The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship visits the fastest circuit in the UK this holiday weekend (4/5 May) when a packed grid takes on the high-speed challenge of the Thruxton circuit in Hampshire.
The stars and cars of the BTCC will reach speeds of more than 150mph on their annual visit to the region, which attracts vast numbers of spectators from across the South of England and beyond, with many more watching the television action live on ITV4.
Season so far: Five different winners in the opening six races
The opening two events of the 2013 season has already shown the ultra competitiveness of the BTCC, with no fewer than five different drivers reaching the top step of the podium in the first six races.
Double BTCC champion Jason Plato leads the standings after winning the opening two races of the year at Brands Hatch before another podium followed for the MG racer last time out at Donington Park.
Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan already has a race win and a further three podiums to his name in 2013, and the Honda Civic driver is just five points behind Plato in the championship.
The Honda manufacturer pairing of Matt Neal and defending champion Gordon Shedden are still playing catch-up after a difficult opening round at Brands, but both drivers have still taken a win apiece from the first six contests. Neal and Shedden are third and fifth in the standings respectively, sandwiching the impressive young talent of Sam Tordoff who scored a maiden BTCC podium in just his third race for MG.
Rounding out the top six in the standings is Ciceley Racing’s Adam Morgan who has taken top seven finishes in every race, cementing his place as the top Toyota performer so far this season.
The major headline resulting from the last round at Donington Park was the first win of the season for BTCC returnee Colin Turkington. The eBay Motors driver scored a maiden victory for the new BMW 125i M Sport in the final race in Leicestershire, which was also the Ulsterman’s first BTCC win since his 2009 title winning campaign.
The MG KX Momentum squad currently leads both the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ standings from Honda Yuasa Racing.
Talking Point: Thruxton tyre compound and a champion on form
The high-speed nature of Thruxton requires BTCC tyre manufacturer and title sponsor Dunlop to produce a harder compound tyre to cope with the extensive pressures placed on the rubber around the 2.36-miles of tarmac. The cars will all run the Dunlop Sport Maxx Hard tyre in each of the three encounters this weekend, meaning the new ‘soft’ tyre rule introduced for 2013 that requires drivers to use a softer compound in one of the three weekend races is not permitted at Thruxton.
Whilst reigning champion Gordon Shedden may only be placed fifth in the current driver standings, he has stood on the podium in each of the last four races. An overheating car and a ride height infringement prevented the Scotsman from scoring potential podiums in the opening two races of the season at Brands Hatch, but he bounced back in fine style to reach two personal BTCC milestones at Donington Park.
His flying lap during qualifying incredibly earned Shedden’s his first pole position in nearly two years, and his tenth overall in the BTCC. He subsequently converted that pole position into his 30th series victory with a commanding lights-to-flag win.
The Honda Yuasa Racing driver is also the most successful racer on the grid in terms of past results at Thruxton. Shedden has claimed four career BTCC wins at the circuit so far, two of which came on his way to the title last year. So his current form alongside his impressive history at the Hampshire circuit suggests Shedden could be the one to look out for this weekend?
Local heroes: Drivers and teams hoping for home advantage
Two of eBay Motors’ three drivers are based in Hampshire and both are desperate for success at their home circuit this weekend. Eversley’s Rob Collard and Odiham’s Nick Foster have endured challenging starts to their 2013 campaigns with a 12th and tenth representing their best results respectively. Foster and seven-time BTCC race winner Collard will be buoyed, however, by team-mate Turkington’s victory last time out, where the team declared it had found significant improvements in the set-up of the car.
Welch Motorsport, situated in Fleet, is also looking for brighter days on home soil. The Proton of Daniel Welch has shown flashes of speed without being rewarded with the right results so far this season, whilst team-mate David Nye in his S2000 Ford Focus is still searching for his first win in the Jack Sears Trophy.
There has been no such problem for Isle of Wight racer James Kaye however, as the veteran driver has claimed two S2000 wins in his AmDTuning.com VW Golf from the opening six races.
The event at Thruxton can also be considered a home event for the Honda Yuasa Racing squad with the Honda Civic famously being produced at its nearby Swindon plant.