Rockingham: Series preview

'UNIQUE' ROCKINGHAM TRACK NEXT STOP FOR STARS OF UK's PREMIER MOTOR RACING SERIES The countdown has begun: there are now less than two weeks to go before the UK's premier motor racing series - the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship -...

'UNIQUE' ROCKINGHAM TRACK NEXT STOP FOR STARS OF UK's PREMIER MOTOR RACING SERIES

The countdown has begun: there are now less than two weeks to go before the UK's premier motor racing series - the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship - arrives at the unique Rockingham circuit on the Northamptonshire-Leicestershire border for its crucial penultimate round of the season on Sunday 20 September.

And nerves are bound to be on edge among the leading contenders for they know that Rockingham marks a last chance to keep alive their title hopes before BTCC Finals Day at Brands Hatch, Kent in early October.

Northern Ireland's Colin Turkington leads Italy's Fabrizio Giovanardi by 11 points at the top of the standings - a slender margin considering there are still six races to go (three at Rockingham and three at Brands Hatch) and that each win earns 15 points. Team RAC BMW driver Turkington and Vauxhall superstar Giovanardi, Champion the past two seasons, have been the two stand-out drivers so far in 2009 with 11 race wins between them. But others could yet pip them: Jason Plato, Matt Neal and Mat Jackson can also mathematically still be crowned Champion, although realistically they need Turkington and Giovanardi to suffer some appalling luck.

Plato and Jackson are on a roll at the moment with five wins from the last six races between them in their Racing Silverline Chevrolet Lacettis run by local team to Rockingham, Wellinborough-based RML so both can expect plenty of home support.

Paul O'Neill, from nearby Kettering, can also expect plenty of cheers from the Rockingham grandstands, his giant-killing performances for the small sunshine.co.uk team this season having deservedly earned him the tag of 'People's Champion'.

Another great name to watch for will be Formula 1 star Johnny Herbert - contesting his second BTCC race event after making his debut in the championship's most recent round at Silverstone, also in Northamptonshire.

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As the title race reaches critical point, a huge trackside crowd is anticipated at Rockingham as fans from across the region and surrounding cities that include Leicester, Northampton and Cambridge clamour to see who will come out on top in the battle to win the UK's - and one of the world's - most prestigious motor sport trophies.

Rockingham is unique. It is Britain's only banked US-style 'oval' circuit providing spectators with an all-seater grandstand arena in which they can view the racing action all around the lap. With the BTCC drivers tackling a combination of the circuit's oval and twisting infield section, bumper-to-bumper panel-bashing action is guaranteed. Plenty more drama is also anticipated as a mixture of models including BMW 3-Series, Chevrolet Lacetti, Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic, SEAT Leon and Vauxhall Vectra run doorhandle-to-doorhandle at over 130mph through Rockingham's daunting banked Turn 1 corner.

Opened in 2003, Rockingham is also the country's newest race track, meaning its public facilities match those of any top sporting venue in the country. BTCC race day admission for children aged 15 and under is FREE and just 23.00 GBP per adult if booked in advance on the www.rockingham.co.uk website. Furthermore, Rockingham has said that fans showing a ticket from any BTCC race event this year will also be admitted for the advanced price of 23.00 GBP (instead of the usual on-the-gate price of 28.00 GBP). All prices include complimentary access to the circuit's vast grandstands as well as the BTCC race paddock where the public can rub shoulders with the star drivers.

In addition to the three BTCC races that top the bill of action at Rockingham on Sunday 20 September, there will be another seven races from the highly competitive Ginetta, Porsche and Renault support series for those trackside to savour.

-credit: btcc.net

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Series BTCC
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Fabrizio Giovanardi , Paul O'Neill , Jason Plato , Colin Turkington , Matt Neal