This weekend the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Rockingham in Corby for the penultimate race meeting of the year, with Colin Turkington defending his 11-point championship lead from reigning double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi.
Turkington has lead the series from the half way point of the season but expects the title to go right to the last round of the championship by saying, "I don't expect the title to be decided until race three at Brands Hatch two weeks later (Sun 4 Oct). It's just the way it's been this season. The title normally comes right down to Finals Day anyway - that's the nature of the BTCC - but this year it's been closer than ever. I'd much sooner have an 11-point lead than not, but of course you never feel it's enough. If I was 20 in front I'd want it to be 30 and so on..."
He also admits he has to make the most of this opportunity; one which Turkington has dreamt about from a young age and says the fans are in for a exciting finish to the season, even if it isn't so enjoying for himself. "The fans watching trackside and on TV are in for a treat. I think it's going be more enjoyable for them than it is for the drivers involved! It's going to be a nail biter. But when I started my career my dream was only ever of making it to the BTCC, never of actually being in a position to win it. But here I am and I need to make the most of the moment. Chances like this don't come around every year."
For the second race meeting Anthony Reid will join Turkington and team mate Stephen Jelley. Turkington hopes that just like Silverstone, Jelley will be able to take points off of Giovanardi, although he is fully aware that that will be the game plan for the other two Vauxhall drivers. Much like what Matt Neal did to him at Knockhill, but he admitted that this is to be expected, as long as there is no contact. "It's part of the game at this stage of the season, but there's been no foul play from them and likewise from my team towards them. I'm sure there won't be any of that and I think I can speak for Fabrizio when I say neither of would want it to be sorted out like that."
Turkington finally went on to say that he had enjoyed his on track encounters with Giovanardi but admitted that the two Chevrolets will be the biggest threat and that wins are not the most important thing by saying, "We've had some very good races between ourselves on track in the last two rounds and I'm glad it's him I'm fighting against because it's known around the world what a high caliber driver he is. And you'd be mad to rule out Jason as well with the way he and the other two Chevrolet drivers (Mat Jackson and James Nash) have been going lately. Winning races is always great but at this stage it's not essential... my main goal now has to be to finish ahead of Fabrizio and Jason."
At Silverstone the Vauxhall's were struggling for top end speed which once again could prove to be a problem around the banking at Rockingham, but Giovanardi admitted that he only has one thing on his mind, "I'm only here to win, so that's what I have to do. It's getting very close to the end of the season, but we still have six races left so there is nothing for certain."
Vauxhall youngster Andrew Jordan has had a mixed season and also admitted that the team needs to find some more speed. Jordan hopes the infield section will suit the front wheel drive cars and to have some better luck than Silverstone. He said, "We'll need to find more straight line speed for Rockingham as it has the long, flat out section on the banking. I think the track should suit the front-wheel-drive cars and with it having quite a few overtaking opportunities, as well as the tight, twisty mid-section, there's sure to be plenty of excitement in the races. I just need to be in the middle of it all and have some better races than at Silverstone."
Another Vauxhall driver hoping to have a better weekend will be early championship leader Matt Neal who will notch up his 400th BTCC starts this weekend. Neal hopes to repeat his performance last year where he scored his first win in the Vectra during terrible conditions. He spoke about his chances this weekend and how he feels about reaching this milestone, "Rockingham is a good, technical circuit and is the place where I took my first win with the Vectra, so will hold a special place because of that. I reckon we should be pretty strong at this track, but you never know until you get there. Notching up 400 races I guess is quite an achievement and certainly shows I have a catalogue of experience, but it makes me feel pretty old!"
He admits his main priority is helping Giovanardi and remains open minded about the final six races by saying, "I have to be realistic and I'm fairly open-minded about the rest of the season. I'm looking for the best results for myself and the team, and helping Fabrizio along the way, as well as enjoying the rest of the season with Vauxhall."
Former Formula 1 race winner Johnny Herbert will also enjoy his second BTCC race meeting for Team Dynamics in the Honda Civic and is hoping for bigger and better things at Rockingham, especially as he has already tested the car earlier in the season there. "That means I know the circuit lay-out at least and my times during that test started to come good after James Thompson had driven the car in the morning. It should give me a head's start this time, plus I've now seen how things work, I know my race craft has always been one of my strong points and provided there's decent pace as well then I see no reason why I can't be going for podiums at Rockingham."
Rockingham will also see the return of Gordon Shedden for the third time this season again, running in the Seat Leon under the Club Seat banner with some sponsorship still from Cartridge World. He admitted that much hard work had gone into getting on the grid with welcomed support, which he hopes to reward by saying, "Hopefully it's third time lucky! It would have been easy to say 'sod this' and just write off the season. But I've had a lot of support from a lot of people to get back on the grid, plus I'm fiercely determined to succeed. In any case I've always had to fight tooth and nail to be on the grid so this time is no different"
He then finished off by saying he thought that the circuit would suit the Seat although he will not have the most resources and finished by saying, "I had a good run at Knockhill in the SEAT and know what it's capable of and, looking at past results, it's a car that has shown really strongly at Rockingham. We're probably going to be the smallest team on the grid with only five people or so but I don't think that will mean we're the slowest by any stretch of the imagination"
So that's how the BTCC will head into the last but one race meeting of the year so be sure to return to see who will take the advantage in the final round of the year on October 4th.