The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads north of the border for its annual pilgrimage to Scotland and Fife’s Knockhill Circuit this weekend (12-13 August), with reigning champion Gordon Shedden set to be backed by a passionate home support.
A tumultuous return to action for Halfords Yuasa Racing’s triple champion last time out at Snetterton forced the Scot into a three-round recovery drive, which was duly topped off with a victory in the finale in Norfolk, and with it the Championship lead. He may have retained his position at the top of the Drivers’ standings, but the margin has been squeezed with Adrian Flux Subaru Racing star Ash Sutton piling on the pressure with a win double last weekend to bring himself right into the fold, while Team BMW duo Colin Turkington and Rob Collard continued their points push to draw within two and four points respectively of Shedden at the head of the pack.
These drivers are merely the first clutch vying for the crown, and with the BTCC’s notorious unpredictability and fierce levels of competition, a host more are waiting in the wings for their chance to close in on top spot and the whole picture can change in just a single race.
“That race three victory just seemed so unlikely after the way the weekend started for us,” said Shedden, on his Snetterton performance. “We’d had our dramas and we were just trying to plug away on Sunday – to get the result was really unexpected. It sets us up nicely and we’re off up to God’s country in a week’s time and my back-yard in Knockhill. The circuit’s a blast. You really have to hang on there and it’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride. It’s a proper touring car track and it always throws up some real, feisty racing.”
Aiden Moffat also counts the seventh weekend on the calendar as his home event. The proud young Scotsman sealed the maiden victory of his BTCC career back at Donington Park and will be looking to return to the fore at the sight of his first podium in the series next weekend. BTC Norlin Racing’s Dave Newsham is another who will receive strong support, having been based in Inverness for a number of years, and the Chevrolet driver has lots to cheer about as he currently tops Dunlop’s #ForeverForward standings – awarded to the driver with the most overtakes during the season.
Knockhill 2016: Vintage BTCC
Last year, Knockhill produced three classics and three prime examples of the ingredients that combine to make the BTCC such a special championship.
Plato delivered peak performance on the weekend of his 500th BTCC race as he sealed a commanding victory in the opener last year. The Subaru man built an ominous gap over the first half of the race, before Jack Goff, then of BMW began reeling him in. Plato’s advantage was then completely eradicated by a safety car period and the outlook of the race turned on its head. However, unfazed, he managed the remaining racing laps with consummate ease – in typically-Plato style – to claim a staggering 95th career victory – the wily racer knew exactly where best to place his Levorg GT in a fine display of defensive driving.
Race two was a barnstorming affair – touring cars at its finest. Triple champion Matt Neal in the Honda Civic Type R clinched a classic, storming through from eighth on the grid to take the chequered flag first. Neal bided his time early on, craftily picking off one victim after another while Plato fought for supremacy with the BMW of Sam Tordoff out front. The lead Subaru began to fade, bunching the chasing pack behind, and no matter how hard Tordoff or Colin Turkington, then driving the sister Levorg, tried, they could not find a way beyond the defending Plato. All the while, Neal gained ground, until he was in range of Turkington and Goff, squabbling for fourth spot. The Honda mainstay wasted little time and pounced when he saw his opening as the pair ahead clashed on the way out of the hairpin and lost enough momentum to see Neal slip through.
His charge wouldn’t end there, though, as when Plato strategically held up Tordoff on the penultimate lap, Neal eyed his opportunity to blast into the lead and grasped it with both hands. A blanket could have been thrown over all three of them as they shot across the line to begin the final tour, and when the dust settled it was Neal from Tordoff and Plato after a breathless battle. Mat Jackson then produced his own memorable defensive drive in the finale, fending off a gaggle of cars to top the pile. Status quo prevailed over the course of the opening laps as Jackson led from Collard and Turkington. Come lap eight, that scrap had spilled over as the latter pair came into contact, tipping Collard into a slide. Further contact ensued as the duo struggled to disentangle themselves and both were fired onto the grass and out of contention. Ford then battled BMW, Subaru and Honda as Tordoff, Plato, and home hero Shedden remained inseparable throughout the remainder of the race. Jackson placed his Focus perfectly to thrwart each and every advance coming from those behind. When the chequer fell, the leaders were seperated by just 1.2 seconds with Jackson the victor.
The short, scenic, undulating and characteristic Knockhill Circuit is the perfect track to tee up three typically all-action rounds and will undoubtedly provide another trio of tin-top tussles that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Timetable and Tickets
All three BTCC races on Sunday, 13 August – and the day’s other races – will be broadcast live and in high definition on ITV4. Those in attendance at the circuit can stay in touch with the commentary and live timing from every session, available at btcc.net/live throughout the weekend.
The support series on the TOCA package are also guaranteed to thrill, with a double-digit total of races set to entertain the crowds. Porsche Carrera Cup GB, F4 British Championship and the Ginettas will all be appearing, making for a jam-packed weekend of truly unmissable racing.
Tickets are still available for the champion’s homecoming at Scotland’s Knockhill circuit (12/13 August), the BTCC’s only venture north of the border. Prices start at just £39 for adult weekend tickets, with discounts available for family bookings and children under 12 able to enter free of charge. For more information and to order tickets, head to www.knockhill.co.uk or call 01383 723337.