Oulton Park: Series preview

NORTH WEST'S HISTORIC OULTON PARK CIRCUIT NEXT STOP FOR UK'S PREMIER RACE SERIES There is now just over a week to wait before Britain's premier motor racing series - the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship - arrives in the North West at...


There is now just over a week to wait before Britain's premier motor racing series - the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship - arrives in the North West at the popular Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire (Sunday 6 June) for the latest round of its exhilarating 2010 season.

It's a fixture that annually attracts a trackside crowd of over 30,000, making it one of the biggest sporting and social events of the year for the North West region - and for many reasons. Oulton enjoys a huge catchment area including the nearby cities of Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. Furthermore, the surrounding motorway network (M6, M62, M53, M56) also provides swift access from Cumbria, Derbyshire, Lancashire, North Wales, Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands and Yorkshire.

In addition, the undulating Oulton circuit is steeped in history and is regarded as arguably the most daunting challenge for drivers on the BTCC calendar. Its picturesque parkland setting also provides terrific views of the track and with the BTCC in bumper-to-bumper action three times on race day the crowds are guaranteed plenty of drama, excitement and unpredictability.

What's more, the public can also take advantage of the open paddock policy and specially organised Pit Lane Walkabout session to meet the BTCC's star drivers for autographs, photos and plenty of team giveaways. Admission for children aged 12 and under is FREE while adult tickets are priced from just £24.00 when booked on the www.oultonpark.co.uk website or by calling 0870 950 9000.

"There's always an electric atmosphere at Oulton," says current championship leader Matt Neal. "It's a proper 'old school' race circuit where the crowds are still pretty close to the cars and can smell the rubber, oil and brakes from the cars. The drivers love it even though at times things can start to get a bit rough out there. It's very fast but also quite narrow in places meaning there's always a bit of push and shove between the cars. It's definitely one for the crowds to savour."

Honda Racing Team driver Neal is actually tied for the series lead with arch rival, Silverline Chevrolet's Jason Plato who adds: "Oulton is one of those 'ultimate' circuits that the drivers and fans both love. It's a great feeling when you head out of the pit lane and see the spectator banks packed with people and colour. All that history also really gives the place soul and winning there is always very special."

This year's BTCC is turning out to be one of the closest on record - the season's opening nine races have been won by seven different drivers* in five different makes of car*. Just 17 points - equivalent in effect to one race win - cover the top six arriving at Oulton which could play a pivotal role in the outcome of this year's title race.

Fourth overall is one of two local stars to Oulton, Widnes's Paul O'Neill. The 30-year-old has so far taken third and second place finishes in 2010 in his Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Honda Integra and Oulton would be the perfect place to open his victory account - it was at Oulton in 2002 that he achieved an emotional first race win in the BTCC. O'Neill will also arrive at Oulton jointly leading the Independents' table for drivers competing with privately-run teams.

Hoping for a big result as well on home ground will be Tom Boardman who races a SEAT Leon for his family-run Special Tuning UK team based in Preston. Boardman, aged 26, led briefly at Brands Hatch in early May and has impressed many with in his first full season in the BTCC with a number of top six finishes.

Oulton Park's big BTCC race day (Sun 6 June) includes nine races in total. While the BTCC's three showdowns headline the bill, there will be a further six races from the high-profile supporting Ginetta Junior, Ginetta G50, Porsche Carrera, Renault Clio Cup and Formula Renault categories that offer the very best in single-seater, saloon and sportscar action.

Acitivity begins with the Pit Lane autograph session (10.35am-11.10am) followed by a BTCC Drivers Parade around the circuit in front of the crowds. The BTCC then kicks off the race action with the first of its three races on the day at 12.15pm. Its second and third races are scheduled for 2.30pm and 5.10pm respectively.

ITV4's live coverage of the event is from 12.00pm-6.30pm and will also be live-streamed on the www.itv.com website.

For all the latest news in the run-up to Oulton's BTCC race day - plus access to hi-res copyright-free images - visit the championship's official website www.btcc.net

The BTCC can also be followed on Twitter www.twitter.com/DunlopBTCC and YouTube www.youtube.com/btccdotnet

-source: btcc.net

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Series BTCC
Drivers Jason Plato , Matt Neal , Tom Boardman