Six different winners from six different races have certainly made this season’s BTCC one of the most unpredictable in recent memory and the series arrives at the UK’s temple of speed, Thruxton in the best shape it has seen for years. With its notorious final chicane, and the perhaps the most formidable corner in British motorsport, Church, Thruxton is a fantastic venue for touring car racing and with the series as competitive as has been for a good number of years I think we can expect some great racing on Sunday. Read on to find my analysis of four of the biggest talking points ahead of the Thruxton weekend.
Qualifying is more important than ever in 2016
Bagging a high grid position for race one during qualifying on Saturday is becoming more important than ever this season. We saw at Donington that more often than not, the cars that started the weekend inside the top ten stayed there, apart from the likes of Ingram and Sutton who went backwards once their tyres began to go off. Neal, Shedden, Goff and Collard will all be carrying significant amounts of success ballast into qualifying on Saturday, meaning that a good qualifying run will be even more critical for the championship leaders.
The top 15 or so drivers in the championship table are all incredibly evenly matched and it’s difficult to pinpoint a team or driver which are clear favourites for pole position, however Andrew Jordan and Tom Ingram will no doubt be looking to be starting race one high up the grid. Sitting in 11th and 12th in the championship table ensures that both the Motorbase Ford and Speedworks Toyota will be relatively light compared to their nearest rivals, and we all know how fast Ingram was with no ballast on at Brands Hatch.
Can Triple Eight/MG continue their resurgence?
MG are on fire compared to last season, yet I’m sure they were expecting to come away from Donington with more than one podium finish after securing a historic front row lockout in qualifying. Ashley Sutton and Josh Cook sit 8th and 9th in the championship table and will looking to consolidate what has been a very impressive start to the season with strong results once again at Thruxton. Andrew Jordan drove the MG 6 to the podium in race three last season and I see no reason why Cook or Sutton won’t be able to repeat that achievement this year, and having both cars in the top ten after qualifying is a very reasonable target, especially when the likes of Honda and WSR will be heavily laden with ballast.
A high speed track like Thruxton should suit the Triple Eight MG as much as it should suit Cook, he secured two top ten finishes at the circuit last year in the Chevrolet Cruze.
Will Adam Morgan repeat his victory from 2015?
Adam Morgan took a popular victory last time out in the WIX Mercedes in the reverse grid race three, and after already securing a first victory of the season at Brands Hatch, Morgan will be looking to improve on what turned out to be an unfortunate weekend for a driver and car more than capable of fishing every race inside the top ten. 13th, 11th and a DNF from three races at Donington saw Morgan drop to tenth place in the drivers championship after three top ten finishes at Brands, but Morgan ran strongly at Thruxton last year and qualifying will no doubt be more fruitful with less ballast on board. Expect to see him well inside the top ten on race day.
Subaru may struggle more than most
It became apparent at Donington that the Team BMR Subarus are lacking in top speed compared to the opposition, a factor which may be highlighted more so at Thruxton than any upcoming track on the calendar. The series visits Oulton Park and Croft before coming back to what we could consider the next “high speed” track at Snetterton at the end of July. Progress has been made since the Subaru Levorg was unveiled at the start of the season and Colin Turkington’s 10th place finish in race one at Donington Park highlights the value of his previous rear wheel drive experience.
Plato has said that BMR have got all year to turn the Subaru Levorg into a race winning machine, and on paper it does certainly look like the ultimate touring car, line echoed by even the likes of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden. However, may have to wait until Oulton Park and Croft before we see any more tangible progress from Subaru.