British Touring Car Championship heads to Croft for the fifth round of the 2012 season, a rear-wheel drive favouring circuit but also a track where Honda have been strong in recent years.
In 2009, in West Surrey Racing’s championship winning season, the team took a pair of 1-2 finishes with their rear-wheel drive BMWs with Colin Turkington leading Stephen Jelley. Last year, the team finished on the podium in all three races despite, running the out-of-favour normally aspirated engine. This year with a pair of Neil Brown built turbocharged engines, the expectation is they could well be the team to beat at the North Yorkshire circuit this year.
“I hope so,” said Collard to TouringCarTimes. “Some of our form book has been torn up a bit this year; where we thought we were going to be quick we haven’t been quick, and other tracks we have been quick. I think Croft will be good for us, we’ve got the power now, and if we can carry on with the development of the car, as the car’s still improving every weekend, it’s looking good.”
Honda Racing Team also expect to feature well at Croft, another technical circuit following on from Oulton Park, where Matt Neal took two wins and team-mate Gordon Shedden moved into the lead of the championship. The team will carry the maximum penalty ballast going into a weekend for the first time this year as a result, with Shedden carrying 45kg and Neal 36kg of weight during qualifying and race one.
Triple Eight with their Next Generation Touring Car specification MG6 will lose weight in a qualifying session for the first time since Brands Hatch, with Jason Plato running with 18kg of ballast at Croft.
“I can’t wait for Croft; it’s like coming home for me, having been brought up in Newcastle,” said Plato. “It’s a great circuit with a fantastic combination of corners and I am confident we can get a great set of results this weekend. Having lost the championship lead at Oulton Park, I will start the weekend with 18kgs less success ballast. Pole position in qualifying is the target and then wins must be on our radar.”
The fight in the independents’ championship is also hotting up, which is also mirrored in the overall championship as the fight for fourth place, though due to the separate points system the order is slightly different. Rob Collard sits in fourth place overall, just three points ahead of Eurotech Racing’s Andrew Jordan with Motorbase Performance’s Mat Jackson a further two points behind, whilst in the independents’ class Jordan leads by six points over Collard, with Jackson a further five points back.
After a tough weekend at Oulton Park, Jackson lost the lead of the independents’ championship but hopes to bounce back at Croft, where he won the third race of the day last year and went into the summer break second in the standings.
“As ever beating the NGTC cars is going to be tough but we’ve proved twice already this season it can be done,” said Jackson. “They’ll have success ballast in their cars for qualifying and Croft is a circuit where ballast hurts so we need to try and capitalise on that. The trick will be to qualify ahead of them or somehow get ahead of them in the first few laps before they get into their stride.”
This weekend there are a few changes to the entry list, with 23 cars entered this weekend with Rob Austin Racing fielding both of their Audi A4s for Austin himself as well as Will Bratt.
Tony Hughes will miss this weekend’s race due to other commitments, but his place at Speedworks Motorsport has been taken by fan favourite Paul O’Neill, who will run in the #29 Toyota Avensis in Hughes’ colours.
All of Sunday’s action will be broadcast live in the UK on ITV from 11:30 to 18:30, including the support package featuring the Ginetta GT Supercup, Porsche Carrera Cup GB and Ginetta Junior Championships.
British Touring Car Championship – Croft Entry List
No – Driver – Team – Car – Type
1 – Matt Neal – Honda Racing Team – Honda Civic – NGTC
4 – Mat Jackson* – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – S2000/NGTC
5 – Aron Smith* – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – S2000/NGTC
6 – Liam Griffin* – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – S2000/NGTC
8 – Rob Collard* – West Surrey Racing – BMW 320si – S2000/NGTC
11 – Frank Wrathall* – Dynojet Racing – Toyota Avensis – NGTC
12 – Daniel Welch* – Welch Motorsport – Proton Persona – NGTC
13 – Rob Austin* – Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4 – NGTC
14 – Will Bratt* – Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4 – NGTC
17 – Dave Newsham* – Team ES Racing – Vauxhall Vectra – S2000/NGTC
18 – Nick Foster* – West Surrey Racing – BMW 320si – S2000/NGTC
29 – Paul O’Neill* – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis – NGTC
33 – Adam Morgan* – Speedworks Motorsport – Totyota Avaneis – NGTC
34 – Tony Gilham* – Team HARD – Honda Civic – S2000/NGTC
38 – Tom Onslow-Cole* – West Surrey Racing – BMW 320si – S2000/NGTC
43 – Lea Wood* – Team Wood Racing – Vauxhall Vectra – S2000/NGTC
44 – Andy Neate – Triple Eight Race Engineering – MG MG6 GT – NGTC
48 – Ollie Jackson* – AmD Tuning – Volkswagen Golf V – S2000/NGTC
52 – Gordon Shedden – Honda Racing Team – Honda Civic – NGTC
55 – Jeff Smith* – Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic – NGTC
77 – Andrew Jordan* – Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic – NGTC
78 – Chris James* – Team ES Racing – Vauxhall Vectra – S2000/NGTC
99 – Jason Plato – Triple Eight Race Engineering – MG MG6 GT – NGTC
* Eligible for Independents’ Trophy
Croft Weekend Timetable
Saturday 23rd June
09:00 – 10:10 – Free Practice 1
11:50 – 12:30 – Free Practice 2
15:05 – 15:35 – Qualifying
Sunday 24th June
12:02 – Round 13 (15 Laps)
14:37 – Round 14 (15 Laps)
17:12 – Round 15 (15 Laps)
* All times local time (BST)
Croft Penalty Ballasts
Weight – Driver – Team
+45kg – Gordon Shedden – Honda Racing Team
+36kg – Matt Neal – Honda Racing Team
+27kg – Jason Plato – Triple Eight MG
+18kg – Rob Collard – West Surrey Racing
+9kg – Andrew Jordan – Eurotech Racing