It has been 181 days since the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season roared into life at Brands Hatch, but will this weekend’s visit to Silverstone mark the first early crowning of a champion since 1997? TouringCars.Net previews this weekend’s visit to the home of British motorsport, where Colin Turkington has his first opportunity to wrap up the title.
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%.
The third edition of the graph (below) sees Turkington retain his top spot after setting his fastest time in qualifying last time out at Rockingham, which was good enough for second on the grid. Jason Plato retains his second place, with the first big change taking place behind him as a second pole position in two races for his teammate Sam Tordoff sees him leapfrog Gordon Shedden for third.
Matt Neal in the second Honda then splits teammate Shedden from a gaggle of cars behind, which is led by reigning champion Andrew Jordan, who continues to recover after a disappointing weekend at Snetterton eight weeks ago. Rob Collard had led the six-strong group (with Mat Jackson, Jordan, Alain Menu, Tom Ingram and Adam Morgan behind him), but an average start to the previous race weekend has seen him drop to tenth.
Other changes in the field include Fabrizio Giovanardi and Nick Foster swapping places in 15th and 16th, and Warren Scott moving ahead of James Cole into 22nd.
At 1.64 miles in length, the Silverstone ‘National’ circuit is, in simple terms, three straights broken up by corners. Using the former Grand Prix circuit start line, the cars file through Copse and down to Maggotts and Becketts, where the circuit then veers off onto the Club straight. The GP layout rejoins halfway down the straight, before the heaviest breaking zone at Brooklands, which offers the best overtaking opportunity on the track. The right-handed Luffield hairpin follows swiftly, before Woodcote takes the track back onto the start/finish straight to complete the lap.
Given that the straights make up such a great proportion of the circuit, a strong top speed is an essential attribute for a good lap time, while the run from Copse down to Brooklands is where most of the overtaking is likely to take place in the races.
What to expect
Since the MG marque was reintroduced to the series in 2012, Plato and his 888 Racing Engineering team have been dominant on the National configuration, taking four wins from six races. His victory from the rear of the field in that first year goes some way to illustrating just how well the car is suited to the track, and if Turkington is to take the title this weekend, he will have to go to some lengths to overcome the form man at Silverstone.
If, however, the eBay Motors driver does pull out the magic 67-point cushion (three wins, three fastest laps, three races led and one pole position) that would make him safe from any attack at Brands Hatch, his second crown would make him the first driver to wrap up the title with a calendar visit in hand since Alain Menu did so 17 years ago.
In stark contrast to the form of MG at the circuit, since the wide adoption of the NGTC regulations both the works and customer Honda outfits have struggled.
Shedden took something of a shock victory in last year’s second race to keep his title hopes alive, but with comparative boost levels hurting more so at Silverstone than at any other venue, the past three champions (Jordan, Shedden and Neal) have taken just four podiums between them in the previous two years.
The prospect of a tough weekend also serves Shedden’s hopes of staying in the title fight a blow. The Scotsman has – despite his season-long consistency – rarely had the chance to battle right at the sharp end this year, and after his race three retirement at Rockingham three weeks ago, is now 64 points behind Turkington in the standings.
Aside from the MGs at the front, the Airwaves Racing duo of Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi – and Jack Clarke and Dave Newsham in their Ford Focuses – can also be expected to perform well. Jackson took a famous first NGTC win for the Motorbase team two years ago, and will be hoping to add a fifth Silverstone victory to his existing triumphs.
Luke Hines will make his first appearance in the series in nearly nine years when he steps into the United Autosports Toyota Avensis for first practice on Saturday. The 32-year-old was drafted in by the squad after Glynn Geddie was suspended, and with the third of his three previous race victories coming at the circuit, there could have been worse places for Hines to rejoin.
There was good news for Lea Wood as he confirmed that his Houseman Racing team had rebuilt their Toyota Avensis in time to compete this weekend after his shunt at Rockingham, while the series’ youngest race, Aiden Moffat, will celebrate his 18th birthday on Sunday.
As you might expect, Plato is once again the man with the most wins to his name at Silverstone. Four of the double champion’s nine victories have come in the past two years, and few would bet against him adding to his tally this time out.
As was the case last time out at Rockingham (at least prior to the racing), Silverstone is another venue where Turkington has never tasted victory. Jackson has the second highest number of wins at the venue of any of the current drivers, and Alain Menu has perhaps his best chance yet to win on his return to the series, given the performance of his Volkswagen CC in a straight line, as he looks to add to the three victories he wracked up in his first BTCC stint.
Jason Plato – 9
Mat Jackson – 4
Matt Neal – 3
Alain Menu – 3
Gordon Shedden – 2
Fabrizio Giovanardi – 1
Luke Hines – 1
The penultimate weekend of the season is set to be a settled affair, with sunshine on Saturday and a slightly more overcast feel for Sunday, with temperatures still hovering around the 20 degrees mark.