Snetterton is the BTCC event which I have been looking forward to most this season. The BTCC’s 60th anniversary weekend looks set to be full of both on and off track action, with the final race on Sunday finishing off with a brilliant double distance BTCC race. Alongside the BTCC’s diamond jubilee, Snetterton also marks the beginning of the closing half of the 2018 season. With Colin Turkington leading the charge and the likes of Ingram, Neal and Jordan in hot pursuit I think we’re in for a cracking final 15 races where as of now, it’s still all to play for. Before we get set for a real celebratory weekend for the BTCC, I’ve looked at some of the biggest talking points ahead of Saturday and Sunday’s action.
Too Late for Sutton to Mount a Charge?
Stranger things have happened but after a stunning weekend last time out at Croft, two race victories means defending champion Ash Sutton has started to drag himself back into championship contention. Just. With a deficit of 50 points to Colin Turkington it will take nothing short of a miracle for Sutton to retain the BTCC title but after Team BMR’s superb speed at Croft and the ballast-free final race this weekend at Snetterton we could see something extraordinary.
Two-time champion and teammate Jason Plato also enjoyed his strongest weekend of the season so far at Croft, despite 2nd, 14th and 19th place finishes failing to reflect the car speed he had. With a rejuvenated Plato as backup, a strong weekend at Silverstone where Sutton won two out of three races last year could further close the gap to the challengers at the top of the table. Qualifying will be key, and it will show us if Team BMR can replicate the pace the Subaru Levorg showed at Croft at the remaining circuits this season.
Turkington to Stake the Claim
In my eyes, Colin Turkington remains the favourite for this year’s title. Sitting atop of the championship table with 162 points, the West Surrey Racing driver has finished on the podium in three out of the last six races. Turkington also boasts a remarkable record of finishing on the podium in four out of the last six races at Snetterton and despite qualifying with maximum ballast on board I think he should feature in the top five on the grid.
West Surrey Racing and Turkington are one of the most experienced combinations on the current BTCC grid and if anyone knows how to close out a championship campaign its these guys. With an ability to bag consistent points-scoring finishes weekend after weekend, I think both will be strong at Snetterton and a race win could well be on the cards and I can see Turkington finishing on the podium at least once.
A First Race Win Since Donington for Ingram?
Ballast-free, I think the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis of Ingram in one of, if not the fastest car on the current grid. Ingram is enjoying a remarkable BTCC campaign and unlike the previous two seasons, is managing to maintain his championship charge into the final half of the year. The ballast-free opening rounds of 2016, 2017 and 2018 showed that Ingram has what it takes to win when the weight is off and if I had to be bold and predict a winner for Sunday’s race three, I’d go for him.
This weekend won’t be easy, however. With the experienced trio of Matt Neal, Andrew Jordan and Tom Chilton all breathing down his neck the team will be under huge pressure to bag consistent results over the remaining five rounds If they do just that we could be in for a brilliant and exciting end to the year. Ingram has finished inside the top ten at Snetterton in all but one of the last six races at the Norfolk circuit, and it’s that kind of stability which will see him maintain his position as the leader of the chasing pack.
Dan Lloyd’s race three win last time out at Croft was amazing, and thoroughly deserved. The now BTC Norlin driver has had a tough few years trying to break into the BTCC with a tough run with MG last year coming to an end after Oulton Park. I really rate Lloyd, and his domination of this season’s TCR UK championship is further testament to his skill and speed behind the wheel. With a drive at a competitive BTC Norlin outfit for the rest of the year, the final 15 races of the season are exactly the opportunity Lloyd needs to prove that he deserves a BTCC drive.
I can’t wait to see if we see another surprise race winner at Snetterton. With the field so, so close this year the margins are smaller than ever but I think we’re unlikely to see any surprise winners this weekend. With Snetterton traditionally a strong track for BMW, Subaru and Honda I think the wins are going to come for the stronger teams and drivers, especially with race three being ballast free. But I’d love to be surprised!
I’m going to go with race wins for Sutton or Ingram with some strong finishes and most likely at least podium for Turkington or Matt Neal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jack Goff put in a strong performance, especially in race three and my biggest question mark is whether Jason Plato can replicate the speed he showed at Croft. If so, he could be a fascinating extra factor in this year’s championship race.