RE-OPENED DONINGTON PARK CIRCUIT NEXT STOP FOR UK'S PREMIER MOTOR RACING SERIES
There is now little more than a week to go before the UK's premier motor racing series - the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship - arrives at the famous Donington Park circuit for its crucial penultimate round of the 2010 season on Sunday 19 September.
The event finally marks a return to top-level motor sport at Donington - near East Midlands Airport on the Derbyshire-Leicestershire border - which has recently re-opened after lengthy repair works following an ill-fated bid to host Britain's Formula 1 Grand Prix. Donington has been a permanent fixture on the BTCC calendar since it re-opened in the late Seventies and in that time has generated a huge following among the public thanks to a surrounding catchment area that includes the cities of Birmingham, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield as well as swift access from the M1, M6, A50 and A42 motorways.
In addition, its parkland setting provides near-unrivalled views of the high-speed, bumper-to-bumper BTCC action and down the years has conjured up some of the series' most memorable moments - Nigel Mansell starring in 1998; Matt Neal's £250,000 win in 1999; James Thompson winning the title by a point in 2004.
Furthermore, Donington's pricing policy includes free admission for children aged 15 and under, plus open paddock access to all public - greatly adding to the appeal of its BTCC fixture. Adult tickets ordered in advance will cost just £24 and are available to book by clicking on the Donington ad banner on the homepage of the BTCC's official website www.btcc.net or by calling 01264 882200.
Meanwhile, Worcestershire-based Neal will arrive at Donington lying second in the current championship standings in his Honda Racing Team Honda Civic - 20 points behind arch rival Jason Plato (pictured above in his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze). Neal, the BTCC Champion in 2005 and 2006, commented: "Donington's three races are crunch time as they will decide who goes to Finals Day three weeks later at Brands Hatch with a realistic chance of the title. I'm 20 points behind Jason but there are 15 for a win and we have three races at Donington and another three at Brands so it's very much all to play for. Donington is also a swoopy circuit and my Honda Civic likes the twisty stuff - we showed that with two wins for our team at Knockhill last weekend.
"But the Chevrolet is a very good all-round race car and I actually think the Fords, with the extra punch from their LPG turbo engines, could have the beating of us all on the uphill sections and the long straights. We could see the top of the championship taking on a bit of a concertina effect at Donington - just what the fans, I'm sure, would like going to Finals Day!"
And added the Shenstone racer: "Above all, I'm just really pleased that Donington is back up and running properly again - it's a great sporting venue with tremendous heritage. The crowds get terrific views and it's also a real driver's circuit. It would have been awful if it had been missing from the BTCC calendar."
Other drivers for whom Donington is a 'home circuit' include Mat Jackson from Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire and Andrew Jordan from Lichfield, Staffordshire (both are also pictured chasing Plato). Each has sprayed the victory champagne this season and Jackson, in his Airwaves BMW, is among nine drivers who can, mathematically, still become BTCC Champion in 2010. Donington is also an important venue for both Jordan's Pirtek Racing team - also based in Lichfield - and the AmD Milltek Racing.com outfit that fields a VW Golf for Shaun Hollamby, specialist exhaust company Milltek being based in nearby Derby.
Donington Park's big race day (Sunday 19 September) includes the BTCC's latest three showdowns of 2010. Adding to the entertainment is a supporting bill consisting of eight further races, among which there is also significant local interest - chiefly 17-year-old Louise Richardson (Grantham) who is in the running for the Ginetta Junior title and Leicester-based Stephen Jelley and Team Parker Racing who will be going for glory in the Porsche Carrera Cup. Ginetta's G50 sportscar series and the guesting Dunlop Formula Ford single-seater category are also on the packed timetable that gets underway at 9.00am.