HANTS' HIGH-SPEED THRUXTON CIRCUIT TO STAGE TOP UK RACE SERIES' OPENING ROUND
Local hero Robert Collard aiming to break victory duck on home track
The countdown has begun: 2009's dents have been knocked out and there are now less than three weeks to go before the top teams and drivers arrive at the super-fast Thruxton circuit in Hampshire on Easter weekend (Sat-Sun/3-4 April) for the opening round of the eagerly-awaited 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
The BTCC's return to action traditionally heralds the start of the British motor sporting calendar. And this year Britain's premier motor racing championship will receive more live TV air time than ever before with ITV4 broadcasting direct to the nation's living rooms for more than six hours from all ten race events.
That means the Thruxton circuit near Andover will be host to one of the country's most high-profile sporting fixtures during the bank holiday Easter weekend.
Following Saturday's practice and qualifying sessions, crowds of tens of thousands are expected to take up their places trackside on Thruxton's vast banking on the Sunday to see the first three races of the new BTCC season.
There'll surely be plenty of support for Hampshire's very own BTCC hero, Robert Collard, who starts the season among the title favourites following his decision to join BMW team WSR which won last year's title (he is pictured above in action last year at Thruxton in former team Motorbase's BMW).
The 41-year-old racer from Hook, who has still to win a BTCC race at Thruxton, says: "This has all the makings of a phenomenal event, both for the drivers and the public. It's been six months since last year's final round so every driver will be fired up to get their season off to a good start - that can often lead to some very dramatic action, possibly even more so this year as Thruxton is a really high speed circuit. There could be some very hairy moments.
"Thruxton is also one of the BTCC's best circuits in terms of atmosphere and viewing. It always pulls a huge crowd - particularly as there's free admission for children, plus the chance to meet the BTCC's drivers.
"Hopefully there'll be lots of cheers for my BMW but there are lots of other very competitive cars out there, such as the Fords, Hondas, Vauxhalls, Chevrolets and SEATs. There's even a new VW Golf which could surprise a few people. The fact the cars we race in the BTCC are based on the cars that many of the public drive on the road is another of the BTCC's big draws. Everyone's got their favourite to cheer on. It all adds to the rivalries - all friendly of course! - both on and off the track…
"I had two race wins last season and was briefly looking at challenging for the title," continues Collard who is targeting even greater success in 2010. "This year I've given myself the best chance possible by driving for WSR, the reigning champions. Bizarrely, Thruxton's not been too kind to me in the past but this year I'm aiming to put all that right."
And Collard will be getting in some race practice this weekend - only on foot when he contests Sunday's (21 March) Reading Half Marathon.
Tickets just £22.00; FREE for kids Meanwhile, tickets to Thruxton's big BTCC race day (Sun 4 Apr) are priced at just £22.00 per adult and can be booked in advance via the www.barc.net website or by calling the hot line on 01264 882200. Admission for children is FREE. Once through the gate, there is also access to the BTCC's hugely popular 'Pit Lane Walkabout' session offering the public - including families - the chance to meet the star drivers for autographs, photos and team give-aways.
Adding to a great value-for-entertainment day out, there will be a further seven races from the BTCC's resident supporting categories that provide the very best in sportscar, saloon and single-seater competition in the UK, namely: Ginetta G50s, Ginetta Juniors, Porsche Carrera Cup, Renault Clio Cup and Formula Renault UK.