The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship arrives in North Yorkshire this weekend (22/23 June) as an impressive grid takes on the challenge of the Croft Circuit.
Fresh from welcoming more than 40,000 fans to its last event at Oulton Park in Cheshire, this weekend’s BTCC meeting provides tens of thousands of fans from the North East with the chance to see Britain’s biggest and best motor sport series on its annual visit to the region.
Easily accessible from both the North and South via the A1 or cross-country via the A66, fans invariably travel to Croft from far and wide. Those travelling in from the North East areas such as Darlington, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Newcastle are expected to join a large contingent making the trip from Yorkshire.
With its fast flowing high-speed sections through to an extremely tight hairpin, Croft Circuit will provide the perfect challenge to nearly 30 BTCC stars and cars as they take on the final three races before its summer break.
Season so far: Honda versus MG
While there have been several standout performances by drivers from other marques, such as Donington Park race winner Colin Turkington in his BMW, the season has so far shaped up to be a showdown between drivers in MG and Honda machinery.
Honda Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal leads the championship having taken three wins so far this season. The triple champion had a relatively low key event at Oulton Park last time out by his own very high standards, but he still scored big by taking three consistent top six finishes.
Neal holds just a four-point advantage over Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan, who like Neal drives a Honda Civic. Jordan has won two races so far – including the final race at Oulton Park – and his blistering pace has impressed throughout the campaign.
Newcastle upon Tyne’s Jason Plato is just three points further back after taking a dominant double win at the last event. The MG racer won the opening two rounds of the season at Brands Hatch and was in equally commanding form at Oulton Park earlier this month – taking pole position and two victories to edge closer to the championship summit.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden has arguably had a little less fortune than his three main title rivals, but his speed has never been in doubt. The Scotsman has won two races himself, but he’s also missed out on other top results due to a series of incidents from punctures to penalties! The Honda Yuasa Racing driver is within touching distance of the top three, however, and as a race winner at Croft in 2012 on his way to the title, he knows that victory this weekend will thrust him right into championship contention.
Plato’s young team-mate Sam Tordoff has impressed hugely in his maiden full season of BTCC racing – he’s currently fifth in the overall standings having scored a best-ever finish of second at Oulton Park last time out.
eBay Motors’ Colin Turkington and Ciceley Racing’s Adam Morgan are currently the best of the rest in the BMW and Toyota respectively. Turkington won at Donington Park earlier in the year and secured two podiums at Oulton Park, whilst Morgan secured his maiden podium in race three at the Cheshire circuit.
Talking point: MG drivers banking on home support
MG KX Momentum Racing is in the thick of the 2013 championship battle and while the manufacturer itself is based in Birmingham, its two drivers are banking on home support at Croft this weekend.
Top gun Plato (Newcastle upon Tyne) will be hoping to receive support from the North East cities and towns surrounding the circuit while young gun Tordoff (Leeds) will have a host of family, friends, guests and fans travelling up from Yorkshire.
Plato was on fire at Oulton Park recently – literally – after two lights-to-flag victories were followed by a fiery moment in race three, which saw his MG expire in a blaze of flames. Despite the slight disappointment of the final contest it was a telling weekend of dominance for the two-time champion, “What happened in the final race was just one of those things,” he said. “The most important thing for me is that we’ve got the performance and we’ve sent a shockwave down the pit lane. There’s a long way to go but we’ve put on a pretty dominant display, which bodes well for Croft.”
Tordoff has cut a rapid ascent through the ranks in the relatively short time he’s raced in the BTCC with many considering him to be a title contender of the future. He may feel he still has a chance of challenging for overall honours in 2013 having scored two impressive podiums so far, and with a chance of securing his first victory at his home round this weekend.
“There’s nowhere sweeter to get a win than on home ground in front of your home crowd and to do it at Croft would be extra special,” commented Tordoff. “The BTCC is the biggest thing in British motor sport by far and it’s hugely important that the region has a circuit like Croft. It’s not just a big motor sport event but a huge sporting event for the North East full stop. It’s something I can’t wait for. It’s going to be an amazing experience.”
Local Talent: Rising stars on the BTCC bill
Aside from the BTCC action, there’ll be a host of young local talent also racing at Croft this weekend on the support bill.
Fans will be treated to a total of 15 races over the weekend, including the three bumper-to-bumper BTCC contests, and the supporting cast hosts some of the Britain’s best young single-seater, sportscar and tin top talent.
Dan Cammish (Leeds) is the standout name, having won all 12 Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain races so far this season. If Cammish goes on to win the title he’ll be in extremely good company as the series also launched the careers of Ayrton Senna and Jenson Button on their way to Formula One!
A hotbed of emerging talent, 15-year-old Ginetta Junior driver James Kellett is also from Leeds and he’s another who’ll be hoping for success on home soil this weekend. As will Huddersfield’s Daniel Lloyd – the Porsche Carrera Cup GB racer has already taken one victory and a further four podiums in 2013.