This weekend will see the return of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship following a 5 week layoff, that will take place around the picturesque Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire for rounds 10,11 and 12 where the big question will be can MG take the fight back to the Hondas
Former double champion Jason Plato started the season in fantastic fashion in his MG KX Momentum Racing MG 6 taking victory in rounds 1 and 2 but has not won since with a Honda driver winning every race since.
Just like in Formula 1 tyres are playing a big part in 2013 particularly with the new for this year, softer tyres, which they have to run in 1 race on over the weekend where it would appear that Honda are clearly kinder on their tyres. While also at Thruxton even though the cars didn’t have to run the softer tyres due to the unique characteristics of Thruxton the Hondas were once again better on their tyres with Plato getting a puncture whilst in a comfortable lead in race 3, which lost him the lead in the points standing and now as a result trails the Honda Yuasa Racing of Matt Neal by 16 points in 3rd.
However this could work as an advantage for Plato who scored Pole at Oulton Park last year as this means that for the first time since the opening meeting of the year that Plato will head into qualifying and race 1 without maximum ballast.
Since Thruxton many of the leading teams have tested including MG at Snetterton where Plato said the team had found some “demon tweaks”. Plato’s younger team mate Sam Tordoff who hopes to once again step on the podium for the first time since round 3 said that the team head to Oulton with high hopes and have found some gains with the tyres saying, “We made some changes and we’re confident we can get back on top at Oulton Park. We’ll be carrying less weight, so the whole team is really looking forward to it. Our aggressive set-up has definitely hurt the tyres previously but we think we’ve found some improvements in that area.”
Triple Eight team boss Ian Harrison also admits that Oulton Park will be a great opportunity to get the MG back to the top and that it will be “maximum attack” and said, “Oulton will represent a great chance for us, and we need to capitalise on that. We had a great car at Oulton Park last season and the recent test at Snetterton has given us a couple of tweaks to make the car even faster and even more competitive. That means we have to be looking for big points from both drivers to extract the maximum we can from the weekend. No BTCC meeting is ever easy, but this is one where we will go on the attack.”
Despite Neal leading the championship there is little doubt around the BTCC paddock that the quickest package on the grid so far in 2013 is Andrew Jordan in the non work Honda Civic racing for Pirtek Racing. There is also little doubt that Jordan should and would have been leading the points standings had it not been for a puncture in race 1 half way round the final lap at Thruxton whilst on course for victory which not only denied him 20 points but also affected his grid position for race 2.
Once again Jordan will be one of the main guys to beat this weekend at a circuit where last year he just missed out on a victory but did take a double podium and despite the puncture the reigning Independent Champion left Thruxton in positive mood after recovering to get a podium in race 3 admitting that recovering from these setbacks are part of what it takes to be a BTCC champion saying, “We bounced back well after the disappointment of race one. To be in contention at the end of this season I think you have to show how you can come back from those moments, and we did that. Of course, considering the pace we showed at Thruxton it's really frustrating not to have taken a win, but there's been a lot of positives too. We'll keep pushing because we're in the hunt for the championship.”
Star of Thruxton last time out was definitely Tom Onslow-Cole who produced a major surprise in his Team Hard PPCGB.COM/Kraftwerk Racing VW Passat with a double podium and a 4th. What made those results even more remarkable were the fact that the car had never turned a wheel until Free Practice 1 at Brands Hatch only 5 weeks prior Thruxton and that the car is not yet running at its minimum base weight currently running around 25kg over weight, meaning in race 3 he battled from 8th to 4th with 57kg of ballast in the car which is more than race 2 winner Neal was carrying!
Onslow-Cole now heads into Oulton following a mid-week test at Brands Hatch and admits there is still lots more improvements to come and said, "I think we have loads more to come from the car, which is fantastic. We have gone through a lot of major breakthroughs and now we can start to drill down into the little tweaks that really make a difference. Everyone around the programme is really positive and I can’t wait to get back out there again!"
This weekend we should see another car on the grid with the debut of Andy Neate in his IP Tech Race engineering, Team Club 44 Chevrolet Cruze. This will be the first race for the new team set up Neate and the former MG racer hopes that the decision to miss the opening 3 meetings will pay off after a disappointing 2012 with the MG and said, “It might have been possible to cut corners and put a car together that wasn’t 100 per cent, but in my view that just isn’t the way to go about something like this. Reliability is the main thing that we didn’t have last year and I don’t think I made it through a single practice session without something going wrong on the car, so to start off with we’re aiming to finish all three races at Oulton and move forward from there.”
Neate then finished off by saying that he hopes to get good running in the car during the week building up to Oulton saying, “I’ve not been out in a racing car since October last year, so I’ll be taking it steady to begin with. We’ll be shaking down the car on the Monday before the race, then we’re at Brands Hatch, Mallory and Silverstone to really make sure we iron out any issues that there might be before we get to Oulton.”