The BTCC returns this weekend at Croft for races 10, 11 and 12 of the 2019 season. After three races at Thruxton which further strengthened the BMW 3 Series’ position as the car to beat, Croft will provide another stern test for the competition hoping to reel in the WSR trio. With the championship top four covered by just five points, there’s absolutely everything to play for as the BTCC heads into the crucial midseason. I’ve given my thoughts on the state of play ahead of Croft in my weekend preview.
Rear Wheel Drive Advantage
Traditionally a rear wheel drive circuit, Croft will be the first stop on the calendar where the BMWs and Subarus will be expected to shine and the rest of the field will be looking to limit the points given away on Sunday. For all of the talk of Croft being a strong circuit for the BMW, it’s actually the Subaru Levorg in the hands of Ash Sutton who has enjoyed the greatest success at Croft in recent times. Sutton won twice at Croft in 2018 as the round kick-started his championship charge and he also won race one in 2017. Sitting 4th in the championship table on 97 points, consistency is what has carried Sutton so far in 2019 and he’s the highest-placed driver yet to win a race. However, even without a race win, I think 2019 has been Sutton’s strongest start to a BTCC campaign yet and the rest of the field should be very worried about a driver who often comes on strong in the second half of the year.
All of Turkington, Jordan and Oliphant will also be eyeing Croft as an opportunity to bring home more trophies. WSR have been the team to beat over the last two rounds, scoring four race wins out of a possible six. Turkington won twice at Donington before Jordan doubled-up at Thruxton and the pair sit 1st and 9th in the table respectively. Both will be expecting to challenge for honours at Croft, and I feel like they’re so closely matched in race-trim that it’s so hard to choose between them. Qualifying will be key, and with less ballast on board Jordan’s car that could swing the advantage his way.
Cammish And Tordoff To Continue Their Upturn In Form
Thruxton saw Dan Cammish and Sam Tordoff enjoy their best weekends yet in 2019, and boy did they need it. Cammish finished 3rd, 3rd and 6th to rise to 8th in the standings and Tordoff scored a 2nd, 6th and a DNF but rose to 16th in the championship table as a result. Cammish and Tordoff are two drivers who will be looking to continue their upturn in form at Croft, and both should be targeting a top-five finish in the table come the end of the season.
Tordoff ran well at Croft last year, finishing 4th, 4th and 8th in the Ford Focus but the AmD Civic will be a whole different beast this time around. Like many on the grid, he will struggle to keep pace with the rear wheel drive cars but a podium is possibility and would represent a solid weekend haul. Cammish finished 19th, 11th and 10th at Croft last year and will be hoping to improve this weekend. His 8th place in standings means he carries less ballast than many of his direct championship rivals and like Tordoff, a podium could well be on the table. Consistency is so important at this stage of the BTCC season, and both drivers need to ensure that they find some if they want to be in with a shout come the latter stages of the season.
Tom Chilton Needs To Rebound
After a strong end to 2018, round one of the 2019 season at Brands Hatch Indy looked like more of the same for Tom Chilton. However, a tough set of 18th, 25th and 13th place finishes at Thruxton saw him drop to 7th in the championship standings and the Motorbase driver will be looking to rebound at Croft this weekend. He finished 2nd in race three at the circuit last year, and I feel that if he’s going to repeat that this time around, it’s race three which is looking like his best bet. Qualifying will be slightly easier given the fact that he’ll be carrying less ballast in the car than some of his championship rivals, but in a front wheel drive Ford Focus he’ll find it hard to mix it right at the front of the pack.
Drivers are bound to have the odd tough weekend in a championship campaign, and Chilton needs to make sure that Thruxton was just that, and it isn’t an indicator of how things will pan out for the rest of the season.
Surprise Contenders For A Podium?
Outside the usual candidates for victory, Tom Oliphant and Stephen Jelley are two drivers I’ve earmarked for a strong Sunday at Croft. Both in rear wheel drive machinery, this weekend represents a chance for both drivers to match the brilliant opening day of the season they had at Brands Hatch Indy and with no ballast on board for either, I’m expecting them both to qualify well inside the top ten. The pair sit 14th and 13th in the standings respectively, but both struggled at Thruxton, although Oliphant did come through to finish 7th in race three. Oliphant scored points twice last year at Croft in the Ciceley Mercedes, but in some of the best machinery on the grid in the BMW, I’m expecting him to easily eclipse those results this time around. Jelley has struggled since his fantastic opening weekend, but Croft represents the perfect opportunity to return to the front.
Who do you think will run well at Croft? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!