The final three rounds of the 2019 BTCC are here and Knockhill Circuit in Scotland plays host to races 22, 23 and 24 of the season. Whilst Colin Turkington’s lead is sizeable, it’s not insurmountable and everyone from Andrew Jordan in 2nd to Josh Cook in 4th will be eyeing the Knockhill weekend as a chance to close the gap. Knockhill is one of the most involved and challenging circuits on the BTCC calendar with its rollercoaster-like nature having produced some fantastic racing over the years. It’s fast, unforgiving and qualifying is key as starting races one and two in the rough and tumble of the midpack could spell trouble. I’ve given my thoughts on all the biggest talking points ahead of Knockhill in my BTCC Weekend Preview.
Tight At The Top
There’s absolutely everything to play for at Knockhill this weekend with 38 points separating Colin Turkington in 1st and Josh Cook in 4th. 38 points is just under two race wins so while that gap seems sizeable, a poor qualifying, especially at a tight track like Knockhill could harm any of the four drivers in the title fight.
Last time out at Thruxton was certainly a Honda Civic weekend as Dan Cammish scored a 2nd, 5th and 1st and Josh Cook finished 4th, 1st and 6th to ignite both their title challenges. Knockhill will be more difficult and won’t be as clear cut in favour of the Civic but both drivers are in form and on a good run of results. Both Cammish and Cook had success at Knockhill in 2018 as Cammish bagged a pair of 3rds and Cook finished 5th, 2nd and 6th accross the weekend. The pair are well and truly in this title fight but Knockhill could be a major bananna skin if things don’t go their way.
After a tough weekend at Thruxton where a 7th place finish for Andrew Jordan in race two marked their best result of the weekend, things aren’t looking so clear cut for Turkington and Jordan at the top of the table. Turkington’s 30 points buffer over 2nd place Jordan does offer the defending champion a little bit of wiggle room but one DNF could still dramatically change the picture at the top of the table. As it stands right now, Turkington is still my pick for the overall title but Knockhill is a round he will have to navigate with care if he wants this title to be swen up before the final race of the season.
Like their Civic rivals, both Turkington and Jordan also have form at Knockhill as Turkington finished 2nd, 4th and 2nd and Jordan 4th, 1st and 3rd in 2018. Qualifying is going to be critical, and whilst West Surrey Racing won’t have ran the BMW 3 Series at Knockhill before, it has been fast out of the blocks at every track it’s been too. Saturday’s qualifying will be fascinating to watch and if any of the top four qualify down the order it’s going to make for a very tough weekend indeed.
Sutton The Man To Return To The Podium ?
It’s stunning that you have to go back to Thruxton in May to find the last time Ash Sutton finished on the podium when he finished 3rd in race three. Without a win so far in 2019, we’ve become so acustomed to seeing Sutton charge up the championship table in the second half of the year that it’s unusual to see him sitting in 6th place heading into the final nine races of the season.
The last six races haven’t been kind to Sutton with a 7th place in race two at Snetterton being his best result. Of course, he was arguably on for the race win in the third race at Snetterton before clashing with Jason Plato, but the Subaru Levorg hasn’t quite been the package it has been in previous seasons. Sutton has always been able to extract the maximum from the car, somthing that’s evident when you compare his fortunes to those of his teammates in the last couple of years. To the eyes at least it appears that the car has been left behind by the likes of the 3 Series and new FK 8 Civic and we all know that its severely lacking in straightline speed.
However, Knockhill has been kind to Sutton and the Subaru Levorg in the past with Sutton winning in both 2018 and 2017 and Jason Plato also taking victory in the car in 2016. If there’s any track which might favour the Levorg between now and the end of the season it’s Knockhill, and with less ballast in the car courtesey of his 6th place in the championship standings I wouldn’t discount Sutton as a winner this weekend.
Matt Neal Back On Track?
After tough runs at Oulton Park and Snetterton, Matt Neal’s fortunes turned a corner at Thruxton with two 3rd place finishes leaving him 7th in the standings heading into Knockhill. After winning at Knockhill in 2016, both 2017 and 2018 were tough years for the thee-time champion at the Scottish track but with form on his side after a positive Thruxton weekend, he’ll be confident of running at the front once again.
With teammate Cammish challenging for the title, Neal’s return to form comes at a vital time for Team Dynamics and Honda as they aim to secure their first championship since Gordon Shedden’s in 2016. If Neal can run up at the front, he’ll take points off the likes of Turkington, Jordan and Cook and prove a valuable aid to Cammish. The Team Dynamics Civic has finished on the podium in every single round since round two of the season at Donington Park so we know there’s pace in the car.
Power Maxed Racing To Take Their First 2019 Win?
Power Maxed Racing came agonisingly close to their first win of 2019 last time out at Thruxton with Rob Collard’s 2nd place finish being the cherry on top of what was already a very good weekend, even with Plato’s penalty at the start of race one. The PMR Vauxhall Astra had pace right from the get go at Thruxton and with Cook’s 2nd place finish last year at Knockhill coming in the Astra, Collard and Plato are two of my dark horses for victory this weekend.
Plato and Collard sit 10th and 13th in the championship standings respeectively as overall car speed and a lack of consistency has hampered their aim to be further up the table. Two costly penalties for Plato at the start of races, (Brands Hatch Indy and Thruxton) have cost him the chance of good points, as did an action-packed race three at Snetterton where he had a chance of a podium. For Collard, consistency and qualifying have been the main pain points of a 2019 which has yeilded two strong second place finishes.
With minimal ballast in Plato’s car and no ballast in Collard’s car, Knockhill is a chance for PMR to have another strong weekend. Both Plato and Collard know what it takes to win at Knockhill with their last victories at the circuit coming in 2016 and 2015 respectively. I’ll be keeping a close eye on their progress.
No Sam Tordoff This Weekend At Knockhill
I’d like to extend my deepest condoloences to Sam Tordoff and his family after the devastating loss of his newborn son, Arlo. Mike Bushell will replace Tordoff in the second AmD Tuning Civic at Knockill this weekend.
BTCC Knockhill Timetable
Qualifying: 15:00 – 15:50
Race 1: 11:45
Race 2: 14:15
Race 3: 17:05