After the celebration of the BTCC’s 60th anniversary last time out at Snetterton the series returns to Rockingham for races 19, 20 and 21 of the 2018 season. With the top four drivers separated by just 17 points, there’s all to play for at the top of the table as we head to a track where all four of those drivers have featured on the podium in recent years. We’re fast approaching the real business end of the season, where a single DNF or finish out of the points could start to make the difference between going into Brands Hatch with a shot at the title or not. I’ve taken a look at some of the biggest talking points ahead of this weekend in my Rockingham race preview.
Consistency Is Going To Be So Important
With the championship battle so finely poised, consistency at Rockingham and across the remainder of the season is going to be crucial. Looking back at both 2016 and 2017, championships which were decided by the finest of margins, eventual champions Gordon Shedden and Ash Sutton both only finished outside the points once in the final 14 races of the year. That’s an incredible run of results, and a run which come the end the season you look back on and say, “that’s what won them the championship.” All of Ingram, Turkington, Neal and Goff finished once race outside the points at Snetterton last time out and will be keen to avoid a repeat of that this weekend.
Incredibly Tight Battle In The Chasing Pack
The battle to be at the head of the chasing pack is even tighter. Fifth to eighth in the table is covered by just nine points and it’s going to be fascinating to see if any of Cook, Jordan, Sutton or Chilton can use Rockingham to drag themselves into the title fight. Both Sutton and Jordan won races at Rockingham last year with Cook also equalling his best finish of 2017 with a 4th. With all four cars lighter on ballast than their main championship rivals, qualifying on Saturday will present a great opportunity for all four drivers to set themselves up for strong points finishes and perhaps race wins in races one and two. A bad weekend for any of the chasing pack could mean curtains for their BTCC title hopes this year.
Ricky Collard To Make His BTCC Debut
Rockingham will see Ricky Collard, the son of Rob Collard make his debut for Team BMW. The 2016 British Formula-Ford runner-up replaces father Rob for the rounds at both Rockingham this weekend and Knockhill in two weeks time, and he couldn’t wish for a better team to make his debut with. The WSR BMW 125i has been one of the BTCC’s strongest packages for a number of years and its one in which Ricky will be able to make an immediate impact. With testing miles in the car already under his belt, Collard will be looking to hit the ground running and impress on his maiden BTCC race weekend.
The faster Ricky Collard can get up to speed the better in terms of Colin Turkington’s title hopes. Turkington needs his WSR teammates to take as many points as possible off the likes of Ingram, Neal and Goff, and with the BMW winning races at Rockingham for the last two years running I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team add to that tally this weekend.
Can Morgan Reverse His Run Of Form?
After an incredible start to the year which saw him top of the table after Thruxton, Adam Morgan’s season has taken a dramatic nosedive and the Cicely Motorsport comes into Rockingham 9th in the table and battling to stay inside the top-ten. Three podiums including two race wins in the first nine races of the year have been followed by three DNF’s and only one finish inside the top-ten in the nice races since, hardly results which help a driver and team who should be challenging for the championship. Rockingham is a brilliant opportunity for Morgan to get his season back at a track where he finished 2nd in race three last year.
Worryingly, the second half of the season drop off is a factor which also affected Morgan in both 2017 and 2016 and its one we also used to associate Ingram and Speedworks with. Whilst Ingram seems to have been able to not fall foul of the same misfortune this year, Morgan has, and for the third year in a row, it has cost him a real chance at fighting for the title. I think the Mercedes A-Class in the hands of Morgan has the speed to push the likes of WSR, Team Dynamics and Speedworks all the way to the title. However like Ingram has this year, Morgan needs to find that final key, that final piece of the jigsaw to elevate him into the upper echelons of the table. That key is consistency.
I think Rockingham is a really tough one to predict, with the form book wide open looking back at the results of the last few years. Ingram has been strong at Rockingham in the past and so have Turkington, Jordan, Sutton and Goff. If I had to go with one, I’d go with Jack Goff to be strongest of the bunch with Ingram a close second. I expect both to be on the podium at some point this weekend, and I expect Turkington’s consistency to keep him right up there in terms of points.
Sutton and Team BMR are my wildcards. The improvement in the Subaru Levorg in the last two rounds has been phenomenal, but let’s not forget that last time out at Snetterton it was Sutton’s epic start from 9th on the grid which catapulted him into the fight for the race win. If the Subaru is hooked up to perform well at Rockingham then I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sutton take a race win or two.
BTCC Drivers Standings Ahead Of Rockingham
|1||Tom INGRAM||Speedworks Motorsport||189|
|2||Colin TURKINGTON||Team BMW||183|
|3||Matt NEAL||Halfords Yuasa Racing||173|
|4||Jack GOFF||WIX Racing with Eurotech||172|
|5||Josh COOK||Power Maxed TAG Racing||157|
|6||Andrew JORDAN||BMW Pirtek Racing||157|
|7||Ashley SUTTON||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||150|
|8||Tom CHILTON||Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher||148|
|9||Adam MORGAN||Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport||122|
|10||Sam TORDOFF||Team GardX Racing with Motorbase||115|
|11||Dan CAMMISH||Halfords Yuasa Racing||112|
|12||Senna PROCTOR||Power Maxed TAG Racing||111*|
|13||Rob COLLARD||Team BMW||86|
|14||Chris SMILEY||BTC Norlin Racing||80|
|15||Matt SIMPSON||Simpson Racing||70|
|16||Rob AUSTIN||DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing||67|
|17||Dan LLOYD||BTC Norlin Racing||59|
|18||James COLE||Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher||59|
|19||Aiden MOFFAT||Laser Tools Racing||50|
|20||Rory BUTCHER||AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing||46|
|21||Brett SMITH||WIX Racing with Eurotech||43|
|22||Ollie JACKSON||AmD with Cobra Exhausts||42|
|23||Tom OLIPHANT||Ciceley Motorsport||35|
|24||Jake HILL||Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing||29|
|25||Mike BUSHELL||Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing||29|
|26||Jason PLATO||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||21|
|27||Tom BOARDMAN||AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing||14|
|28||Bobby THOMPSON||Team HARD with Trade Price Cars||14|
|29||Ant WHORTON-EALES||AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing||6|
|30||James NASH||BTC Norlin Racing||6|