The British Touring Cars made their annual trip north of the border to Knockhill on August Bank Holiday weekend. There were several strong performances from the drivers and teams, as three drivers won for the first time this season. It was also the first time since soft tyres were introduced, that all three races were won by cars using them.
Championship leader, Colin Turkington, set the fastest time in qualifying but lined up 9th following a grid penalty from Snetterton. Turkington’s teammate, Rob Collard, lined up at the back of the grid, again due to misdemeanours. It meant that Sam Tordoff took pole, from an impressive performance from Sherman and Rob Austin, Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden, Matt Neal and Jason Plato. There was BTCC-best qualifying for Glynn Geddie in 10th and Hunter Abbott in 11th.
Race One started slowly, as the front-runners stayed in position off the start line although Turkington did manage to get ahead of Nick Foster for 8th. On lap 4, Shedden managed to pass Jordan at the Hairpin after running closely behind him for a few laps. Lap 7 brought the first major incident of the day as Dan Welch launched into the side of Robb Holland off the curbs, damaging his front wheel and suspension. Welch later received a warning for his part in the incident.
Last weekend EngageSportMode made its first trip all the way from the North East to Thruxton in the South. After several hundred miles of driving, lots of energy drinks and the requisite sunburn quota, was it all worth it?
302 miles is the distance from EngageSportMode.com headquarters to Thruxton race circuit in Hampshire. Local to us it certainly is not. As such, this was the UK’s fastest circuit’s one opportunity to impress. Between ESM’s BTCC Correspondent and myself we’ve visited Knockhill, Donington Park, Oulton Park, Rockingham, Goodwood and, of course, Croft. Visiting a new circuit is always exciting, so expectations were high.
However, Thruxton kicked us in the proverbials from the off with an hour-long wait in traffic to get into the circuit. ESM has been to enough race meetings to know that some queuing is inevitable, with tracks always sited in the middle of nowhere with poor access. But as soon as it became nose-to-tail on the A303 we knew it was going to be a long wait to get into the track. Perhaps more noticeable by its absence was the relative lack of traffic management. Bar one set of traffic lights on a side road, it was otherwise a case of fight it out amongst yourselves. Not a great first impression. Car parking itself was also somewhat amusing, with the need for five people to guide each car into each space.
The time for talking is over, the time for pre-season testing is over, the time for relaxing on a Sunday afternoon is over; the British Touring Car Championship is back for a new campaign. Admittedly, I haven’t been all that interested in the close season, perhaps more due to a young child, but that’s not to say I haven’t been keeping my eye on events. I’d highlight 2 major additions to the 2014 driver-up as being the biggest news from the pre-season build up.
The 1997 and 2000 champion Alain Menu returns to the BTCC for the first time since his one-off appearance at Thruxton in 2007 to help Fabrizio Giovanardi win the title, and for his first full season since his title-winning campaign in 2000. Funnily enough, it’s the man who he helped win the title in 2007 who is also returning. Double champion from 2007 and 2008, Giovanardi also returns with Airwaves Racing and the Ford Focus. Menu has joined the confident CHROME Edition Restart Racing team, driving a Volkswagen CC. The addition of the duo forms a line-up of 7 BTCC champions on the starting grid.
All 7 champions will no doubt be hoping to add another crown to their former glories. Reigning champion Andrew Jordan will be eager to retain his title after fighting so hard to claim his first crown last time out. However, standing in his way will be the Honda duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in their now estate Civic, as well as stalwart Jason Plato and ESM favourite, Colin Turkington. I’m not sure whether the cars of Giovanardi and Menu will be strong enough to sustain a full title challenge, but I’m sure they’ll be somewhere in the mix.
I’ve compiled a few thoughts and predictions about the 31 car strong grid for 2014 below: (more…)