Thruxton sets scene for BTCC's fastest race weekend
Thruxton in Hampshire this bank holiday weekend, 25th/26th May, will stage the fastest Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship race of the season, as Vauxhall drivers Yvan Muller, James Thompson and Paul O'Neill come under increasing pressure to defend their positions at the top of the table from their Honda, MG and Proton rivals.
Frenchman Muller leads team-mate Thompson, the defending champion, by just two points, with O'Neill a further 24 behind. Together, the trio have moved Vauxhall into a dominant position in the manufacturers and teams' championships as the Luton marque seeks a third consecutive triple crown in this its centenary year.
Honda's Matt Neal, however, won in his Civic Type-R at Brands Hatch three weeks ago, while Warren Hughes and Colin Turkington also proved super-quick in their MG ZSs and only crashes denied them each of a podium finish.
There is also the potential for a major upset at Thruxton, the fastest circuit on the BTCC calendar, as drivers battling it out for the privateer teams' Hilton Independents Trophy aim to get in among the manufacturer outfits' star names.
In official testing at Thruxton, held in damp conditions, Hilton points leader Rob Collard, in his Vauxhall Astra Coupe, was fastest of all. Thruxton is Hook-based Collard's home track and nowhere would a maiden outright BTCC victory be sweeter. Closest rival Gavin Pyper is also looking to give his GA Motorsports team, who are based at Thruxton, their second victory of the season.
In the BTCC's Production class, two wins at Brands hoisted Edenbridge's Michael Bentwood in his BMW 320i clear of his nearest challenger Jim Edwards in Team Varta's Honda Accord. Bentwood, however, fears his rivals, who include local driver to Thruxton, Salisbury's Alan Blencowe aiming for his first production win in Barwell Motorsport's Honda Civic Type-R, may hold an advantage around Thruxton's high-speed lay-out.
Thruxton's BTCC action begins on Sunday, 25th May, with two 40-minute practice sessions from 10.45-11.25 and 12.50-13.30. These are followed at 15.50 by the crucial 20-minute qualifying session that will decide the 23 starting grid positions for the first of Monday's two races, rounds five and six of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Round five, on Monday, is scheduled to start at 11.55 and round six at 16.25. Both races will be run over 25 laps.
For the latest BTCC news, visit the official championship website, www.tocatour.co.uk