The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is set to celebrate its 60th birthday in style next weekend (28/29 July), as the country’s premier motor sport series returns from its summer break at Snetterton in Norfolk with a mouth-watering battle in prospect.
Two-time champion Colin Turkington leads the field into Snetterton, having extended his advantage last time out at Croft. Driving for Team BMW, the Northern Irishman has been a model of consistency thus far in 2018, and although he has won just once during the opening 15 races, five further podiums and a total of ten top six finishes see him arrive in Norfolk holding a handy 19-point margin over his closest pursuer in the chase for the coveted crown.
Indeed, no fewer than 11 drivers reached the top step of the rostrum over the first half of the campaign, with nine more ascending the second or third steps – underscoring the sheer competitiveness and unpredictability of the BTCC in its milestone 60th anniversary year.
Defending Independents’ title-holder Tom Ingram sits second in the overall standings, after the Speedworks Motorsport star defied the formbook at Croft – a circuit that naturally favours rear-wheel drive machinery – to tally a brace of podium results behind the wheel of his front-wheel drive Toyota Avensis.
Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal – the most experienced driver on the current grid, having made his BTCC debut all the way back in 1991 – leapt up to third in the points table in Yorkshire, and with Hondas running at the top of the timesheets in last week’s two-day test at Snetterton, the three-time champion must surely fancy his chances next weekend.
Andrew Jordan (BMW Pirtek Racing) and Tom Chilton (Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher) are both edging ever-closer to breaking their 2018 duck, with five podiums between them over the last six races, while reigning title-holder Ashley Sutton marked a long-awaited return to form at Croft with a brace of victories for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing to vault up to seventh in the Drivers’ classification following a challenging start to the season.
Fellow young guns Adam Morgan (Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport) and Jack Goff (WIX Racing with Eurotech), meanwhile, will be bidding to fight back after a tough time in Yorkshire – with the latter coming away completely empty-handed. Far more encouraging for Goff was his pace-setting performance in last week’s test and having shed some success ballast heading into next weekend, he will assuredly be one of the favourites to shine at Snetterton.
In lieu of the usual reversed grid finale, race three at Snetterton will be a unique ‘Diamond Double’ to celebrate the BTCC’s diamond jubilee. This will take the form of an extended 60-mile contest, with a standalone qualifying session, all cars competing on base weight and – most notably – double championship points on offer.
Approximately twice as long as a standard BTCC race, this exciting showpiece will inject a further sporting twist into what is already proving to be a fantastic and fiercely-contested campaign, and will undoubtedly add yet further fever to Snetterton’s famous festival atmosphere.
Strategy will play a greater role than usual, with tyre management key over the longer distance and the stage set for an intriguing battle of tactics and wits – particularly with the title fight poised so finely on a knife-edge, meaning those extra points could prove crucial come season’s end.
A long and illustrious history
Over its six-decade existence, the BTCC has won the hearts of the British public and, indeed, fans all around the world, establishing a truly global following.
From the very first Drivers’ championship – decided quite literally on the flip of a coin between Jack Sears and Tommy Sopwith back in 1958 – to last season’s ‘changing of the guard’ as Ashley Sutton became the youngest champion of the modern era, there have been countless magic moments throughout the course of the past 60 years.
Snetterton has played host to many of those episodes, from the dramatic start-line incidents in both 1993 and 2016 to the series’ groundbreaking inaugural night race in 1999 and one of the most bruising chapters in the iconic Jason Plato/Matt Neal rivalry in 2006.
It is just such compelling duels that have made the BTCC the spectacular success story it is today, and over the years, the series’ sky-high profile has attracted the likes of Formula 1 heroes Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Nigel Mansell, rallying superstar Colin McRae and movie legend Steve McQueen. That profile is now arguably higher than it has ever been, with many more memories set to be made over the remainder of 2018.
“Whilst firmly focussing on the future, we are immensely proud of the BTCC’s illustrious 60-year history,” said Series Director, Alan Gow. “Many of the greatest touring car drivers in the world have competed in the championship, as well as big names from a wide variety of other disciplines – testament to the esteem in which the BTCC is held on a global scale.
“The BTCC has always been and remains the greatest show in UK motor sport, courtesy of its irresistible blend of doorhandle-to-doorhandle action, access-all-areas policy and household name drivers – and with the championship’s ever-growing crop of emerging young guns increasingly taking the fight to the established stars, we are truly in the midst of a golden age.”
Timetable and tickets
All three BTCC races on Sunday, 29 July alongside the rest of the day’s action will be broadcast live, free-to-air and in high-definition by the series’ longstanding partner ITV, on ITV4, via the ITV Hub and streamed live online at itv.com/btcc. Those in attendance at the circuit can stay in touch with the commentary and live timing from every session, available at btcc.net/live throughout the weekend.
The support series on the TOCA package are also guaranteed to thrill, from the tin-top stars of the future in the Renault UK Clio Cup, budding Formula 1 aces in the F4 British Championship, the ever-entertaining Porsche Carrera Cup GB, precociously talented 14-to-17-year-olds in the Ginetta Junior Championship and the spectacular Michelin Ginetta GT4 SuperCup. A total of 13 support series races will complement the three high-octane BTCC encounters, making for an action-packed weekend.
Adult tickets are priced at £28 for Sunday 29 July, or £37 for the full weekend, with accompanied 13-to-15-year-olds getting in for £17 and £22 respectively. There is no charge for accompanied children under the age of 13. Pre-orders can be made online at https://snetterton.msv.com/SN-18-BTCC-1/Admission-Tickets or over the phone (0843 453 9000) up to 12:00 on Thursday, 26 July. After this date, tickets can still be purchased on the gate.