Pendulum continues to swing ahead of penultimate weekend
Scene set at Silverstone as title chase edges towards thrilling climax
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship visits Silverstone (26/27 September) for its penultimate race weekend of the season as the title battle speeds towards an unmissable grandstand finish.
Five former champions currently occupy the top five positions in the standings, with 11 drivers in total still holding a mathematical chance of claiming the much-coveted honours.
Huge crowds have attended venues all around the country during this unforgettable season so far, and Silverstone will be no different with tens of thousands of spectators set to descend on its glorious grandstands and grass banks throughout the weekend.
Rounds 25, 26 and 27 of the 2015 campaign will be contested around the 1.64-mile National Circuit, with the layout normally playing host to some of the closest racing of the year.
Those unable to attend will be treated to eight and a half hours of television coverage broadcast live on ITV4 throughout race day during what is sure to be a pivotal weekend on the calendar.
Story so far: Honda versus VW?
Honda Yuasa Racing’s Gordon Shedden arrives at Silverstone with the championship lead, but if the season is to follow its current trend then he’ll do well to hang onto the advantage going into the Brands Hatch finale.
Only team-mate Matt Neal and their Team BMR RCIB Insurance rival Jason Plato have led the series across two consecutive events, with the latter having traded top spot with Shedden since early May.
It was triple champion Neal that led the way early on before the Civic Type R racer dropped down the order during mid-season. Neal – who will celebrate 25 years in the BTCC at Silverstone – remains firmly in the championship chase, however, having returned to the rostrum in recent rounds.
Despite several contenders still harbouring intentions of winning Britain’s biggest motor racing prize, it has been Shedden and Plato controlling proceedings for much of the year.
Shedden hit the summit for the first time after victory at Thruxton, before a Plato double at Oulton Park sent the VW driver to the top of the table. Consistency at Croft handed the initiative back to Shedden before the Scotsman endured a nightmare trip to Snetterton, handing Plato the opportunity to lead through until August’s event at Knockhill.
Their title-winning credentials were again on show last time out at Rockingham on a quite dramatic weekend of racing.
Shedden moved into a commanding points lead after winning the second race, but Plato immediately reduced the deficit to just six points with his own stellar victory in the final contest. Honda’s Neal is third in the standings with Plato’s team-mate Colin Turkington just behind him in fourth – neither can be discounted.
It arguably comes as little surprise to see Honda and Volkswagen drivers holding the top four positions in the table, with the VW CC and Honda Civic Type R showing speed and consistency at almost every venue.
MG – last year’s Manufacturers’ champions – still hold flickering hopes of Andrew Jordan winning the title, whilst West Surrey Racing is rallying to retain its titles with Sam Tordoff, Andy Priaulx and Rob Collard in the hitherto all-conquering BMWs. Adam Morgan, Jack Goff and Aron Smith are the other drivers who remain in contention.
Talking Point: More Hamilton success at Silverstone?
The name Hamilton is synonymous with Silverstone thanks to double Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton’s achievements at the venue, but all eyes will be on his younger brother Nicolas next weekend.
News crews from around the world covered his debut in the UK’s biggest racing series when he hit the track at Croft in June of this year, and the Cerebral Palsy sufferer has acclimatised well to the hustle and bustle of the BTCC.
Becoming the first disabled driver ever to enter the BTCC is a gargantuan achievement in itself, but to have done so with such relative ease has been even more impressive. He kept out of trouble during his BTCC bow in Yorkshire before narrowly missing out on points-scoring finishes at both Snetterton and Rockingham.
The younger Hamilton has coped extremely well with the media and public interest surrounding his own racing career, but more importantly the AmD Audi S3 driver has not looked out of place racing against some of the world’s best touring car drivers.
As the 23-year-old continues his development in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, it would be fitting if he could score his best result so far at a circuit where his brother has enjoyed so much success.
Local Talent: Silverstone’s Silicon Valley
As the BTCC travels the length and breadth of the country there’s normally a local driver or two preparing for their home event on any given weekend, but when it comes to Silverstone that number grows considerably.
Long having been regarded as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of world motor sport, there are quite literally hundreds of racing teams and drivers based nearby to Silverstone.
Oxford’s Jason Plato is arguably the standout name among the BTCC locals while his team boss Warren Scott and Team BMR RCIB Insurance squad are based in nearby Hertfordshire.
“Silverstone is the home of British motor sport,” said Plato. “It’s where every British racing driver wants to win. It always produces fantastic racing and there’s a few twists and turns to come in this championship yet.”
Nicolas Hamilton considers Silverstone as his local track as may Rob Austin, Hunter Abbott, Jack Goff, Tom Ingram, Mat Jackson and Jeff Smith.
Banbury-based MG Triple Eight Racing will be searching for wins in front of its home crowd, whilst Honda Yuasa Racing, Rob Austin Racing, Eurotech, Power Maxed Racing and Dextra Racing will all be competing within an hour of their respective headquarters.
Timetable and Tickets
The penultimate BTCC triple-header of races will take place on Sunday 27 September, with the entire race day being broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4 from 10:30.
In addition to the BTCC contests, there will also be a bumper bill of support races on show.
Fans will be treated to a GT spectacular in the shape of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Ginetta GT4 Supercup and Ginetta Junior Championship. Single-seater fans can get their fix with MSA Formula, whilst there will be more tin-top action with the Renault UK Clio Cup.
Advance adult weekend tickets are just £35 or £25 for Sunday only. Children aged 15 and under go free. All admission includes free parking. See http://www.silverstone.co.uk/events/british-touring-car-championship/ for more details.