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Btcc '11

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I missed Plato's! Had I known I would have been immensely impressed with how they did in race three.

Glad you had a good one, James. Looking forward to the report and photos.

Yeah, I managed to snap a couple of pictures as it was brought back on a flat bed trailer. Not sure how the pictures will turn out, but it was a real mess.

Question....if its the BRITISH Touring Car Championship, why are there VW's, Audi's and Chevs racing? Do they manufacture in the UK? Or is that rule gone and dusted in the BTCC?

I don't think that rule has ever applied really. There's always been a great mixture of different cars on the grid. Since Britain doesn't have a 100% genuine British car maker that makes cars eligible for this type of racing, it would have an adverse effect on the grid sizes to say the least!

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Okay here it is. This is also for my local paper's site who I've recently started working for. Enjoy. Feedback as ever is appreciated.

This Sunday, I had the pleasure to go to the British Touring Car Championship at my local track, Donington Park. Having last visited Donington in 2009 whilst they were still aiming to host the British Grand Prix and finding certain areas of the track in disarray, I was unsure of what I’d find upon arriving at the track. This is a report of the three BTCC races and also an insight of what state Donington is currently in.

It was great to be back at my local track for an event like the BTCC. Touring cars for any of my readers who don’t know are famous for providing thrills, spills and plenty of action, whilst the three race format and free entry in to the pit and paddock make for fantastic value for money. There really is something for everyone, and I’d urge anyone to go to a BTCC event.

The free entrance in to the pit and paddock is something I always enjoy. Whilst the drivers competing in the BTCC may not have the same global attention as the F1 drivers do, the fact that you are able to get autographs and pictures with a bunch of people who come across as extremely friendly and down to earth is great. Just in one session I managed to get fourteen autographs, an experience that is always memorable. It’s interesting to compare F1 and BTCC in this area, as both are polar opposites. To get in to the F1 paddock and maybe get a glimpse of the drivers you need the equivalent of one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. Here, you show your tickets at the main entrance to the track, get in and you are free to come in and out of the paddock as you please. The pit lane opens at lunch for the chance to meet and greet your favourite drivers and get close to the cars.

It’s frustrating that F1 gives the image that it is only interested in taking fan’s money. With increasing TV viewing figures (not limited to just the UK) as well as rapidly increasing numbers of people present at the track, it is not hard to see how F1 could improve whose TV figures are great, but at some tracks fan numbers are very low.

Donington still seems to show the scars of the failed attempting at hosting Formula One, as a big area of the infield section is apparent wasteland, fenced off. Time and money will certainly be needed to get the infield back to its former glory, whilst facilities still leave a lot to be desired. I always found the argument for poor facilities at Silverstone being one of the reasons why Bernie wanted F1 at Donington strange, as they have a million times better facilities in terms of toilets! Just as with my last visit to the circuit, I found long queues for portaloos with no ability to wash my hands. That certainly needs to be improved if the track wishes to host big, international events.

Anyway, I went to watch some racing, and once again the legendary track combined with Britain’s most popular racing championship produced some fantastic action.

Race one probably had the least incidents and accidents of the three. The race got off to an exciting start, with James Nash in his Triple 8 Engineering Vauxhall Vectra shooting past front row men Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in their Honda Civics. Behind there was action, as 2010 Renault Clio Champion Dave Newsham punted John George off only a few metres in to the race, George making light contact with the barrier.

Nash’s lead didn’t last for long though, as 2 times champion Neal out braked him in to turn one, Redgate, at the start of lap 2. Meanwhile, a little later, Andy Jordan who had started fourth in his Vauxhall Vectra got past Neal’s team mate Shedden into McLeans on lap 3.

Meanwhile, Nash was going backwards after his great start. Having been passed by Neal, he was soon passed by the Pirtek liveried car of Jordan at the same place Neal got by him, albeit on lap 5. A lap later and Shedden would also find a way past the youngster.

By lap 7 and the gap between Neal and Jordan was visibly closing. Jordan had suffered two punctures at Brands Hatch when in strong positions, but Neal seemed to be in control. Meanwhile, a great battle between Collard and Boardman was developing for 7th place; with Boardman’s turbo powered SEAT a lot quicker than Collard’s BMW on the straights, but Collard was quicker in the corners. Soon, fan favourite Paul O’Neill and Alex MacDowall would make it a four way battle.

Elsewhere, defending champion and championship leader coming in to Donington, Jason Plato was having a race to forget. Struggling to pass turbo cars, he was too hard on his tyres and got a puncture on lap 11 that pushed him out the points. His day would soon get a lot worse though…

Meanwhile, O’Neill and MacDowall were still fighting each other and made contact down in to the chicane on lap 15 that allowed rookies Jeff Smith to get past MacDowall, but he would soon re-pass Smith before the end of the race.


At the finish, Neal took the chequered flag to take his second win of the year, a 100% improvement on his result in race one at Brands Hatch, where he was punted off at the second corner. Jordan was second with Shedden third and Nash further back in fourth, struggling with a slow puncture. He’d be gifted with a podium though, as Shedden was thrown out the results and put to the back of the grid for race two after a technical infringement on his car. Tom Chilton in the new Ford Focus took fourth. Race two started in a similar fashion to the first one, as once again Jordan and Nash made brilliant starts to slot into first and second places with Neal pushed down to third. Behind was chaos though, as coming through Craner Curves, Shedden made contact with the Ford of Liam Griffin, which sent Griffin’s car slamming in to Plato’s. Plato went off track at high speed, before hitting a grass bank and rolling several times before coming to a rest on what remained of his wheels. Both Griffin and Plato’s cars were out on the spot having sustained substantial damage which brought the safety car out for its first appearance of the day. Thankfully both Plato and Griffin were soon out of their cars and walked away unscathed.



The restart came on lap 7, and there was action again, straight away. Chilton hit the back of Collard’s BMW, damaging the latter’s rear bumper. Mat Jackson in his Airwaves sponsored car soon joined in the battle, and as Chilton, Jackson and O’Neill got by Collard’s car, O’Neill was punted off into the Old Hairpin gravel trap by the BMW man. On lap 12, a huge side ways moment at the same corner saw Jackson get a run on his fellow Ford driver up to McLeans, but contact was made sending Jackson off. Fortunately he managed to keep going and get out the gravel trap but lost a huge number of places in the process.

There was more action down into this challenging part of the track a lap later as rookies Jeff Smith and Nick Foster battled side by side down through the Craner Curves. Once again, contact was made, sending Foster off at high speed, through the gravel trap where he almost rolled, before coming back across the track, narrowly missing Tony Gilham’s approaching car before coming to rest in the Old Hairpin gravel. The safety car was called for again after this latest incident. A dead car park was starting to be formed!

Lap 16 and the race was under way again, but still there was action going off. Jackson coming back through the pack hit Jeff Smith on the Dunlop Straight, spinning Smith off who fortunately managed to avoid making contact with the barrier and was able to rejoin.

At the end of a highly eventful race, Andy Jordan took his third race win of his career and first of 2011. The twenty one year old absorbed constant pressure in the race from fellow youngster, 25 year old James Nash to make it a Vauxhall one-two, despite the two drivers coming from different teams. Neal managed to take third.

Race three for BTCC always provides action, with a number of cars getting reversed on the grid. The lucky draw sees a car that finished sixth to tenth in race two get pole position, and this time, Alex MacDowall in his Chevrolet who finished ninth would start from the front row of the grid alongside Tony Gilham. Tom Onslow-Cole looked to take Team AmD Milltek’s best result to date, having finished seventh in race two meaning he started third for the last race, whilst Shedden looked to make up for a disappointing day starting fourth.

Once again, the race got off to a destructive start, with Dave Newsham getting spun on to the grass by Jeff Smith. Newsham would then collect an innocent Tony Hughes in his new Toyota Avensis, terminally damaging his car. Newsham would continue for a few laps at the back with damage to his car before retiring. At the front there was further carnage, as after making a great start and briefly leading, Onslow-Cole was hit at Redgate by Gilham, Gilham then spinning back and getting hit by Rob Collard. That allowed Alex MacDowall a gap as another incident occurred in to Old Hairpin again. A chain reaction started off with Jackson hitting Nash who hit Chilton who then hit Onslow-Cole. Chilton was stuck in the gravel, whilst Onslow-Cole’s VW which had taken two hits in the space of about 3 corners would retire in to the pits at the end of the lap with broken rear suspension. Unsurprisingly, after this chaos, the safety car was called for yet again.


On lap 5 the race got under way again, the top five being MacDowall, Jackson who’d come from tenth to second, Neal, Jordan and Andy Neate, Chilton’s team mate who was having his best run since coming back in to the series last year. Straight away, Jackson was soon able to get past the Silverline Chevrolet and disappear up the track whilst Neal was under pressure from the flying Andy Jordan. Jordan got past the Honda on lap 7. A lap later, Neate’s great run started to go wrong, as he defended against Nash at Redgate when the silver and black Vauxhall was already clearly alongside him. Neate was sent in to a half spin, but would carry on after losing a couple of places.


Shedden, having taken damage at the start finished off a disappointing day by retiring into the pits on lap 9 with a broken front splitter whilst his team mate lost a place to Nash. Whilst that was going on, team mates John George and Paul O’Neill made the smallest contact going in to Old Hairpin as O’Neill tried to pass, but it was enough for George to be sent off and go for a quick spin before rejoining towards the back of the pack.

On lap 10, MacDowall began to go backwards after he was passed by Jordan. He’d soon be passed by Nash a couple of laps later, the turbo charged Vauxhalls proving too fast for the Chevy and Mat Jackson’s Ford proving too fast for all three. Before that happened though, Neal delighted the huge crowd with a fantastic overtake of Smith, who had surprised everyone by passing the double champion, in to Redgate whilst using the lapped Toyota Avensis of Frank Wrathall. It was a move that showed his desire to get a third title before his big rival Jason Plato does.

The Neal/Smith tussle continued for quite a few laps, Neal evidently struggling with a damaged car allowing Smith to escape. Meanwhile, another two car battle between Gilham and Plato was catching them, Plato showing his frustrating by clumsily hitting Gilham into the chicane, before Gilham soon got by Neal.

Redgate saw more action on lap 17, as O’Neill sent the damaged Rob Collard in to a spin, a move some saw as retaliation for their race two incident. Later on that lap, Plato made a much cleaner move down into the chicane as he passed Neal, a move that was met with roars of delight by the crowd in appreciation of the hard work Jason’s crew had put in to get the wreck of a car from race two ready for race three.


Meanwhile, Smith and Gilham had caught up to the back of Neate and on the last lap of the race, contact followed. Smith had managed to get by Neate, and as Gilham had tried to follow him through on the run up to McLeans, Neate had shut the door. The contact sent Neate flying off into the barriers at high speed, whilst Gilham spun off a few corners later with broken suspension. Thankfully Neate soon got out of his car and the displeasure was evident on his face after losing potential points from what had been a solid race for him. At the end of another incredibly eventful race, Jackson won at his home race, whilst Jordan and Nash completed very strong days to take the other podium places. Plato recovered to sixth place, 5 points being little reward for the effort his RML crew had put in.


I’ve seen some criticism of the driving on forums, one person saying that the driving standards in races two and three being the worst they’ve seen. Paul O’Neill said that he was “embarrassed” to be a BTCC driver after such a display, but I don’t see why he should be. Fans were treated to some incredibly entertaining races with some controversial incidents that acted as talking points, and people will be far more likely to remember what happened yesterday compared to if we’d seen three uneventful races. I don’t like to see drivers get hurt or cars badly damaged, but contact and incident has also played a part in the racing and today was no exception. For me it was a fantastic day. What better way was there to spend a Sunday?

The championship recommences at the high speed Thruxton track in two weeks time. No doubt there will be many more incidents and accidents and above all, great racing, to discuss from there.


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Thanks for sharing, James. Enjoyed it.

Makes me wish I had gotten tickets to go to the Indy race in Loudon; turns out I'll be going to zero races for the first time since 2002. :frusty:

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Thanks for taking the time to read it, I know it is very long! Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Yeah, races are always great for the atmosphere at the places. I saw quite a few foreigners about too, which surprised me. There was a big group of Brazilians and I also saw some Australians and a couple of Americans. Good that the series does have interest outside the UK, even if it is at a very small level.

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BTCC was once very popular here in NZ....probably when you were kicking about in nappies! :P That was back in the days that V8 Supercars was the Australian Touring Car Championships and they raced Jags, BMW's, and Volvo's against the Holdens and the Fords (and the Fords were Sierra's)...then the rule about "made in Oz" came into play, and only the Commodore and Falcon were left. Which in some respects was kinda sad, as variety was always good...and watching the Nissan Skylines lap everyone at Bathurst was pretty amazing.

As a comment about your article, I would give you one bit of advice...the reporting on the on-track action is pretty good, and you'll only get better at that as your style comes out (and it will), however one of the biggest things in journalism, in both written and spoken media, is to include the reader/listener/ other words, less "I this" and "I that". There is a time and place for it, but it just seems a bit mixed up with what was in the middle which was a good race report where "you" stepped out of the article and brought "me" into it, if you get what I mean.

If you haven't already, you should get your hands on anything by Eoin Young and Mike Lawrence - they are motorsport in written form....also anything by Dennis Jenkinson (Jenks as he was known) who was the editor etc for Motorsport magazine...I'm lucky enough to have a few issues from the 1970's when they (the journo's) were allowed to test drive the F1 cars themselves. He could spin a yarn then, and he kept them spinning right on up to his death a few years ago. Roebuck is also a good read. The key for all of these men, is that they draw the reader in...make the reader feel like he/she is there, and very rarely do they talk of their feelings.

Someone who wrote a very good book, and the way he did really surprised me, was Phil Kerr. His book "To Finish First" is a biography of his time at McLaren, from Bruce, to Teddy, to Dennis...and whilst he does write the book in first person (hey, it's an autobiography of sorts), it is very very well written, and if you don't get chills down your spine when he talks about the day Bruce died, then there is something wrong with you.

But like I say...your style will come out, the more you write. I don't know if your editor condensed your article or not, but not a bad first up effort. And read read read read the masters books. You'll learn not only motorsport history, but all the nuances of drawing "me" in....


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Okay, thanks for the advice. I know there are a couple of errors I've spotted here and there, stuff I tidied up before I sent it to be published on my paper's site. That was sort of a draft one before I tweaked some things. :P

But anyway, as I say, thanks for finding the time to read it because I know it is quite long and it must take quite a bit of effort trying to understand what happened in a series you aren't too familiar with. The only reason I put my opinion at the end was because I always like to share my view on things, rather than just narrating what happened as I think in a way it is fairly easy to do that. I can't claim to be an expert in motorsport, just an interested observer, but I like to end on something that my readers could debate about either in the comments or with a friend of theirs.

Before I've just talked about F1 in what I've written, but I think I'll start to discuss other forms of racing too. Going to Donington gave me a great chance to write about my experiences, and I'll do it again because (hopefully) I'll get to Oulton and Silverstone too. I'll just have to see what sort of reaction I get, whether to start writing regularly about things like BTCC alongside my F1 writing. I'm tempted to do a Le Mans 24 hour preview nearer the race for sure, despite not going.

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As Nike, the great Greek filopastryiser said, just do it.....thats what guys like Jenks and Eoin Young did when they were young...just kept going to the racing and kept writing about it, and getting to know the drivers, and the drivers them...Eoin had a better in on things as he was with Bruce McLaren from the start, but they both started from nothing.

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And don't be afraid to contact them either...Eion Young has his own website (a memorabilia one) that you can contact him through, and Mike Lawrence can be reached through Pitpass. Jenks will be a touch harder, mind you....

And since you are writing for a paper, get yourself media we do it through Motorsport NZ, so my first guess would be BRDC or similar in the UK? The paper you are writing for should know who to contact for you to get accreditation...which is a good thing to have with lots of benefits :D

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I'm going to be studying journalism at Uni in September, the paper advised me to take that course as you get an NCTJ qualification at the end of it, which basically confirms you as a professional journalist.

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You know how I got my articles linked to on USA Today, CBS Sports, and a few others?

I wrote about Danica. ;)

(Ha! You thought I was going to give you good advice :P).

Seriously, though, doing journalism in uni is the right way to go. I know a lot of journalists who didn't go to uni and it shows when you compare them to people who did study it. So you're doing the right thing.

It's all about connections/contacts from there. It's pretty easy to get started; I was just another teenager with WiFi and a blog and ended up with some really good contacts in the NASCAR garage.

And if you want a few tips to clean up stylistically, I'm more than willing to give you a few bits and pieces I picked up back when I thought that was the path I wanted to go down, though I can't guarantee they'll be of any use to you or anything you don't already know. :P

(I was close to going down the TV/radio sportscasting path with some written stuff on the side, but I was slowly pulled toward corporate/financial law and the seven years of uni I'll get to do to accomplish that :lol:).

Keep up the good work.

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Bad stuff. Officials always giving in to Plato's constant bitching. :P

But here's something I do like about BTCC thus far: I have no idea who will win the title.

Nobody is consistently running at the front. Everyone's had a bad race, made a mistake, got caught up in someone else's mess, had an unreliable car. I think that's awesome. Any of the guys in the top 7 or so right now have shown they could pull it off this year. Really competitive; I like to see that.

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You beat me to posting that Eric. :P

First thing I thought when I read that was "Plato politicking". I guess it's not too surprising though, Thruxton is Britain's fastest circuit with average lap speeds of well over 100mph for the touring cars. The turbo cars would have had a big advantage, but equally they'd be at huge risks of punctures. Thruxton is famously hard on tyres.

I agree with you on the latter part though, despite it still being early in the season, the championship is wide open after Plato's terrible weekend. Neal didn't have a great one either. Jordan and Nash are right up there, Jackson too and I'm sure the likes of Shedden and O'Neill will start to get involved too.

Oh, and Touring Car Times is reporting that Speedworks will miss Thruxton to work on their technical problems they've been having. Hopefully Gilham will be able to compete though, and Rob Austin is confident that two Audis will be out, one for Pinkney and one for someone else.

The grid will slowly start increasing as the year progresses though. Lea Wood's Integra will be back for Oulton, Welch's NGTC Proton should be out for Snetterton and if the Thorney project keeps on track, there will be one or two Insignias on the grid in time for Brands/Silverstone. We may see another car for Special Tuning Racing and Geoff Steel Racing too. Maybe Bamboo if they get the budget together to run the Lacetti for Vaulkhard.

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James Nash says Plato and Neal are past it and the young guys are taking over.

Now, I dislike all three of them, but let's be fair: Plato's won how many races this year? Neal's won how many races this year? Two each, I think. Nash? None. Ever.

Oops. ;)

Good for Nash, though. Going to talk himself out of a championship. Get after 'em, Jackson...

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Hahah, hadn't read that, seems determined to make enemies with everyone after previously saying that he didn't think Jordan was in his league. But hey, a bit of rivalry is great for the series, the Neal/Plato rivaly continues to do wonders for the series.

I do partly agree with him though, I think in a way there are more young drivers coming through, like Nash and Jordan. Heck, Jackson's not that old either, and Onslow-Cole has bags of talent for someone his age. I find it silly people say there isn't any star drivers in the series these days because there clearly is. There's some really talented guys in the support championships too, and I have no doubt that if they choose to go down the ruit of touring cars they'd do brilliantly.

The Ginetta Supercup is probably the support series I'm most interested in right now, because the champion of the G55 class gets a fully funded drive in the BTCC next year. Hence there's a lot of really talented guys like Carl Breeze, Nathan Freke and Tom Sharp fighting each other really hard. Wrathall came from the Ginettas and I rate him highly, I'm sure when they get the NGTC Toyota working well he'll be right up there.

Anyway, qualifying results from today. Looking forward to the racing!

1. Gordon Shedden Honda 1m17.004s

2. Andrew Jordan Eurotech Vauxhall 1m17.066s + 0.062s

3. Matt Neal Honda 1m17.217s + 0.213s

4. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 1m17.759s + 0.755s

5. Jason Plato Chevrolet 1m17.966s + 0.962s

6. Tom Onslow-Cole AmD Volkswagen 1m18.122s + 1.118s

7. Jeff Smith Eurotech Vauxhall 1m18.249s + 1.245s

8. Mat Jackson Motorbase Ford 1m18.325s + 1.321s

9. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 1m18.327s + 1.323s

10. James Nash Triple 8 Vauxhall 1m18.341s + 1.337s

11. Alex MacDowall Chevrolet 1m18.640s + 1.636s

12. Tony Gilham Triple 8 Vauxhall 1m18.787s + 1.783s

13. Paul O'Neill Tech-Speed Chevrolet 1m18.990s + 1.986s

14. Rob Collard WSR BMW 1m19.079s + 2.075s

15. Andy Neate Arena Ford 1m19.131s + 2.127s

16. Liam Griffin Motorbase Ford 1m19.906s + 2.902s

17. Nick Foster WSR BMW 1m20.960s + 3.956s

18. John George Tech-Speed Chevrolet 1m21.088s + 4.084s

19. Frank Wrathall Dynojet Toyota 1m21.655s + 4.651s

20. Rob Austin Rob Austin Audi 1m22.072s + 5.068s

21. Chris James ES Chevrolet 1m23.301s + 6.297s

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Got back from a week's break, so just catching up on all the news. Just seen this. Newsham swaps to Special Tuning Racing from Oulton Park onwards. Doesn't make it clear whether that means two SEATs, but I presume so. Wonder who'll end up at GSR then, if anyone? My guess is Phil Glew. He said at Donington that he was in contact with a couple of teams and close to doing a deal with one in particular.

Still no sign of this mysterious second Audi either.

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Plato at the back in race two; that should make for some drama.

Onslow-Cole will not start; problems with the Golf after scoring serious points in the first race. Manifold's cracked.

Boardman keeps it together, but the commentators sure can't. A solid 15 seconds of Ben and Tim both talking, but neither one in English.

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MacDowall hits Collard, Collard goes around. Not a good move by MacDowall at all.

Jordan taking a look at Gordon here. Neal leads comfortably enough.

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Andrew Jordan has been demoted to third place in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s second race results at Thruxton.

Officials judged he had gained an unfair advantage by putting all four wheels off the track and have handed him a 1.3s penalty.

This promotes Gordon Shedden to second position meaning the Honda Racing Team is now celebrating its second 1-2 result of the day.

Jordan’s Pirtek Vauxhall Vectra will still have to start race three carrying the second-placed success ballast of 36kgs – the weight penalty is applied according to the order in which cars had crossed the finish line.

Furthermore, Jordan’s penalty also means he drops to third in the championship table after he’d initially been tied for second with James Nash.

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Some great battling in the pack in race three - excellent, the best race of the day. I won't spoil the result, because I understand the Indycar is on and you might be watching that.

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Just an advanced reminded. BTCC is back this weekend, at Oulton Park. There's a 50/50 chance I'll be going, so I'll do another report if I do go.

Dave Newsham will be making his debut in an STR Seat Leon:


Whilst Lea Wood's Honda Integra should also be present.


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Some interesting reading for you:

Massive rise in ITV audience

ITV has revealed that the number of people watching its coverage of this year’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is up by a staggering 34.6 per cent on average over 2010.

Official figures from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB) show Brands Hatch’s opening event of 2011 (3 April) attracted 21 per cent more viewers than the Kent circuit’s corresponding round from the previous season.

Donington Park’s (17 April) ITV audience was then 27 per cent greater than that which followed the action at the Leicestershire circuit last year.

There then followed a massive 56 per cent increase in viewers for 2011’s third round at Thruxton (1 May) when compared to the numbers of those who watched coverage of the Hampshire circuit’s BTCC fixture 12 months earlier.

All ten BTCC race events in 2011 receive comprehensive live TV coverage on free-to-air channels ITV4 and ITV4 HD. Each broadcast runs for a minimum of six and a half hours and includes all three BTCC races on the day as well as much of the action from the supporting categories.

Niall Sloane, Controller of Sport for ITV, commented: “We are delighted by these figures. An increase of this sort of popularity in any sport on mainstream TV is terrific and very much a testament to the BTCC’s fantastic on track action, dramatic storylines, rivalries and levels of professionalism which make for compelling viewing. The BTCC quite rightly remains at the forefront of our motor sport coverage and we very much look forward to continuing our coverage of this great championship into future years.”

BTCC Series Director Alan Gow said: “In the world of television I'm told that these are extraordinary increases, particularly as they are 'like for like'. These figures make for more fantastic news for all our teams, drivers, circuits and sponsors. They also yet again further underline the superior levels of TV coverage enjoyed by the BTCC over any other form of motor sport in the UK, as well as the great entertainment the championship provides for households up and down the land.”

Neal's Plato-Oulton triple tip

Matt Neal has tipped Jason Plato to win all three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Oulton Park in just over a week’s time (Sun 5 June).

Neal currently leads the championship standings in his Honda Racing Team Civic but believes reigning champion Plato could prove unstoppable at Oulton – particularly if his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze gets on the pace in qualifying.

“I’m aiming to pick up whatever points I can,” said Worcestershire’s Neal. “However, the Chevys are very strong in race trim, so if Jason qualifies at the front then he could win all three.

“The Honda is a brilliant car so we’ll see how we go, but we won’t know until we get there. The car is hard on brakes and the track has a lot of stopping and starting.”

Certainly Plato will go into the weekend in need of a major points haul if he’s to get back on terms with his long-time arch rival Neal. Although, like Neal, he has also won three times so far this season, two big crashes have left him down in sixth in the standings, some 27 points – equivalent to a win and a second place finish – behind.

The Oulton statistics show that of all the drivers on the current grid Plato has enjoyed the most success around Oulton to date with six victories there during his career. Neal has four and Honda team-mate Gordon Shedden three while there’s been one each for Tom Chilton, Tom Onslow-Cole, Mat Jackson and home hero, Widnes’s Paul O’Neill.

TOC hunts Oulton podium

Tom Onslow-Cole is confident his AmD Milltek VW Golf will be at its strongest yet in Oulton Park’s round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship this weekend.

The New Malden racer qualified the car a sensational sixth fastest during the series’ most recent round at the high-speed Thruxton circuit before driving it to two top ten points finishes.

But he believes there’s more still to come and that Oulton’s dramatic mix of slow, medium and high-speed turns will bring out the best in the Golf.

Onslow-Cole, who won a race last year at Oulton, told “I don’t know if the Golf is quite ready for its first win, but I’m going to Oulton looking for a podium. We had a great weekend at Thruxton, but I still think we could have come away with a few more points than we did.

“I think the car is very definitely capable of running in the top six now on a regular basis. Thruxton was no fluke – bear in mind it’s not really a circuit that necessarily suits our car as we don’t have the power of some of the others. Oulton will be better for us as it comes a bit more down to the chassis – it’s still a power circuit with straights and hills, but hopefully the chassis side will take over.

“Our next big thing is to improve the brakes, in both their outright efficiency and the way they work over a race distance. You certainly need them to work well around Oulton…”

BTCC team boss d#ck Bennetts does not believe the latest rules adjustments will help his BMW squad compete at the front. Bennett's WSR squad ran Colin Turkington to the 2009 BTCC crown in a BMW, but the rear-wheel-drive cars have struggled this season against the influx of turbo machines.

Series organiser TOCA has reduced the BMW's minimum weight by 10kg (to 1140kg) ahead of this weekend's Oulton Park round. They will also be allowed to run a free first gear: previously RWD cars had been forced to use a mandatory longer first ratio, which was designed to reduce the layout's inherent startline advantage.

But Bennetts does not believe the changes go far enough.

"We'll have difficulty getting down to the weight and they shouldn't have taken our first gear away in the first place," he said.

"We've spent a lot of money to get it down to 1150kg. Why should we spend more when we are supposed to be cutting costs. We may get 5kg off before Oulton, there's no way we'll get 10kg."

Bennetts, who has not ruled out switching to turbo units in future, believes a further reduction of the turbo boost would be a better measure. TOCA has introduced a suspended 0.05 bar reduction ahead of Oulton.

"The turbos have got 40-50bhp more and 40 per cent more torque," he added. "Why not take 0.3 bar off? You can always put it back up for Croft - that's one meeting [at a disadvantage], we've had three.

"It's a tough job to get parity, but the best way would be to slow them down on the straights."

Triple 8 Engineering boss Ian Harrison does not believe British Touring Car organiser TOCA should have given the normally aspirated cars a rules break ahead of this weekend's Oulton Park round.

NA machines have had their minimum weights reduced and turbo cars have been handed a suspended drop of 0.05 bar boost after the turbos dominated at the last two meetings.

Harrison, whose successful squad last won the BTCC title with Fabrizio Giovanardi in 2008, switched from NA engines to Swindon turbo units for this season. His lead driver James Nash currently lies third in the standings.

"I have to admit disappointment that TOCA has again seen fit to penalise the turbocharged cars in the name of equivalency," said Harrison.

"I appreciate that they have a difficult job to do in managing the situation given all the politics and games involved but I didn't think that a case to apply further measures had been made at Thruxton last time out."

Harrison believes that, despite the turbo cars' obvious advantage in qualifying, the fact that Jason Plato's NA Chevrolet Cruze has won three of the nine 2011 races so far indicates extra changes were unnecessary.

"You can look at all the data you want, power curves, torque and top speeds etc. but the data that counts is the race result," he added.

"Every team knows how to work the system in terms of masking car performance and the last time I looked I noticed that one particular normally aspirated car had won a third of all the races held so far - a pretty good return particularly so when you bear in mind that the entry is dominated by turbo cars."

British Touring Car racer Paul O'Neill believes the latest rules tweaks will help him to score points at this weekend's Oulton Park round. The Tech-Speed Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze driver suffered a difficult weekend last time out at Thruxton, but is ninth in the championship table.

He believes the 25kg normally aspirated cars like his Cruze are now allowed to lose will help him fight the turbo cars.

"If we can get the weight out of the car that we are now allowed to take out, then that is going to help us move up a few places in qualifying and get into the top 10," he said. "Then we can focus on building on that in the races."

O'Neill also believes the team, which switched to running Cruzes for 2011 after years with Honda Integras, is making progress with the car.

"The lower base weight is a start, but we found a few things on the car that we wanted to look at and the guys have worked hard to make some changes ahead of the weekend," he said.

"Oulton Park is my home track and I do a lot of work there so I'm keen to see what we can do. I want to put on a good show and it's vital that we have a good weekend. We can't afford to have another weekend like Thruxton."


British Touring Car rookie Frank Wrathall is hoping for improved form at Oulton Park this weekend after a raft of changes to his NGTC Toyota Avensis. Although Wrathall's Dynojet car has been the quickest of the new-for-2011 NGTC cars he has only finished one of the nine races so far, in 16th.

Since the last round at Thruxton, Dynojet has rebuilt the car, making major revisions to the steering system, as well as working on the chassis. Engine developments have also been introduced to try and improve reliability.

"We need to get some races under our belt," said the 24-year-old. "We gave been doing a lot of dyno testing with the engine to try to trace the problems that afflicted us at Thruxton.

"We have done a tremendous amount to the Toyota since Thruxton. In fact, it's been like building a whole new car.

"Hopefully at Oulton we can pace ourselves and put in a solid showing."

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