Rockingham was a disaster for some, but for others, it was their chance to shine, as Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan took the lead of the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham a couple of weeks ago. There was also a win that was clearly a fan favourite, as WIX Racing’s Rob Austin secured his maiden victory at the “Rock” in Race Two of the weekend, which saw Jordan lead the race for the title by thirty points as the racing heads to the “Home of British Motor Racing,” Silverstone.
Matt Neal’s title chances could potentially have come under major problems, especially as his form at Rockingham was not as the three-time champion would have liked. He has also suffered an injury to his right hand before the race weekend, with a broken middle finger a recurring injury.
With the fact that he placed 14th in the first race, a steering issue causing a retirement in Race 2, but fought his way back from 22nd to 7th with a wet set-up on a drying track, it may be all over sooner than he may have hoped. But the martial arts expert has been thankfully cleared to race this coming weekend.
This has enabled his Yuasa Honda Racing teammate Gordon Shedden move into second place in the championship fight against the leader, who won the Independents’ title last year. “Flash” was able to make the best of it at Rockingham, after a difficult start to the year at Brands Hatch as he looks to defend his title in earnest at a circuit when the Honda Civics will struggle on a circuit with the speed required for the high-speed straights and corners that are characteristic with the Northamptonshire National circuit.
MG KX Momentum Racing’s Jason Plato has pretty much classed himself out of being a title contender a couple of rounds ago, but Shedden disagrees with this, as something can always happen: “You definitely can’t write Jason Plato off – he’ll be there or thereabouts come the end. He is a way off, but if someone at the front has a bad race and doesn’t score any points then someone like Jason will capitalize and make massive inroads – it can all change so quickly.”
Colin Turkington has shown to be a potential challenger in the mix for the title, as the newly-built eBay Motors BMW 125i M Sport has secured five welcome victories including his first win on his return to the BTCC at Donington Park. He may have found himself behind by 60 points of the leader, but the Ulsterman came back fighting to be the BMW filling in a Honda sandwich, being in between Shedden and Neal, as just four points split all three drivers.
Austin will also be looking to score another successful victory this time around, coupling with the feat the family-run outfit has achieved in just a short amount of time against the more established outfits, as the emotions were vivid after that first taste of what could be soon to re-emerge.
“We’re up against teams with four times our budget and to beat guys like that is just incredible – I’m so proud of the whole team,” said Austin, also giving credit to those that have followed his travels throughout the series so far. ”The BTCC crowd is amazing too and I love them all! They’ve got me out of trouble already this season when we had our big shunt on the first weekend. We wouldn’t be here without them so I can’t thank the fans enough.”
The MGs of both Plato and Sam Tordoff will thrive at the nature of the Northamptonshire track; especially with the Fifth Gear presenter showing how good the Triple 888-prepared cars are like he did last year. The Oxfordshire-based driver took two wins, which included his fight from 20th on the final race of the day to take a spectacular win, and will require a repeat effort of incredible magnitude to keep the fight going.
Tom Onslow-Cole steps into the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus for the second weekend, having left Team HARD under a mutual agreement, and looks to have good progress in his new home. But young Scottish racer, Aiden Moffat, will have his first taste of NGTC machinery, stepping into the place of Andy Willmot in the Volkswagen CC at both Silverstone and Brands Hatch. This will be a true baptism of fire for the 16-year-old, who has been touted as a “star of the future” by Team HARD boss Tony Gilham.
The Jack Sears Trophy has already been decided, with Lea Wood securing a hat trick of wins at Rockingham in the class, as he left main rival Liam Griffin in his wake. Wood has been modestly the class act of the field, and has shown the competitive aggression when required to maximize his opportunities this year.
A lot can ride on just what transpires whenever the lights go out, as the BTCC is the perfect clandestine example of this. Who ever strikes at the right time when others fall by the wayside will be the one to pick up the spoils of glory when the chequered flag is waved.