The British Touring Car Championship descends on the part-oval Rockingham circuit near Corby, Northamptonshire this weekend, as the Championship heads into the final three rounds with the two Hondas hounded by Jason Plato’s MG.
Rockingham was the scene last year of an off-track altercation between long-term rivals Matt Neal and Jason Plato, after Plato had appeared to block Neal on his final qualifying run. The two drivers’ contretemps in the pit lane earned them both a three-point endorsement on their racing licences and a £1,000 fine.
Since the last round at Knockhill there has also been another war of words, after two-time champion Jason Plato hit out at Aron Smith’s driving ability after the 22-year-old took Plato out of the first race of the day, which eventually saw Plato pick up nothing better than 11th in the final two races. Plato’s words however upset not only Smith but Motorbase Team Principal David Bartrum, who suggested that it was in fact Plato who should perhaps be banned for poor driving standards.
The Honda Yuasa Racing Team head to Rockingham chasing their first win since Croft in June, over three months ago, with the team concerned that the high-speed nature of the final three rounds of the BTCC at Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch GP will leave their boost-restricted Honda Civics at a sizable disadvantage.
Away from all the talk, and back to the track, Rob Austin Racing returns fielding both of their Audi A4s for Austin himself and team-mate Will Bratt, after missing the last round at Knockhill. The team are confident of a strong showing after getting to the bottom of an engine malady which has plagued them in the first half of the season.
AmD Tuning also return after sitting out Knockhill to work on improvements to the S2000 Volkswagen Golf. Ollie Jackson will again be behind the wheel and team boss Shaun Hollamby is confident the team will go well at ‘The Rock’.
“In the test we discovered that we really need to run the car stiffer than we had been doing, and when we made that change, it improved the handling and the grip,” said Hollamby. “I’m looking forward to seeing what impact the changes have this weekend as Rockingham is a circuit where we have gone well in the past, especially last year where we qualified tenth and were only seven-tenths of a second away from pole.”
Missing out on track action this weekend will be Motorbase Performance’s Liam Griffin, who has been absent since Croft, missing SNetterton so the team could build and run the new NGTC Ford Focus for Mat Jackson and Knockhill due to family commitments. Two of the smallest budget teams will also skip Rockingham, but hope to be back for the final two rounds, and they are Lea Wood and Dan Welch in the Vauxhall Vectra and Proton Persona respectively.
Handing over the wheel of the Team HARD Honda Civic will be Robb Holland, with the US-driver scheduled to just race at Snetterton and Knockhill, and taking over will be 20-year-old Howard Fuller in the S2000-specification car. Fuller’s most recent experience comes from the Volkswagen Cup in which he competes with Tony Gilham Racing.
In the championship, Matt Neal holds a 10 point lead over his Honda team-mate Gordon Shedden, but Jason Plato is just 36 points behind and still a significant threat.
“I can’t wait to get back in the groove at Rockingham,” said Plato. “We had awful luck in Scotland. Rockingham is such an important event for us. My championship hopes hang on strong results here. The target is simple, we have to win, and win we will!”
British Touring Car Championship – Rockingham Entry List
No – Driver – Team – Car – Type
1 – Matt Neal – Honda Yuasa Racing Team – Honda Civic – NGTC
4 – Mat Jackson – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – NGTC
5 – Aron Smith – 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
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
22 – Howard Fuller – Team HARD – Honda Civic – S2000/NGTC
33 – Adam Morgan – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis – NGTC
38 – Tom Onslow-Cole – West Surrey Racing – BMW 320si – S2000/NGTC
44 – Andy Neate – Triple Eight Race Engineering – MG6 GT – NGTC
48 – Ollie Jackson – AmD Tuning – Volkswagen Golf – S2000/NGTC
50 – Tony Hughes – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis – NGTC
52 – Gordon Shedden – Honda Yuasa 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 – MG6 GT – NGTC
BTCC Rockingham Timetable
Saturday 22nd September
09:30 – 10:15 – Free Practice 1
12:15 – 12:55 – Free Practice 2
15:10 – 15:40 – Qualifying
Sunday 23rd September
11:32 – Race One (16 Laps)
13:52 – Race Two (16 Laps)
16:50 – Race Three (16 Laps)