The battle for the 2012 British Touring Car Championship sees the series head into a Northamptonshire double header as Rockingham and Silverstone feature for the next six races.
Rockingham, with the flat out banking plus the tight, twisty infield section always produces drama, with qualifying in 2011 producing the most drama as rivals Matt Neal and Jason Plato came to blows. Both drivers’ were punished for their antics.
Arriving at Rockingham as Championship leader ahead of the eighth weekend of the season is the Honda Yuasa Racing Team car of Neal, who has a 10 point advantage over team-mate Gordon Shedden. Neither Neal nor Shedden have been victorious since the BTCC resumed in August but their results have seen them manage the gap to their rivals.
Leading the charge is Plato in the MG KX Momentum Racing MG6 GT. After the Knockhill weekend, where he started from Pole Position but secured only 6 points overall, the 2001 and 2010 Champion has ground to make up on the Honda’s.
Plato has to be aware that another tough weekend and he will drop behind the Pirtek Racing NGTC Honda Civic of Andrew Jordan. Snetterton winner Jordan has a sizeable advantage in the Independents’ battle, leading Rob Collard by 34 points.
Both Collard and his eBay Motors team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole will fancy their chances of closing in on the Pirtek Racing driver. Collard secured his first ever double victory last time out at Knockhill while Onslow-Cole had his strongest weekend of the season to move him into the overall top six and top three in the Independents’.
Mat Jackson and the Redstone Racing NGTC Ford Focus ST will look to get themselves back into contention at Rockingham while Aron Smith in the S2000 version of the car will hope for a weekend free of any drama after Knockhill.
Rob Austin returns in the #13 Rob Austin Racing Audi A4 and is joined once again by former Formula 2 driver Will Bratt in the sister car. Austin secured his first ever BTCC podium at Rockingham 12 months ago as well as being the first NGTC driver to lead a round of the BTCC.
Frank Wrathall will also look to strengthen his grip on a top ten Championship position after a tough Scottish weekend, where he lost an engine after one racing lap. Rockingham last year saw the Dynojet driver secure a double podium plus a new lap record.
Also returning to the series this weekend is Ollie Jackson in the S2000 AmDTuning Volkswagen Golf. The team opted to miss the trip to Scotland so they could test ahead of the final three events of the season.
The Team HARD. Honda Civic will have a new driver this weekend; Robb Holland has clashing commitments so the car will be driven by Howard Fuller, who makes the move into the BTCC from the VW Cup.
Liam Griffin, Dan Welch and Lea Wood all miss the trip to Rockingham while Tony Hughes returns to the Speedworks Motorsport car having handed the Toyota Avensis over to Paul O’Neill for Knockhill.
Free Practice 1 gets underway at 09.30 Saturday, 22 September with the second practice session due to start at 12.15. Both practice sessions will run for 40 minutes while Qualifying will start at 15.10 and will run for 30 Minutes.
Sunday will see round 22 start at 11:32, round 23 gets underway at 13:52 and round 24 is due to start at 16:50. All three races are due to run over 16 laps of the 1.94 Rockingham circuit.
TCN Rockingham Predictions:
Pole Position: Frank Wrathall
Race 1: 1. Frank Wrathall, 2. Jason Plato, 3. Rob Collard
Race 2: 1. Rob Collard, 2. Tom Onslow-Cole, 3. Rob Austin
Race 3 Pole Position: Mat Jackson
Race 3: 1. Mat Jackson, 2. Gordon Shedden, 3. Matt Neal
Fastest Lap: Mat Jackson