Honda’s points leader Gordon Shedden is predicting that this weekend’s British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) meeting at Oulton Park will feature “the hardest qualifying session to-date for the championship leader”.
Shedden moved into the lead of the BTCC standings after Thruxton thanks to a win in race one, third in race two and a fifth in race three, and the Scot is under no illusions of the difficult task he faces this weekend as a result. The Honda river must carry 75 kg of success ballast as a result of leading the championship heading into qualifying.
“It was great to come away from Thruxton with the results that we did, but it’s going to be tough to begin with at Oulton by virtue of the nature of the circuit,” explained Shedden. “Leading the championship is a bit of a double-edged sword in that respect!
“It’s very much a stop-start layout, which is not an ideal match for carrying 75kg of ballast – it will be the hardest qualifying session to-date for the championship leader and we’ll need to be absolutely spot-on to maximise our potential as it’s notoriously difficult to overtake there. That said, I’d rather have the points already banked than have to fight for them and we’ll just have to try to make up ground as the weekend goes on.
“Everybody loves Oulton Park – there’s a cracking crowd, a fantastic festival atmosphere and we always look forward to going there, and this year will be no different.”
Shedden has won five times before at the Cheshire circuit, out of eight visits in the BTCC, although the Scot’s most recent win came in 2012. His team-mate Matt Neal has also not tasted success since 2012, although the three-time champion has won on the track six times in his touring car career.
Neal echoed his team-mates comments about the challenges of carrying extra weight in the car in qualifying, although he will have to carry slightly less at 57 kg for being third in the championship heading to the fourth round.
“It’ll definitely be beneficial having a bit less ballast in the car, but I still think all the top guys in the championship will have a tough time in qualifying as there are several sections of the lap where you’re in first or second gear and then drag right the way up to sixth,” said Neal. “That means carrying extra weight will be more of a handicap than it has been previously this season.
“Oulton is a high-commitment circuit, and if you put a foot wrong you will end up with a bent car. Every track we go to this year is a completely new scenario because we haven’t tested there with the same kind of weight on-board, but if we can qualify somewhere inside the top six or eight and then move forward from there, I think that would be a fairly realistic objective.
“We never underestimate the opposition, but the Civic Type R is working well, we’re in the hunt and I’m confident in our abilities.”