Hot championship battle heads to Scotland

Hot championship battle heads to Scotland

BTCC Heads To Scotland as the Championship Battle Heats Up This weekend sees the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship cross the border for the only time this season to reach Knockhill in Scotland. Following Silverstone Silverline...


BTCC Heads To Scotland as the Championship Battle Heats Up

This weekend sees the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship cross the border for the only time this season to reach Knockhill in Scotland. Following Silverstone Silverline Chevrolet driver Jason Plato now has a 14-point advantage but it is now Tom Onslow-Cole for Team Aon who is leading the charge.

Tom Onslow-Cole leads Tom Chilton and Jason Plato at Silverstone.
Photo by Pat Cranham.

Knockhill in Fife is always a favourite among fans and drivers alike with the current points leader Plato describing it as the ultimate BTCC track by saying, "Knockhill is probably the ultimate BTCC circuit. Consider what the BTCC is all about - close, competitive, bumper-to-bumper, rubbing panels, going for the big moves and putting on a show for the public. If you were to sit down and dream up a circuit for the BTCC then Knockhill is probably it. It's a fantastic challenge for the drivers and a fantastic arena for people who love any sport to come and watch. The public can literally smell the action. A few other circuits around the UK allow the crowds to get as close in some areas but not all the way round like Knockhill. It retains a real 'old school' feel to it and unlike other circuits hasn't been toned down."

Like in so many of the event's this year Plato's teammate Alex MacDowall proved he had the pace but just missed out on that one good result. Once again having out qualified Plato, MacDowall just missed out on a podium in race 1 by finishing in 4th. Race 2 and 3 were a familiar story though for the Chevrolet youngster going backwards in race 2 in the opening laps while in race 3 he stalled on the grid being collected extremely heavily by the Forster Motorsport BMW of Martin Depper turning the Chevrolet in to a compact!

Speaking after the accident and ahead of this weekend MacDowall who even suffered some whiplash due to the incident said, "Thankfully the whiplash is fine now. I didn't suffer from it too much and the car will be OK for Knockhill. It took a pretty heavy hit but the team is fitting a new rear-end and boot floor."

This time out the 2009 Clio runner up, who has some family roots up there, is hoping to follow in his father's footsteps. His father took three championships in the Scottish Saloon Car Championship, and MacDowall believes he will be on the pace. "I'm looking forward to a good weekend at Knockhill. I think the Cruze will be strong as the car has a good balance over the kerbs and a strong front-end and that's exactly what you need there," MacDowall said.

Alex MacDowall Silverline Chevrolet.
Photo by Pat Cranham.

He then revealed what he had been doing in preparation for this weekend and finished by saying, "I haven't been up to Knockhill for some time - the last time I was there was a one-off drive in the SEATs back in 2007. I did do a track day in my road car last week just to get back up to speed with the racing line and it all went well. If I can qualify on the front two rows there's a strong chance of a podium."

Onslow-Cole now is Plato's biggest challenger and is now just 14-points behind the 2001 champion however this could have been down to as little as 6 after Silverstone. Despite winning the last race of the day Onslow-Cole was also comfortably in the lead of the other two but in both races it appeared that he was ordered to let his teammate of Tom Chilton past.

Although hampering Onslow-Cole, this allowed Chilton to take a double victory and move himself into the championship hunt where he now believes that there are up to five contenders for the crown. Chilton said, "I think the title is looking not that far away from me, bear in mind I scored 37 points at Silverstone and the gap between us is 44 ... all I need is Jason to have one bad weekend.

"He had one at Brands Hatch in May so it can happen. That was a bad event for me as well because I had a win taken away from me. Had it not have been I'd have probably had another 22 points and already inside the top three. I've been playing catch-up ever since. Bueam has not messed about in two minds - it's taken the decision and now can put all its efforts into using the next four weeks or so to make sure the car is right for Donington," said Depper.

Also missing out are Lea Wood in his Central Racing Group's Honda Integra and Martin Johnson in his Team Boulevard Astra Coupe.

Wood explained that due to a family wedding and because of mechanical issues from Silverstone the team was left with no time to prepare the car for Knockhill and said, "Greg will be in Las Vegas on honeymoon but it might still have been do-able had we not blown the gearbox at Silverstone. We still need to source a 'box and with us being a small family team we've just not got enough time, particularly with a wedding to arrange as well!" While Johnson explained the reasons for missing out by saying, "I could go to Knockhill and pick up a few points, or I could go there and end up with damage or blow an engine and that could be the end of our season. I'd love to be racing at Knockhill but by missing it I know, looking at the balance sheet right now, I will be doing Donington and Brands"

So that's how the BTCC is looking heading in to Knockhill. Motorsport.com will now be at all the remaining BTCC races including of course this weekend as the series reaches its climax.

So be sure not to miss out on any of the news as the championship heads towards the penultimate two meetings of the year following the weekend's proceedings.

t I am certain it will come right down to the final round at Brands between the five of us. I don't think there will have ever been that many drivers still in with a chance going into the final day of the season. It will be awesome," continued Chilton.

Both Ford drivers have been hit with several restrictors on their LPG Turbo powered Ford and this time it was Chilton doing the whining by saying, "I'm going to change the press after Silverstone. I'm now praying for circuits with short straights. Our cars don't have mega 'top end' performance anymore. I got hit by Mat Jackson's BMW at the end of a long straight at Silverstone because he was faster than me at the end of the straight."

Although at Knockhill he feels that it won't be so much of a disadvantage and may even work in their favour and finished by saying, "I don't think Knockhill will be so bad. It's a tight, twisty circuit and although the LPG technology means we've had extra weight to carry the progress we made with the chassis at Silverstone makes me feel quite confident. On top of that, giving us a smaller restrictor on the engine has actually improved the car's engine braking. There are also several uphill sections out of corners at Knockhill and the torque we have in the engine should be good for us. But we might be at a disadvantage when we start using the kerbs, which you have to at Knockhill. That gives you wheel spin and with our engine that starts sprawling the turbo up a bit for us so it might require a slightly different application on the throttle."

The tight and twisty circuit is also expected to give the two Honda Civics an advantage which is great news for former points leader Matt Neal who has now slipped back to third in the points following a tough weekend at Silverstone.

This will also be good news for local hero Gordon Shedden, who knows Knockhill better than anyone being an instructor there and he also is married to the circuit's owner's daughter.

Last year Shedden took a superb second driving for the now departed Cartridge World Seat team in only his second event for the team but this time hopes to go one better: "We're at the stage where the championship fight starts to get a bit more dramatic. After Knockhill we've only Donington Park and Brands Hatch to sort it all out so this weekend is going to be very important to those still in the hunt. We've just got what are possibly our worst two circuits out of the way - at Snetterton and Silverstone - but are still in touch with the leaders and now comes Knockhill, a circuit that we believe will be much better for the Honda. It's twisty and up and down - a bit like a rollercoaster ride but you don't know if you're ever going to reach the end. The Honda is fantastic on the brakes and cornering so hopefully it's our kind of territory."

Like so many of the drivers Shedden is a huge fan of the event for many reasons and he recalled watching his heroes during the early 90s' at Knockhill inspiring him to become one himself and said, "The BTCC at Knockhill is just an awesome spectacle and appeals to so many different kinds of people from all across the country. Sure, the motor sport fans will be out in force - for many it's their only chance to see the BTCC this year. The championship's been coming here for nearly 20 years now and I don't think in that time the crowds have ever had one dull race. I recall watching John Cleland win here many years ago and being part of the crowd - the atmosphere is something I'll never forget. It was a huge inspiration for me and now I'm the one they're cheering for around the track, which is an amazing feeling."

Sadly though there will be a few absentees from this weekend's event, although all hope to be back for Donnington.

First absentee are the two Forster Motorsport BMWs. As already mention Depper's BMW suffered severe front end damaged from his start line collision with the Chevrolet. "Obviously there's disappointment in not being able to do Knockhill but you have to accept that sometimes these things can happen in motor sport. What's important is the team has not messed about in two minds - it's taken the decision and now can put all its efforts into using the next four weeks or so to make sure the car is right for Donington," said Depper.

Also missing out are Lea Wood in his Central Racing Group's Honda Integra and Martin Johnson in his Team Boulevard Astra Coupe.

Wood explained that due to a family wedding and because of mechanical issues from Silverstone the team was left with no time to prepare the car for Knockhill and said, "Greg will be in Las Vegas on honeymoon but it might still have been do-able had we not blown the gearbox at Silverstone. We still need to source a 'box and with us being a small family team we've just not got enough time, particularly with a wedding to arrange as well!" While Johnson explained the reasons for missing out by saying, "I could go to Knockhill and pick up a few points, or I could go there and end up with damage or blow an engine and that could be the end of our season. I'd love to be racing at Knockhill but by missing it I know, looking at the balance sheet right now, I will be doing Donington and Brands"

So that's how the BTCC is looking heading in to Knockhill. Motorsport.com will now be at all the remaining BTCC races including of course this weekend as the series reaches its climax.

So be sure not to miss out on any of the news as the championship heads towards the penultimate two meetings of the year following the weekend's proceedings.

t I am certain it will come right down to the final round at Brands between the five of us. I don't think there will have ever been that many drivers still in with a chance going into the final day of the season. It will be awesome," continued Chilton.

Both Ford drivers have been hit with several restrictors on their LPG Turbo powered Ford and this time it was Chilton doing the whining by saying, "I'm going to change the press after Silverstone. I'm now praying for circuits with short straights. Our cars don't have mega 'top end' performance anymore. I got hit by Mat Jackson's BMW at the end of a long straight at Silverstone because he was faster than me at the end of the straight."

Although at Knockhill he feels that it won't be so much of a disadvantage and may even work in their favour and finished by saying, "I don't think Knockhill will be so bad. It's a tight, twisty circuit and although the LPG technology means we've had extra weight to carry the progress we made with the chassis at Silverstone makes me feel quite confident. On top of that, giving us a smaller restrictor on the engine has actually improved the car's engine braking. There are also several uphill sections out of corners at Knockhill and the torque we have in the engine should be good for us. But we might be at a disadvantage when we start using the kerbs, which you have to at Knockhill. That gives you wheel spin and with our engine that starts sprawling the turbo up a bit for us so it might require a slightly different application on the throttle."

The tight and twisty circuit is also expected to give the two Honda Civics an advantage which is great news for former points leader Matt Neal who has now slipped back to third in the points following a tough weekend at Silverstone.

This will also be good news for local hero Gordon Shedden, who knows Knockhill better than anyone being an instructor there and he also is married to the circuit's owner's daughter.

Last year Shedden took a superb second driving for the now departed Cartridge World Seat team in only his second event for the team but this time hopes to go one better: "We're at the stage where the championship fight starts to get a bit more dramatic. After Knockhill we've only Donington Park and Brands Hatch to sort it all out so this weekend is going to be very important to those still in the hunt. We've just got what are possibly our worst two circuits out of the way - at Snetterton and Silverstone - but are still in touch with the leaders and now comes Knockhill, a circuit that we believe will be much better for the Honda. It's twisty and up and down - a bit like a rollercoaster ride but you don't know if you're ever going to reach the end. The Honda is fantastic on the brakes and cornering so hopefully it's our kind of territory."

Like so many of the drivers Shedden is a huge fan of the event for many reasons and he recalled watching his heroes during the early 90s' at Knockhill inspiring him to become one himself and said, "The BTCC at Knockhill is just an awesome spectacle and appeals to so many different kinds of people from all across the country. Sure, the motor sport fans will be out in force - for many it's their only chance to see the BTCC this year. The championship's been coming here for nearly 20 years now and I don't think in that time the crowds have ever had one dull race. I recall watching John Cleland win here many years ago and being part of the crowd - the atmosphere is something I'll never forget. It was a huge inspiration for me and now I'm the one they're cheering for around the track, which is an amazing feeling."

Sadly though there will be a few absentees from this weekend's event, although all hope to be back for Donnington.

First absentee are the two Forster Motorsport BMWs. As already mention Depper's BMW suffered severe front end damaged from his start line collision with the Chevrolet. "Obviously there's disappointment in not being able to do Knockhill but you have to accept that sometimes these things can happen in motor sport. What's important is the team has not messed about in two minds - it's taken the decision and now can put all its efforts into using the next four weeks or so to make sure the car is right for Donington," said Depper.

Also missing out are Lea Wood in his Central Racing Group's Honda Integra and Martin Johnson in his Team Boulevard Astra Coupe.

Wood explained that due to a family wedding and because of mechanical issues from Silverstone the team was left with no time to prepare the car for Knockhill and said, "Greg will be in Las Vegas on honeymoon but it might still have been do-able had we not blown the gearbox at Silverstone. We still need to source a 'box and with us being a small family team we've just not got enough time, particularly with a wedding to arrange as well!" While Johnson explained the reasons for missing out by saying, "I could go to Knockhill and pick up a few points, or I could go there and end up with damage or blow an engine and that could be the end of our season. I'd love to be racing at Knockhill but by missing it I know, looking at the balance sheet right now, I will be doing Donington and Brands"

So that's how the BTCC is looking heading in to Knockhill. Motorsport.com will now be at all the remaining BTCC races including of course this weekend as the series reaches its climax.

So be sure not to miss out on any of the news as the championship heads towards the penultimate two meetings of the year following the weekend's proceedings.

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About this article
Series BTCC
Drivers Tom Chilton , Jason Plato , Matt Neal , John Cleland , Tom Onslow-Cole , Gordon Shedden , Martin Johnson , Mat Jackson , Martin Depper , Lea Wood , Alex MacDowall