The 2019 BTCC resumes at Snetterton this weekend with the Norfolk circuit marking the start of the second half of what is becoming a fascinating season. Jack Goff, Ash Sutton and Matt Neal shared the spoils at the Snetterton 300 circuit in 2018 when the BTCC celebrated its 60th anniversary in a special double-distance race. With Colin Turkington sitting pretty at the top of the standings after a brilliant double at Oulton Park, the next sequence of races at Snetterton, Knockhill and Thruxton mark a crucial phase of the championship. I’ve given my thoughts on all the action ahead of the Snetterton in my weekend preview.
Tense Battle At The Top Of Table
The West Surrey Racing BMW 3 Series has been the class of the field so far in 2019 and as we head into the second phase of the season the stakes will keep getting higher and higher for Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan. As Turkington seeks to defend his title and become only the second driver to win four BSCC/BTCC championships, Jordan, who is having since best season since 2013 will be desperate to become a two-time champion in the final year of his relationship with long-time backers PIRTEK.
At Oulton Park it was Colin Turkington who came out on top, winning the opening two races and finishing 8th in race three to open up a 33 point lead at the top of standings. Whilst the momentum between the two is going to swing from circuit to circuit, it’s Jordan who must do the chasing and as we saw last year, Turkington knows how to lead from the front.
Turkington had a poor weekend at Snetterton last year, scoring a 15th, DNF and 6th whilst Jordan finished 12th, 9th and 4th. Whilst the BMW 3 Series was the car to beat at Croft and Oulton Park, I think the competition is going to be much closer here and the likes of the Subaru Levorg, Ford Focus and Honda Civics will be just as strong. Consistency is where the title will be won, but both will also have to dig keep and keep their cool when battling in the pack as I expect both to have to do at times this weekend. There’s nothing to choose between them, but I’m going for Jordan to have a slight edge over Turkington at Snetterton on Sunday.
Six Honda Drivers Eyeing The Top Step
I can’t honestly pick between any of the six Honda Civic drivers on the grid when I think about who has the best chance of victory at Snetterton, but it’s a track where the Civic has long been strong, as the car won two races last year and another in 2017.
Although from different teams, all of the Team Dynamics, BTC Racing and AmD Tuning Honda Civics have shown some fantastic pace at different points this year, but it’s Josh Cook and Rory Butcher who sit 3rd and 4th in the standings on 148 and 147 points respectively. Snetterton was a happy hunting ground for Cook in 2018 as he finished 4th, 2nd and 7th, and after a tough weekend at Oulton Park, he’ll need to bounce back with similar results this time around. Keeping the momentum going will be key to keeping Cook in the championship fight and he can’t afford to give away too many points to the top two again.
The same can be said for Butcher who recovered from a poor Croft to finish 4th, 7th and 5th at Oulton Park. Butcher came home 23rd in race two with two DNFs last year at Snetterton in an uncompetitive MG, but I’m backing him for a trio of top-ten finishes this weekend.
Hot on the heels of Cook and Butcher will Dan Cammish who has finished on the podium five times in the last nine races, and Matt Neal who returns to the scene of his most recent victory in the diamond double last year. The Dynamics Hondas have good form around Snetterton and I’m expecting both to be challenging for podiums and race wins.
Both Sam Tordoff and Chris Smiley will be looking at the second half of 2019 as an opportunity to bounce back from a challenging opening sequence of races. Consistency has been a struggle to achieve at times, but both can finish well inside the championship’s top ten. Two top tens for each of them at Snetterton last year will give them confidence that the Norfolk circuit will be the perfect place to kick on, and out of the ballast of the top-ten, qualifying would be the perfect place to make a statement and set up a strong opening two races.
Ash Sutton The King Of Snetterton
Snetterton has been a firm favourite for Ash Sutton and the Team BMR Subaru Levorg in recent years, winning twice in 2017 and finishing 2nd, 1st and DNF in 2018 to establish himself as a firm favourite heading into this weekend. Sitting 5th in the championship on 147 points, level with Butcher in 4th and just one behind Cook in 3rd, the title fight is by no means over yet for the 2017 champion, and heading into the second half of the year he’s the driver I’m looking at to make the most ground up in the next 15 races.
Always strong in the second half of the year, Sutton will be looking to take his first race victory of 2019 this weekend. Without a win yet, it’s been his brilliant consistency which has enabled Sutton to stay in the championship fight. However, with the BMW 3 Series looking to be a sterner challenge than any of the cars he’s battled against before, it’s going to be vital to start taking more points of Turkington and Jordan soon before they build up an unassailbe gap. If there’s any circuit which Sutton can win at it’s Snetteron and he’s my pick for victory this weekend.
Could Motorbase Challenge For Victory?
After their strong form in the Snetterton tyre test, Motorbase will be a team many keep an eye on. Tom Chilton topped the overall timesheets over the two day test earlier this month and sitting 8th in the table after a testing Oulton Park, Chilton is approching a critical phase of his campaign. He finished last year strongly, but the points gap to the top of the table is 77 points, and I fear that one more poor weekend could put Chilton out of contention alltogether if he isn’t already.
13th, 11th and 5th place finishes like he achieved at Snetterton last year won’t be enough to help Chilton climb the championship table, and he will have to be targeting the podium in all three races. Qualifying with less ballast on the car should help him in a Ford Focus which is still among the best on the grid, but he’ll need a near-perfect weekend of consistent results to give himself a chance in the title race.
Chilton’s teammate Ollie Jackson topped the second day of the Snetterton test, proving that Motorbase do have pace at the circuit. Whilst all the teams will have been running differnet setups and you can’t read too much into it, Jackson’s solid times mean that he’ll be targeting the top ten on Sunday. 19th in the standings but coming off his best weekend yet at Oulton Park, if Jackson can make the most of the car in qualifying and start inside the top ten I’m banking on him to stay there.
It’s so close to call between everyone at the top of the table but I don’t think Turkington and Jordan are going to have it all their way at Snetterton. Ash Sutton is one of my top picks for victory, and I’m expecting the Team Dynamics duo of Dan Cammish and Matt Neal to be strong and up on the podium too.
What are your thoughts ahead of Snetterton? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook.