racing Team’s Gordon Shedden being the sole two times winner, having secured a double win at Donington Park.
Both Shedden and team-mate Matt Neal are previous winners at Thruxton, the two of them led home a brace of 1, 2 finishes in the 2011 race weekend.
Arriving in Hampshire, Neal sits second in the Championship while Shedden is fifth, after his best weekend to date in the BTCC last time out which made up for the disappointment of the opening weekend at Brands Hatch.
Shedden, however is unhappy with the way that the turbo boost pressure has been adjusted for the field apart from the Honda and the works MG’s.
Shedden benefited from the exclusion of Redstone Racing’s Mat Jackson in the final race at Donington Park. Jackson, who was victorious in the first race, had secured the victory in the final race before his exclusion for a turbo over boost problem. This leaves Jackson sixth in the standings but carrying the ballast for second in the Championship.
Aron Smith and Liam Griffin will both be looking for a damage free weekend at Thruxton after incidents at Donington Park hampered their progress over the weekend. Smith is a previous winner around the Hampshire circuit in the Clio Cup.
Leading the way arriving at Thruxton is the MG of Jason Plato. Having secured a victory first time out at Brands Hatch, the 2001 and 2010 Champion secured a double podium at Donington Park to keep the NGTC MG6 GT at the top of the standings.
He was in hot water at Donington Park after he pushed Shedden into the gravel on the final lap of the third race to take second place from the Scotsman. The positions were reversed after the race.
Another beneficiary of the Jackson exclusion was Tony Gilham in the Team HARD. Honda Civic. Having secured a career best result of fourth on the road, he was promoted to third overall and the top Independent driver.
“I want to be stood on the podium after missing out from race three at Donington,” explains Gilham, who is at the wheel of the car which Shedden took to second in the Championship last year.
The fifth race winner in 2012 is Rob Collard in the turbocharged BMW 320si of eBay Motors. Collard secured the honours in the opening round of the season at Brands Hatch and will be looking to secure his first home victory.
Collard arrives at Thruxton having competed in the London Marathon the previous weekend, while team-mates Nick Foster and Tom Onslow-Cole will be looking for strong results as they get used to the turbocharged BMW 320si.
AmDtuning.com has shown glimpses of potential with their VW Golf Mk5 and with Ollie Jackson at the wheel, has shown that they can mix it with the big boys of the BTCC. Donington Park was a write off for the team as they suffered engine issues over the weekend and withdrew after the first race.
Another team to miss out on the Donington Park action was Rob Austin in the Audi A4, again with engine issues. The team lost an engine during the weekend and thus withdrew.
Looking to continue their early season form is Pirtek Racing with their NGTC Honda Civics. Andrew Jordan is third in the Championship having put in a consistent start to the Championship and heads to Thruxton looking to secure his first win of the season.
Team-mate Jeff Smith has also had a solid start to his Championship challenge and has already secured his career best result at Brands Hatch. He will be looking for another strong showing around the fast sweeping curves of Thruxton.
The trio of Independent NGTC Toyota Avensis have had a contrasting start to the season. Frank Wrathall in the Dynojet car has shown why he is one for the future despite some bad luck at Brands Hatch while Ginetta GT Supercup Champion Adam Morgan is looking to continue his education in the Speedworks Motorsport car alongside Tony Hughes, who will be looking for another points finish.
Dave Newsham continues to prove himself as the wild card in the Team ES Racing.com Vauxhall Vectra and will be chasing another strong weekend at Thruxton, despite never racing there in a touring car. Team-mate Chris James will be looking for an incident free weekend in the #78 Vectra.
Another driver chasing a strong weekend at his home circuit is Daniel Welch in the Welch Motorsport Proton Persona. Welch has proven his abilities in the Persona while another dark horse, Lea Wood in the BINZ Racing Vauxhall Vectra could cause a surprise or two.
Missing from the grid this weekend is the Vauxhall Insignia or John Thorne. He has opted to sit out Thruxton to get more developments done to the car. He aims to rejoin the series at Oulton Park in June.
Whatever happens, Thruxton promises to provide another three close, frantic races. All of the action will be reported on Touring-Cars.Net.
Live coverage gets underway at 11am on ITV4 with live timings on www.tsl-timing.com. Qualifying will be live on itv.com from 3.15 on Saturday.
Touring-Cars.Net Thruxton Predictions:
Pole Position:Gordon Shedden
Race 1: 1. Gordon Shedden, 2. Matt Neal, 3. Mat Jackson
Race 2: 1. Matt Neal, 2. Gordon Shedden, 3. Andrew Jordan
Race 3 Pole Position: Frank Wrathall
Race 3: 1. Mat Jackson, 2. Jason Plato, 3. Frank Wrathall
Fastest Lap: Jason Plato