The 2012 British Touring Car Championship comes to a close this weekend, with four drivers in contention for the drivers’ title. Three of those are in Hondas; Gordon Shedden, Matt Neal and the independent Andrew Jordan, and Jason Plato in his MG.
In one of the toughest seasons in recent years, Honda head to Brands Hatch on the defensive. After a dominant start to the season, winning 10 of the first 15 races, the Team Dynamics-run works Honda team has struggled since the mid-season break, with just two wins at Rockingham, thanks mostly to the wet conditions at the Northamptonshire circuit.
Gordon Shedden heads to Brands Hatch hoping to be the first Scotsman to win the drivers’ title since John Cleland in 1995, though with a slim 15 point lead over Brands Hatch master Jason Plato, it’ll be a tough struggle.
“It was heartbreaking last year to get so close, though it was great for a Honda to get a one-two. I think three’s enough now – I need a go! We’ve got to get one of us over the line first and I want it to be me,” said Shedden.
Defending champion Matt Neal has said he’ll be backing his team-mate this weekend, almost ruling himself out of title contention after a disastrous weekend two week’s ago at Silverstone. Neal scored no points during the whole weekend, with a boost problem in race one and contact putting him out of races two and three.
“I’m not giving up because it can easily turnaround. We’ll give it our all on Saturday [in qualifying] and then see where we’re at. I want second place in the championship back. To do that I’ve got to beat Jason. Gordon doesn’t need to beat Jason to win the championship, but if I need to help him I will,” said Neal.
Though Neal is only 31 points back with 67 available over the weekend, which means problems for Shedden and Plato could easily bring him back into the fight.
“The BTCC finale at Brands Hatch has been a happy hunting ground for me in the past and I hope it will be again on Sunday,” said Plato. “It is my favourite circuit on the calendar. My tail is high in the air, I have genuine confidence that my MG will have real pace. Let the battle for the most prestigious crown in British motorsport begin.”
Andrew Jordan is also in mathematical contention for the championship, 61 points behind Shedden but would need to have the best weekend of his career with disasters for the top three to overhaul that gap, so the 23-year-old’s focus will be firmly on the independents’ trophy.
Jordan leads the independents’ classification by 28 points over West Surrey Racing’s Rob Collard, with Mat Jackson also in mathematical contention though likewise, the Henley-in-Arden based driver will need a good weekend to pull back the 46 point gap with just 60 available in the independents’ classification.
The closest title to be decided this weekend is the independent teams’ trophy, with West Surrey Racing currently in the lead just five points ahead of Eurotech Racing, and 10 points clear of Motorbase Performance.
As always, the championship leader will carry the maximum weight in qualifying and through race one, and so Gordon Shedden’s Honda Civic will carry that 45kg for the second consecutive meeting. Matt Neal has dropped from the championship lead just two rounds ago to third, and so will be on 27kg of ballast, with rival Jason Plato running 36kg of ballast in his MG6. The 2010 champion has stated that his MG has lost 0.05 bar of boost for this weekend whilst the Hondas have gained 0.05 bar, which is what the Team Dynamics pair were expecting would happen after a tough weekend at Silverstone.
Other changes this weekend sees Thorney Motorsport’s Vauxhall Insignia now in the hands of new owners Team HARD. Team owner/driver Tony Gilham will drive the car for the third time this season, whilst his Honda Civic will be driven by Aaron Williamson.
It’s all to play for at Brands Hatch. It’s guaranteed that a full-NGTC specification car will deliver a drivers’ championship to someone for the first time in the BTCC, but will it be the Team Dynamics-built Honda Civic, or Triple Eight’s MG6? The answer will be known by 6pm on Sunday.
BTCC Brands Hatch Grand Prix 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
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 – Dan 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
33 – Adam Morgan – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis NGTC
34 – Tony Gilham – Team HARD – Vauxhall Insignia NGTC
38 – Tom Onslow-Cole – West SUrrey Racing – BMW 320si S2000/NGTC
43 – Lea Wood – JWT Performance – Vauxhall Vectra 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
TBC – Aaron Williamson – Team HARD – Honda Civic S2000/NGTC
BTCC Brands Hatch Grand Prix Timetable
Saturday 20th October
09:25 – 10:05 – Free Practice 1
11:55 – 12:35 – Free Practice 2
14:55 – 15:25 – Qualifying
Sunday 21st October
11:33 – Race One (15 Laps)
13:57 – Race Two (15 Laps)
16:45 – Race Three (15 Laps)
BTCC Brands Hatch Success Ballast
Driver – Team – Ballast
Gordon Shedden – Honda Yuasa Racing Team – +45kg
Jason Plato – Triple Eight Race Enginnering – +36kg
Matt Neal – Honda Yuasa Racing Team – +27kg
Andrew Jordan – Eurotech Racing – +18kg
Rob Collard – West Surrey Racing – +9kg