NORTH-WEST NEXT STOP FOR BRITAIN'S PREMIER MOTOR RACING CHAMPIONSHIP The countdown has begun: there are less than two weeks to go before Britain's premier motor racing championship - the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship - arrives in the...
NORTH-WEST NEXT STOP FOR BRITAIN'S PREMIER MOTOR RACING CHAMPIONSHIP
The countdown has begun: there are less than two weeks to go before Britain's premier motor racing championship - the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship - arrives in the North-West for its latest round of high-speed action, at the Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire on Sunday 31 May.
Steeped in history, Oulton is truly one of the favourite circuits on the BTCC calendar among drivers and public alike, thanks to its demanding track lay-out, breathtaking views and free admission for children. It is an event that traditionally also draws one of the biggest crowds of the season - in 2008 some 35,000 descended on the parkland venue to watch the BTCC trackside.
Indeed, the Oulton circuit enjoys a vast catchment area. Nearby are the cities of Chester, Liverpool and Manchester while the M6 and M62 motorways also ensure easy access for motor sport enthusiasts from further afield in Cumbria, Derbyshire, Lancashire, North Wales, the West Midlands and Yorkshire.
With the BTCC at its most competitive in over a decade, plus live television coverage across the UK on ITV4 adding to the sense of occasion, another bumper crowd is therefore anticipated on race day on 31 May.
The opening nine races of the 2009 BTCC season - held at Brands Hatch (Kent), Thruxton (Hampshire) and Donington Park (Leicestershire) - have produced no fewer than seven different winners in four different types of car.
Vauxhall driver Matt Neal, one of four past champions on the grid, currently leads the points standings. But chasing him hard are the BMWs of Colin Turkington and Robert Collard and his own Vauxhall team-mate and reigning champion, Italian superstar Fabrizio Giovanardi. Fellow former title-winners Jason Plato and James Thompson, who at Donington became the season's first two-time race-winner, are also very much in the hunt in their Chevrolet and Honda respectively.
Other drivers in other types of car, including SEAT and Ford, are also showing signs of challenging for race wins and podium results - adding to the unpredictability ahead of Oulton's three races.
Northern Irishman Turkington and Yorkshireman Thompson both treat Oulton as something of a home circuit, but not as much as local hero Paul O'Neill - the Widnes driver, brother of pop star Mel C, has been in sparkling form of late in his Sunshine.co.uk Honda Integra and outright podium finishes are a real possibility for the 29-year-old.
Admission to see the BTCC's latest three races at Oulton Park on 31 May is GBR23.00 per adult and free for children aged 12 and under. Tickets can be booked online at www.oultonpark.co.uk and include access to the BTCC race paddock and the specially-organised Pit Lane Walkabout when the public is invited into the pit lane to meet the BTCC's star drivers for autographs, photos and plenty of give-aways.
Adding to the entertainment, there will be a further six races from the supporting Ginetta, Porsche and Renault championships.