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Column: Snetterton preview – BTCC is back

Photo by Riad Ariane Media/ a six week break from action, the British Touring Car Championship roars back into life this weekend as the series heads to Norfolk to tackle the Snetterton circuit, which plays host to the sixth round of the season.

After a thrilling first half to the championship, this weekend’s racing promises to continue the thrilling spectacle that fans of the series have been accustom to this season and for years previous, with the teams rejuvenated and ready to prove their worth ahead of the final five rounds in 2013.

It will be just the third time that the BTCC has raced on the ‘Snetterton 300’ configuration circuit, and at 2.97 miles in length and each lap taking nearly two minutes, the circuit is the longest in both distance and lap time that the championship visits.

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So what of the runners and riders?

MG head into the event on the back of an imperious display in testing at the circuit during the summer break, albeit without fierce rivals Honda for company. Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff were comfortably quicker than the competition during the test at the beginning of July, and despite a tough weekend in Croft which was compounded by poor tyre decisions, the squad will go into the weekend in the knowledge that they (and in Plato in particular) will be as tough to beat here as they have been in previous rounds.

Despite being absent from the general test, Honda have racked up the miles in a bid to sustain their lead at the head of the championship. After a less than auspicious start to his title defence at Brands Hatch, Gordon Shedden has battled his way back into the title race with some fine performances and race craft, while the ever-consistent Matt Neal leads the championship with four wins to his name from an impressive first half of the season. The team will as ever go into the weekend as many people’s favourites fo r victory, something that will do no harm to their aim of retaining the manufacturer’s championship.

After a sluggish start to the campaign, eBay Motors are in Bullish mood heading into the weekend, on the back of a strong turn of form that has propelled Colin Turkington up the rankings, with messes Neal, Shedden, Plato and Jordan all looking over their shoulders as the Northern Irishman continues to impress on his return to the series.

The six week break was a busy one for Tony Gilham’s Team HARD outfit. After James Cole’s departure from the team following a testing debut in the series, the squad have linked up with BMR Restart and Warren Scott – who had previously been in the Seat Leon – to continue the second Passat’s participation in the championship. Scott’s performance this weekend will be interesting to monitor, as it will be his first real chance to prove how competitive he can be and with a teammate to compare himself to. American Robb Holland was also announced as the team’s second Vauxhall Insignia driver, rekindling his link with the team after two outings in 2012.

Snetterton will also be an important round for Rob Austin Racing. Brands Hatch aside, where Austin set the fastest lap and secured a podium in the opening race of the season, the team have been stuck in the low end of the points for some time and will hope that the return to racing will mean a return to form. Austin himself is already on the back-foot however, having been attacked by a shark whilst recently holidaying in Greece.

The sixth round of the season will also mark the first appearance of Andy Neate’s much anticipated debut in his Team Club 44 Chevrolet Cruze. With budget and preparatory factors forcing eleventh-hour withdrawals from the previous two rounds, a shakedown earlier in the week at Snetterton mean’s that Neate will finally hit the track in anger this weekend. Neate has been keen to stress throughout the season that he wants to be competitive, so it will be intriguing to see how well he can perform in a competitive field.

Free practice one takes place at 09:00 BST on Saturday 3rd August.

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