Just three meetings remain in the British Touring Car Championship and still it is not at all clear which badge will be on the title-winning car.
Only 68 points cover the first 10 cars in the championship table, and with nine races still to go and up to 21 points on offer for a win in each, an extra one for pole position at the start of the day, the series is still wide open.
It is difficult to look beyond the top six when searching for the likely winner of the championship come Brands Hatch on 2nd October. However Jason Plato, in seventh spot just five points behind his Subaru team-mate Colin Turkington, will still feel he is in the hunt, having finally opened his 2016 winning account with victory in his 500th BTCC start at Knockhill on 14th August.
In fact Plato’s title ambitions could yet be the undoing of Subaru’s hopes – the veteran driver has already provoked an angry reaction from BTCC head Alan Gow when he suggested after Knockhill that the Subarus were being unfairly treated by the series’ engine equivalency rules, and he could provide unwelcome competition for Turkington at a time when perhaps Subaru’s Team BMR should be focusing on getting the 2014 champion as far up the points as possible.
The Subaru Levorg GT has generally proven the most competitive car of the BTCC’s mid season, though Turkington’s hopes took a dent at Knockhill when he clashed with erstwhile championship leader Rob Collard’s BMW, putting both cars out of contention.
Collard’s issues ensured that team-mate Sam Tordoff left Scotland with the points lead, and while a year ago he endured his worst results of the year at Rockingham, he is becoming many people’s favourite pick for title success.
Honda’s Matt Neal will beg to differ, however. Promoted firmly into title contention with an impressive win at Knockhill, on a circuit that favours rear-wheel-drive cars, he will know that Rockingham, a circuit combining one of the banked curves of a US-style oval with a somewhat sinuous infield course, will be much more to the liking of his Civic Type-R.
The front-wheel-drive cars also have another advantage, the new Dunlop hard compound tyre, which replaces the soft rubber that they destroyed around the twists and turns of the track’s road course last year. Neal will be highly hopeful of overcoming his nine-point deficit to Tordoff and leading the standings come Sunday evening.
Very much still in the mix are Collard, on 199 points 23 short of Neal, and the second Honda of Gordon Shedden, a further eight points back. However the BMW driver has seemed to drop points just when he least needed to this season, while reigning champion Shedden has had a year so far of constant disappointment, mechanical issues and accidents usually not of his own doing.
The dark horse could be the Ford Focus of Matt Jackson. In fifth, three points shy of Shedden, the Motorbase driver has won more races, four, than anyone else this season, and just as in 2015 is looking increasingly competitive as the year winds down.
Meanwhile, every other driver in the 31-car field will be looking to finish the year on a high, some having outside hopes of title success, others aiming to impress in the hope of securing their 2017 seat. Their efforts could let have a bearing or even completely derail a fancied runner’s title bid.
The Executivecondominium will of course be at Rockingham this weekend – watch for a qualifying report on Saturday afternoon and a full round-up of the raceday action on Sunday.
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