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Column: Silverstone preview – Jordan in control

PREVThe race to become the British Touring Car champion is nearing its end as the series heads to the home of British Motorsport this weekend, with the teams and drivers taking on Silverstone in what is the penultimate round of the season.

A lot can change in the space of one BTCC weekend, and never has that been more apparent than last time out at Rockingham where Andrew Jordan jumped to the head of the standings after two victories on a damp Northamptonshire circuit.

The circus moves just over 40 miles south from Rockingham this weekend to Silverstone where the series run on the ‘National’ circuit configuration, a 1.64-mile, power-suiting layout with three straights requiring a good deal of grunt for an optimum lap time – where average speeds often break the 100mph barrier.

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Jordan’s faultless driving allowed him to capitalise on his rivals’ problems and surge into a 30-point lead at the fore of the championship, with Gordon Shedden his nearest rival. While the Honda powered cars are largely expected to struggle at Silverstone with their aerodynamic package, the saving grace for Jordan is that two of his three main rivals for the title – Shedden and Matt Neal – are both in the same machinery as him.

But while Jordan profited from the conditions at Rockingham, the weekend was nothing short of a disaster for previous leader Matt Neal. After spinning in the first race of the day, a retirement and an eighth place finish followed and with that his lead in the championship evaporated, as the Honda driver plummeted to fourth in the standings.

Neal’s frustration was further compounded by a broken finger sustained in a martial arts accident, but after doubts were raised about his participation, he was cleared to race earlier today to ensure that his fight to clinch a fourth crown will go on. Teammate Shedden was able to salvage some pride for the works outfit with three top-five finishes including a podium in race two, and they look set to retain both the teams’ and manufacturers’ titles this season, but a lot of work is required if either driver is to win the outright title this season.

Colin Turkington remains well in contention for the championship after another fine showing at Rockingham, where he dragged yet more performance from his WSR BMW with one third and one second place finish and now lies a solitary point behind Shedden. Turkington’s form this season has been nothing short of remarkable and has only cemented his reputation as one of the leading Touring Car drivers to have come from the United Kingdom in recent years.

Jason Plato and MG’s championship challenge appears to be over for another year. Despite taking pole at Rockingham, the cars struggled badly in the damp conditions experienced in race one, and were never able to reproduce their speed from a day earlier. Plato himself has all but written off his chances of winning the title, but a strong weekend at Silverstone – predicted by many due to the car’s straight-line speed – would add a gloss to a season which looks set to ultimately go down as a disappointment to many people’s pre-season favourites.

There was a new but popular face in the winner’s circle last time out as Rob Austin claimed his and his team’s maiden victory in the series, to the delight of many. The Audi driver, who has built up a strong fan base amongst followers of the series since his debut in 2011, faces a drop in boost levels coming to Silverstone after his success, but remains confident of continuing his good form for the remainder of the season.

Once again there have been changes to the driver line-ups, with Aiden Moffat moving to Team HARD. to see out the season with Tony Gilham’s outfit in the Volkswagen Passat raced by Andy Wilmot last time out. The youngster impressed on his debut with Finesse Motorsport in August at Knockhill, and has been given an opportunity to prove his worth in competitive machinery for the final two events of the year. Shaun Hollamby confirmed that the S2000 Honda Civic will once again be missing from this weekend’s meeting, but he will be at the wheel for the final rounds of the season at Brands Hatch in a fortnight.

This week’s final word goes to Lea Wood, who claimed the Jack Sears Trophy title at Rockingham thanks to a clean sweep of class victories, including a last-lap overtake on David Nye in race one after a bold call to switch to dry tyres. Wood’s season got off to a slow start, but in the subsequent rounds he and his trusted Vauxhall Vectra proved themselves to be the class of the field, and having now built up a good deal of experience in the series, his eyes will be turned towards 2014 and a move up the grid.

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