most champions in a decade
Eleven former race winners - among them four Champions - will contest this weekend's (25-26 April) HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship round at the Thruxton circuit in Hampshire after 2001 title-winner Jason Plato confirmed he would continue to race a Chevrolet Lacetti but under the new Racing Silverline banner.
Plato, Matt Neal (Champion in 2005 & 2006), Fabrizio Giovanardi (2007 & 2008) and the returning James Thompson (2002 & 2004) will all be on the starting grid at Thruxton. Between them, they have won seven of the last eight BTCC Drivers' titles.
The last time at least four drivers with BTCC titles already to their name lined up against one another in the series was a decade ago, in the last race of 1999 (just-crowned champion Laurent Aiello plus Rickard Rydell, Alain Menu, John Cleland and Will Hoy).
Plato, Thompson - back in a Team Dynamics Honda - and Vauxhall team-mates Neal and Giovanardi all rank highly of course on the BTCC's chart of race-winners (Plato's tally of 47 wins is bettered only by Andy Rouse's total of 60). But also on the chart are Colin Turkington, Robert Collard, Mat Jackson, Tom Chilton, Dan Eaves, Paul O'Neill and Alan Morrison who are all entered for this weekend's three races as well.
That means half the expected 22-strong grid at Thruxton this Sunday will consist of race-winners and past champions. Combined, those 11 drivers have achieved 166 victories and almost 1800 races during their BTCC careers.
"This is a simply staggering line-up of driver talent, even by BTCC standards," said BTCC Series Director Alan Gow. "Our grids, trackside crowds and TV coverage and audiences have continued to grow during the past five years and now the BTCC has probably its most competitive grid of drivers for a decade. Plus the field is also boosted by a number of emerging young drivers all still aiming to reach the top step of the podium.
"The fact that this grid will race at Thruxton - one of the most dramatic circuits on our calendar - only adds to the anticipation ahead of the weekend. Thruxton this Sunday will be an event for all motor sport fans to truly savour."
Meanwhile, Oxford-based Plato, who took a race win in the BTCC's opening round at Brands Hatch earlier this month, is now looking forward to putting together a full-on title attack in his Chevrolet, which will continue to be fettled by the RML squad.
The 41-year-old, pictured above at Brands Hatch, said: "Thruxton is of course a very fast circuit and if it was a drag race then the Chevrolet would be looking very good, but we don't just go in a straight line - we go round and round so we have to get the car working through the corners as well. On paper, though, Thruxton should suit the Chevrolet."