MIDLANDS TRACK NEXT STOP FOR STARS OF UK'S TOP MOTOR RACING CHAMPIONSHIP
The countdown has begun: there are less than three weeks to go until the UK's top motor racing series - the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship - arrives in the Midlands for its latest round of high-speed action at the Donington Park circuit on Sunday 17 May.Donington's easy access and central location, just off the M1 motorway on the Leicestershire-Derbyshire border near East Midlands airport, make it a huge hit with BTCC fans. Tens of thousands from across the region are expected to congregate on the swooping parkland track where views of the action - also being shown live on ITV4 in 2009 - are among some of the best all season. Furthermore, Donington is synonymous with the BTCC - it is where some of the series' most memorable races have taken place down the years and is also the home circuit for many of the leading drivers and teams.Most notably, Matt Neal. The Worcestershire driver leads the current BTCC Drivers' standings after the first two rounds of 2009. It was at Donington Park in 1999 that Neal achieved the first of his 31 BTCC race wins to date - a victory that earned him a cool £250,000. Ten years on and he is driving for Vauxhall's factory VX Racing team. A win at Brands Hatch in early April has been followed by four more consecutive podium finishes in his Vectra to give him a slender six-point advantage over nearest challenger Colin Turkington in his Team RAC BMW.For the first time since 1999, the 2009 BTCC grid consists of four past and present winners of the championship - Neal, his VXR team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi, Jason Plato in his Racing Silverline Chevrolet Lacetti and James Thompson in a Honda Civic run by Pershore-based Team Dynamics. Thompson it should be noted clinched both his titles, in 2002 and 2004, at Donington.A further seven drivers with race-winning pedigree are also on the grid, including Henley-in-Arden's Mat Jackson (RML Chevrolet) - making the BTCC's current entry list arguably the most competitive in a decade. And three more drivers bursting to add their names to the roster of race-winners come from across the Midlands - Leicester's Stephen Jelley (RAC BMW), Lichfield's Andrew Jordan (VXR) and Coventry's Adam Jones (Cartridge World Carbon Zero SEAT Leon). Jordan and Jones already have second place finishes to their names while Jelley, in his second BTCC season, is closing on a podium result all the time after a pair of fourth place finishes in recent races.Donington's big BTCC race day on Sunday 17 May is a must-see event for all motoring and motor sport enthusiasts from across the Midlands. Tickets for adults - including access to the BTCC paddock - cost as little as £23.00 each if booked in advance on Donington's website www.donington-park.co.uk while admission for children aged 15 and under is FREE, making the event hugely popular among families looking for a value-for-money day out. All prices include access to the hugely popular BTCC Pit Lane Walkabout - a specially organised session during which the public is invited into the Donington pit lane to meet the stars of the show for autographs, photos and plenty of team give-aways.In total there are 12 races during the day for spectators to savour - the BTCC's latest three races that headline the bill of action, plus nine more exciting races from the supporting Ginetta, Porsche and Renault championships.