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Knockhill preview: Turkington on top


With more than half of the 2014 season already behind us, this weekend’s action marks the British Touring Car Championship’s annual visit to Scotland as the teams and drivers take on the Knockhill circuit.

Jason Plato may have dominated proceedings at Snetterton three weeks ago, but Colin Turkington’s composed driving means he still heads to Knockhill with a 33-point advantage in the title race. With 12 races remaining, can anyone catch the eBay Motors star?

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The series supergrid

As a new addition to the weekend preview, TouringCars.Net is pleased to reveal the British Touring Car Championship supergrid for the 2014 season so far.

The supergrid takes each driver’s best time from every weekend and places that time against the fastest lap from that given event, to give a percentage of the ultimate pace. This process is then repeated for every race weekend, with an average across the completed events ranking each driver by their ultimate pace, relative to 100%.

While West Surrey Racing’s Turkington may be dominating the championship at this point, it is Plato who has been the fastest driver cumulatively this season. The two-time champion has utilised the one-lap pace of his MG at tracks where he has not had the strongest car, while his imperious display at Snetterton three weeks ago served only to reinforce his position at the top.

Broadly speaking, the supergrid is reflective of the current championship order, although there are some exceptions; reigning champion Andrew Jordan saw his figure increase dramatically following his nightmare weekend at Snetterton and subsequently fell to ninth fastest overall, while further down the order Lea Wood has significantly outperformed his raw pace in his Toyota Avensis.

Another interesting reading is that Alain Menu is the seventh fastest driver, but while the Swiss has undoubtedly shown speed on his return to the series, it is his teammate Aron Smith who has taken most of the plaudits after his two victories.

The data also accounts for Dan Welch and Robb Holland’s absences from the Brands Hatch and Thruxton weekends respectively.


The circuit

At 1.27 miles in length, Knockhill is the second shortest circuit on the BTCC calendar (after Brands Hatch Indy), with a real mix of corners making it one of the most rewarding tracks to drive and plenty of commitment required for a good lap time. Despite its relatively short length, the characteristics of the track – which includes plenty of undulation – mean it is likely to be another rear-wheel drive friendly weekend (more on that later), while a full-strength field means that Saturday’s 30 minute qualifying session will be a frantic one, as the drivers look set to struggle to find the clear air that will be vital for a strong starting position for Sunday’s first race.

The weekend in prospect

Every round of the 2014 season has had something to whet the appetite, but as we approach the business end of the campaign, this weekend promises to be a particularly intriguing one.

Championship leader Turkington is hardly expected to struggle at the remaining three rounds of the season after this weekend, but having made ground on everyone except Plato last time out, Knockhill provides the Northern Irishman with the chance to get a firm grasp on the championship trophy. He will, however, have to overcome an eight-place grid penalty if he is to add to his six wins so far this season, awarded for punting Matt Neal down the order in the third race of the day at Snetterton.

While Plato’s eyes may be firmly set on closing the gap to Turkington in the standings – despite his belief that he would be ‘annihilated’ – there is every chance that the 46-year-old could claim a landmark 200th podium this weekend. With 86 wins under his belt, Plato is just two rostrums shy of a double century, and any top three finish would be made sweeter given the MG’s struggles at the circuit since its re-introduction in 2012.

Jordan’s solitary point scored at Snetterton means he is now 78 points shy of retaining his championship, and the 25-year-old admitted that his approach will be different this weekend as he looks to claw back as many points as possible. There will also be celebration for the Pirtek Racing driver as Sunday’s second race will mark his 200th race in the series, although two did-not-start’s (in 2011 at Brands Hatch and last time out at Snetterton) mean he technically has 196 races under his belt coming into the weekend.

There is also cause for optimism for the series’ two returning champions; Fabrizio Giovanardi spoke earlier in the week of recapturing the winning feeling at the site of his first BTCC win in 2006, while Menu will be hoping to reclaim some of the limelight from his teammate Smith, 15 years after his last victory at Knockhill.

For the competing Scotsmen in the series, the trip north of the border also marks their home race. Gordon Shedden remains Turkington’s closest challenger in the title fight, 33 points behind, after a typically canny season thus far from the 2012 champion. His three previous wins at the circuit mean he is likely to be in contention this weekend. Dave Newsham also considers the race to be his home event, and the AmD Tuning driver took the brave decision to race this weekend after the passing of his mother overnight. Rookie Glynn Geddie also makes his BTCC bow at the circuit, and the event marks the anniversary of Aiden Moffat’s shock series debut, when the then 16-year-old competed in an s2000 Chevrolet Cruze.

Form guide

As previously alluded to, Knockhill has in the past two seasons been incredibly kind to the rear-wheel drive powered cars. Rob Collard took a double victory at the circuit in 2012, while Turkington secured a brace last year – after Rob Austin (in his RWD Audi) had taken his maiden pole – and the question most are asking heading to the event is how big the 32-year-old’s advantage will be over the rest of the field.

Of those drivers competing this weekend, it may come as little surprise that Plato has the most wins (7), with Neal (4) and Menu, Shedden and Collard all having won three times at the circuit. In total ten of the current crop have experienced victory at Knockhill:

Jason Plato – 7
Matt Neal – 4
Alain Menu – 3
Gordon Shedden – 3
Rob Collard – 3
Colin Turkington – 2
Fabrizio Giovanardi – 2
Andrew Jordan – 1
Dave Newsham – 1
Mat Jackson – 1


Raceday at Snetterton saw the beginning of the decline of what has been a glorious British summer, but while the temperatures in the lowlands might be somewhat lower than those we experienced three weeks ago, overcast skies on Saturday look set to dissipate by Sunday as the sunshine returns for rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the season.

Keep up to date with all of this weekend’s action on and by following @touringcarsnet.

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