2011 ended in spectacular fashion at Silverstone as five drivers in four different types of car went into the final round with a chance of becoming champion.
In the end, it was the Honda duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden who succeeded - with Neal taking his third BTCC title. His other two came in 2005 and 2006, and after a couple of difficult seasons at Vauxhall Neal proved why he can be considered as one of the best drivers on the grid.
After finishing third in the championship in 2010, Shedden finished a respectable second. Could this be the season he takes his first BTCC title?
Certainly, it is not out of the question, as 2012 sees some big changes.
The NGTC regulations heralded the arrival of the future of the series last year and after a challenging start to the season, improved dramatically by the end of the year. Despite an NGTC car having not taken a victory so far it was clear now was the time for many existing teams to change to the new specifications.
Defending champions Honda Dynamics is one of those teams. Brands Hatch will see the debut of the new shape Honda Civic NGTC car. The team, which is now a fully backed manufacturer entry has an unchanged driver line up of Neal and Shedden for a third straight season and goes 2012 as the clear favourites. However, after difficulty in testing they may struggle here. Watch out for Andy Jordan in a similar machine, whilst Jeff Smith could cause a surprise result.
Chevrolet are gone, but MG returns to the sport as a manufacturer since 2005. Jason Plato endured a difficult 2011 season, but in a turbo powered MG 6, it'll be interesting to watch his progress. The MG project was a little late and will go to Brands with next to no testing, so Brands may simply be a testing game for Plato and his team mate, Andy Neate. Triple 8 Engineering know their stuff though, so expect to see the cars running more competitively as the weekend progresses.
Other names to look out for include Frank Wrathall and Rob Austin. Both came close to taking maiden victories for NGTC cars a couple of times last season, and with a year of experience should be competitive from the start. Also, keep track of John Thorne in the Vauxhall Insignia and Dan Welch in the Proton, whilst Mark Hazell, Tony Hughes and Adam Morgan, the defending Ginetta Supercup champion, completes the list of NGTC cars entered for this event.
A mix of older S2000 cars including Ford Focuses, BMWs and Vauxhall Vectras and a sole Honda Civic completes a solid 24 car entry. Mat Jackson, as ever, will be one to watch in Ford Focus entered by the newly renamed Redstone Racing team alongside his team mates Aron Smith and Liam Griffin, whilst Rob Collard, Tom Onslow-Cole and Nick Foster are all candidates for strong results in their newly turbo powered BMW 320sis. Also - remember to look out for Dave Newsham, Chris James and Lee Wood in their newly acquired Vauxhall Vectras. Completing the line up is Ollie Jackson in the popular VW Golf, in what should be its third and final year in the BTCC and Tony Gilham, who will drive a brightly liveried S2000 Honda Civic under his own team banner.
(Will post some more information later)
Edited by JHS18, 27 March 2012 - 01:29 PM.