Tuesday, 31 December 2013

TinTop Guru in 2014...

Happy New Year Everybody!!!

Well here we are in 2014, which means another full season of Tin Tops to look forward to!!

This year I will be blogging about:

MSA British Touring Car Championship
FIA World Touring Car Championship
FIA European Touring Car Cup
German Touring Car Championship/DTM
FIA World Rallycross Championship
International V8 Supercars
ACO Le Mans 24 Hours

And maybe, just maybe something about the 2014 FIA Formula One season.

Keep an eye for updates on Facebook and Twitter as the buildup to the season gets underway.

If your lucky and I mean really lucky, I may just tell you this year about the day I cursed the Stig...

Yes, that Stig!!



Sunday, 15 December 2013

BTCC Update... 16 December 2013...

So we are another week closer to Christmas and we've seen yet another busy week filled with exciting news for the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season.

So lets see whats been happening...

1. After originally announcing that they would confirm their 2014 driver at the Autosport International Show in January, AmD had a change of heart and announced that Dave Newsham would drive their NGTC Ford Focus for the 2014 season. This marks another new team that Newsham will drive for next year.

2. BTC Racing confirmed that that they have a TBL for 2014 and that Chris Stockton will pilot the NGTC Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback for the team. With Aiden Moffat confirming he has the ex Andy Neate NGTC Cruze Saloon for 2014, this will mean that there will be two types of Cruze on the BTCC grid next year.

3. Rob Austin Racing confirmed that they would not carry sponsorship from Wix Filters next year. Rob confirmed he is looking for other sponsors at this time. However Ciceley Racing then confirmed that they had secured sponsorship from Wix Filters for the Mercedes NGTC A Class.

4. Its been confirmed that the BTCC will use the International layout at Oulton Park when it hosts the 4th BTCC weekend in 2014. The last time the BTCC used this layout was back in 1996, during the Super Touring days.

5. Motorbase have confirmed that they will be running three NGTC Ford's in 2014. They have secured the TBL to do this and are building a new NGTC Focus after the sale of one to AmD. They have confirmed changes in the team to build on the technical side to help extract the best from the Focus and that they are speaking to different drivers for the three seats they have.

Motorbase have also said they want to maintain a "Satellite" Team relationship with AmD in the same way that Team Dynamics have a similar relationship with Pirtek Racing. They will support Shaun Hollamby and his team over the season.

6. Finally, Lea Wood has made his BTCC intentions clear for 2014. He has explained he wants to join a team with NGTC experience to learn more about the cars. If this doesnt happen, the other option open to the team is for them to run their own NGTC car next year. Lea has confirmed he is in talks with several teams.

So thats all the BTCC news from last week with more details shaping up how the 2014 season will look.

All the best!!


Sunday, 8 December 2013

ETCC: Why we need a British Team to compete in the ETCC...

Back in 2004, the FIA took the step to promote the successful European Touring Car Championship to become the World Touring Car Championship from 2005 onwards.

However the decision was taken to still run a European Touring Car Cup alongside the WTCC. This would allow Independent teams to take part from European countries whose National Touring Car series used Super 2000, Super 1600 and Single Make Trophy regulations and race against each other.

Just to add for those of you familiar with the ETCC, there was also a catergory called Super Production but this was phased out for the 2012 season.

Now below are the rules for competing in the ETCC:

The cars that are eligible are those complying with the FIA Super 2000, Super 2000 Diesel, Super Production and Super 1600 technical regulations.

The Drivers must either have competed in a minimum of 50% of their own National Championships; been designated by their ASN (National Sporting Authority) and who have not taken part in the FIA WTCC with a Manufacturer’s team or belong to a country in which there is no national Championship and been designated by their ASN.

In 2012 the Single Make Trophy was introduced for cars such as SEAT León Supercopa.

From the 2013 season Diesel engines and the Super Production regulations were outlawed and thus only petrol engined Super 2000, SEAT León Supercopa and Super 1600 cars are allowed.

Ok so pretty simple rules to understand for entry. Now here is the bit that is niggling me and is something I feel should be addressed...

Since 2005, the FIA European Touring Car Cup has been won 3 times by British Touring Car Drivers. Ryan Sharp won the Cup in 2006 in a GR Asia run SEAT Leon and former Double BTCC Champion James Thompson won back to back ETC Cups in 2009 and 2010, driving for the Danish Touring Car team Hartmann Honda Racing in both years.

However since then British Touring Car talent has been somewhat missing from the Cup. From 2005 - 2009 the ETCC was a one venue/two race event. Qualifying decided the starting grid for race one. The grid for race two was decided by reversing the top eight finishers from race one. From ninth place down, the drivers start where they finished in race one.

In 2010, the Cup became a three event series with two races taking part at Braga in Portugal, Salzburgring in Austria and at Francaciorta in Italy. In 2011 it returned to a one venue/two race format at the Salzburgring.

In 2012, the FIA decided that the ETCC should act as a stepping stone to the WTCC. So it became a 5 event Cup with 10 races in total held in Europe. Three of those events were held on the same weekends as WTCC with 2 further standalone events in Europe.

So you have a European Touring Car Cup that races alongside an FIA sanctioned World Championship for 3 meetings out of 5 and you get European exposure for your sponsors...

So why dont we have a British team holding up honours in the ETCC?

The last time a BTCC Team took part was in 2009 when Bamboo Engineering ran a two car team of Chevrolet Lacetti's for BTCC regular Harry Vaulkhard and guest driver Duarte Felix Da Costa. Since then no British team has taken part. Harry almost won the ETCC that year too. He was in contention until sliding off in slippery conditions under pressure from James Thompson.

Now the first obstacle is the regulations. Any team taking part in the BTCC has already spent budget on either building or buying 1 or 2 NGTC cars as well as negotiating contracts with drivers. With the ETCC using S2000 cars, that means that your team would need to have experience of both NGTC and S2000 machinery and have been successful in both types of cars.

The next obstacle is budget. A normal 2 car BTCC team for one season can cost upwards of £350,000. A typical 2 car ETCC team can cost upwards of £500,00. So already your looking at needing upwards of £900,000 to go racing. So thats a lot of sponsor hunting. Not only that but if you are running two NGTC cars in the BTCC, then you need drivers with experience and available to race in the ETCC...otherwise you'll need another two drivers to employ, pushing the driver total to four.

Next is competition. Not only are you racing in a Multi-Class Cup with three different types of cars racing together on the same track, but you are also racing against the best that Europe and Scandinavia have to offer in the form on Independent Touring Car teams and drivers. To be at this level means your team has raced against the best in your own domestic championship and has made the step up to take on the best from Italy, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Sweden, Portugal and many other countries in Europe and Scandinavia with competitive touring car championships.

No mean feat...

Finally, coverage. The BTCC is broadcast on ITV4 HD. A free to air HD channel available to anyone with Digital TV. The ETCC is broadcast on Eurosport, Europes biggest sporting broadcasting channel, however its only available in the UK if you have a Virgin or Sky box. So if your team competes, not all your fans will see it.

However the plus side is the exposure. Any sponsors you have will be seen on the European Arena where there is a bigger fan following of the ETCC. Many fans from Europe flock to the events as they are often on WTCC weekends as well, so another plus side is that the drivers and team gain notice from the WTCC Paddock, offering potential options to compete on the World Stage later on in the teams and drivers career.

Theres also the fact that you and your team would be competing in an FIA sanctioned championship. Thats nothing to be sniffed at. Taking part in an FIA European or World Championship takes budget, drive and determination as you take on Europe's best. A box to be ticked on any score sheet in motorsport...

So there are arguments for and against for this particular topic. However, I remind you that British teams do well in WTCC. RML, Bamboo and Special Tuning Racing have shown that they are among the best in the World Championship with RML winning outright drivers and manufacturers titles whilst Bamboo and STR are always in the hunt for Independents wins and the Independent Title.

Now I know that a few people will point out that recently this year Nicholas Hamilton took part in two rounds of the ETCC in the SEAT Leon Supercopa class. For me, that is a high achievement in Nicholas' short Touring Car career. After spending two years in the UK Renault Clio Cup, a spectacularly close championship that is on the BTCC support bill, Nicholas made the step up and I hope that he can return back to try and hone his skills against the best.

Whilst Lewis may dominate the F1 headlines with his performances for Mercedes, the fact that Nicholas, who suffers with Cerebral Palsy, has achieved the goal of beginning a racing career should not be overlooked.

Other UK based Touring Car fans also enjoy ETCC as well as I do so while the fan base maybe smaller here than in Europe, we would still love to see the Brits have a crack at the Cup again. Teams like Motorbase, West Surrey Racing and Pirtek Racing are the best BTCC Independent teams that could easily take on the ETCC and give the competition a run for its money in the top class. 

In fact each time WSR entered a BMW 320si/320TC in the WTCC for regular pilot Colin Turkington, he was often one of the fastest Independent drivers out there and often harried the works WTCC teams too!!

Come guys!! Give it a go and show them how Britain does it best!!



Saturday, 7 December 2013

BTCC Update...7th December 2013...

Another week has passed us by and we have been lucky enough to have more news on how things are shaping up for the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.

So heres whats been released this week...

1. Simon Belcher has been out testing his Handy Motorsport run NGTC Toyota Avensis at Silverstone this past week. Belcher has claimed to be impressed and very happy with his 2014 BTCC with further testing to take place.

2. 2013 WTCC driver Alex MacDowall has had a 2nd run in a WSR/Ebay Motors NGTC BMW 125i at Silverstone. His first test in the NGTC BMW was in November at Brands Hatch. MacDowall has not yet announced his Touring Car plans for 2014.

3. Pirtek Racing has officially confirmed Martin Depper as Andy Jordan's 2014 team-mate. Depper tested the Civic last week and has reportedly purchased Jeff Smiths Honda Civic from him. Deppers Civic will run in Pirtek colours next year.

4. 1999 British Formula 3 Champion  Marc Hynes has signed up at Triple Eight to drive a 3rd MG6 in 2014. Hynes is also currently head of Driver Development for Formula One team Marrussia. He tested the MG6 at Brands Hatch this past week. The 2nd seat at MG has not been allocated yet.

5. Popular team AmD Racing have announced that they have purchased an NGTC Ford Focus from Motorbase/Airwaves Racing and that they have a TBL to race in the BTCC next year. Team boss Shaun Hollamby has also confirmed that a "Front Running" BTCC Driver will be announced to drive the Focus at the Autosport International Show in January.

So there we have another week of BTCC announcements and a clearer picture of who is racing where in the 2014 BTCC season.

Take care and I'll keep you updated during the winter!!



Thursday, 5 December 2013

BTCC: Why NGTC has worked for the BTCC...

Back in 2010 after the BTCC meeting at Croft, TOCA announced the next set of BTCC regulations that were to reduce the reliance on expensive built Super 2000 spec cars in use at the time that were originally used in the WTCC and ETCC.

The biggest changes to the cars that were to become Next Generation Touring Cars were:

300+bhp 2-litre turbo-charged direct injection engine
Fly by wire throttle control.
Low cost to develop, build, buy and maintain. Teams can decide whether build their own unit to the spec, or teams can lease/purchase a TOCA-BTCC engine ready built.
Over-boost function. This will allow an increased power output from 2013.

Xtrac 6 speed sequential-shift gearbox.
AP Racing carbon clutch.
Front or Rear Wheel Drive: Originally TOCA announced that only front wheel drive cars would be eligible to take part. However, after high interest from teams running rear wheel drive cars, TOCA amended the spec to include both front and rear wheel drive cars.

Full front sub-frame incorporating suspension, brakes, transmission and engine location that attaches to specified roll cage locations.
Rear sub-frame that attaches to specified roll cage locations.
Multi-adjustable double wishbone suspension with coil-over dampers

2, 3, 4 or 5 door of a minimum 4.4m length. (2 or 3 door cars must share the same basic body profile as the 4/5 door model).
Equalised width of 1875mm
Specified front aerodynamic device incorporating flat floor, apertures for radiator, brake cooling ducts, intercooler and side exits.
Specified rear wing profile.
Base vehicle must be freely on sale in the UK through the manufacturer's normal dealer network
Specified 18” centre-lock wheel

AP Racing specified package
AP Racing specified pedal-box

Cosworth Electronics specified package incorporating ECU, dash, data-logging and scrutineering logger.
Common power management box, switch panels and wiring loom design

The target price for a complete car, less engine is around £100,000 depending on final components used by each team and the running cost. The cost for a TOCA-BTCC Engine will be £25,000 with the option to be leased. However the target price is a lot higher than expected - it was reported that the car, less engine is around £200,000

And Finally: Low cost to build, buy, maintain and develop.

Now when these regulations were put into action for the 2011 season, there were four different types of BTCC car competing together:

Full NGTC car and engine
Super 2000 car with NGTC engine
Super 2000 car with Normally Aspirated Engine
BTC Regulation car with Normally Aspirated Engine.

There were 6 NGTC cars that took part that season with Rob Austin and Chris Swanwick in Audi A4's, Frank Wrathall in a Dynojet Toyota Avensis, Tony Hughes in a Speedworks Toyota Avensis, Dan Welch in a Proton Persona and John Thorne in a Vauxhall Insignia.

Three cars took the start at the first weekend at Brands Hatch: Austin, Hughes and Wrathall.

The common factor with all these entries? They were all Independent Teams. No works assistance.

Now remember that number 6... Its going to make an appearance later on...

Now this is the upside of the NGTC regulations. It allowed new teams to build cars that could be developed into race winning, competitive cars. Teams that couldn't afford to buy S2000 cars or build S2000 cars. At Silverstone in 2011 there were 30 cars that started on the grid that were of mixed NGTC & Super 2000 origin.

30 cars.

To put that in context, the record number of entries for a BTCC race was set at the 1993 British Grand Prix support race where there were 33 entries. Back in 1993, the regulations in use were the FIA Class 2/Super Touring regulations.

Those of us who remember watching those types of BTCC races know how competitive that field of cars were...

So it was obvious that the regulations were working. The downside however was the engine equalisation. This was often a bone of contention with drivers/teams and fans alike. Boost equalistion and penalty weight are still in effect but as the S2000 entries reduced, this also showed the popularity of the NGTC regs building, regardless of the equalisation measures.

I have never forgotten Jason Plato's rant at Louise Goodman at Oulton Park after he was handed the win in his Normally Aspirated Chevrolet Cruze thanks to the Works Honda's sliding off at the last corner...

In 2012 the number of NGTC cars grew as Honda, MG, Pirtek and Motorbase entered new cars and the competition increased from there. By the end of the season the drivers, manufacturers, indie drivers and teams titles went to the Honda NGTC Teams of Honda Yuasa and Pirtek.

The S2000 runners still took race wins in the form of Dave Newsham, Rob Collard and Tom Onslow-Cole to mention a few, but it was obvious by now that Alan Gow's move to implement the NGTC regs to boost the BTCC grid, offer new and existing teams the chance to race against the best in the UK's top domestic motorsport series meant that to win races and championships, you needed NGTC machinery.

I remember being at Croft in 2012 after the final BTCC race of the day and hearing a BTCC driver that was racing that day say the immortal words "Thats it, we need an NGTC car." I wont say who it was but the tide would sway in the direction of NGTC when the 2012 season started again at Snetterton after the mid season break. The pace of the new Motorbase NGTC Ford Focus saw to that. It was fast out of the box and challenging for wins.

For 2013, the Jack Sears Trophy was created for the remaining teams that couldn't afford the step up to NGTC machinery that raced S2000, but with entries dwindling from 6 cars at the seasons start to 3 cars at one meeting and three quarters of the grid now in NGTC cars, it was further proof of the success of NGTC.

Hmm. Theres that number 6 again. Its amazing how that returned as events turn full circle...

Whilst the 2013 BTCC was won by Andrew Jordan, the racing was as close as ever, as tight as ever and there was the occaisional moan over driving standards but it showed that the BTCC had something not seen for a long while from the SuperTouring days:

Large grid numbers, a good mix of different manufacturers represented by the cars built by Works and Independent teams alike and a good quality of drivers with talent racing each other hard.

So, in my own opinion, NGTC has been a positive move for the BTCC and it has served as a platform to take the series to further good places in the years to come.

In 2014, its expected that there will be a full NGTC grid, now that TOCA has introduced its TBL system and this will improve the show further for the teams, drivers and fans who love seeing their tintops racing in the UK for 10 weekends a year, 3 times a day whilst ITV4 broadcasts its action, twists and turns to its UK audience.

For the Drivers and Teams it offers a chance to build and race in the top domestic motorsport series in the UK at a competitive and affordable price. For the fans, the series offers the same racing and action that hails back to a series that showed its best racing 20 years ago with different regulations back then.

Well, like I always say, if you think Formula One is boring, try watching Touring Cars!!

So what about the future of NGTC? For me, I echo the thoughts of Triple Eight Team Boss Ian Harrison. Back in October on Bathurst/BTCC Finals weekend, he said that the BTCC deserved a Blue Ribbon event in the same way that V8 Supercars have Bathurst, the DTM has the Norisring and the WTCC has Macau.

Well for me, I think a return to having a one hour endurance race for the BTCC, something that last happened in the late 1980's, would be a good idea. You have two drivers per car, a pitstop to change drivers and top up with fuel, but it would also allow the chance to get high profile drivers in for a one off appearance.

Imagine Alain Menu or Rickard Rydell hussling an NGTC Ford Focus through the Craner Curves at Donington Park...

Now theres a thought...

Its possible as Alan Gow has pointed out, the NGTC cars are designed with larger fuel tanks. Its also something he confirmed to me on the BTCC Forum has been discussed with the teams and interest is building...

Come on, I had to ask the question!!!

Anyway, thats how I think the NGTC regulations have been a success and so far 2014 is already shaping up to a better season than 2013...

If thats entirely possible!!!

Once again, please keep an eye on my blog as I keep you the fans updated with BTCC and WTCC news over the winter.



Monday, 2 December 2013

BTCC Update... 2nd December 2013...

So here we are in December and the BTCC has been a busy place with regards to news from the teams and drivers.

Heres what we know:

1. 2012 Clio Cup racer Simon Belcher has confirmed that he will race an NGTC Toyota Avensis with his team Handy Motorsport with Support from Speedworks Motorsport who ran Dave Newsham and Ollie Jackson this year.

2. Andy Jordan confirmed last week that his 2014 team mate would be testing his title winning NGTC Honda Civic at Donington. That driver turned out to be Martin Depper who last contested the BTCC in 2010 in a Forster Motorsport BMW. More recently, Depper has been racing in the VW Cup.

3. Honda Yuasa Racing have confirmed that Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden will return as team-mates in 2014, both driving the new NGTC Honda Civic Tourer. This means that when the car competes next year, it will 20 years since the last estate car took part in the BTCC. A certain Volvo 850 Estate run by TWR...

4. Top sportscar team United Autosports have confirmed today that they will field two NGTC Toyota Avensis for James Cole and Glynn Geddie, who took part in the Supercar Challenge last year. Cole has experience from racing for Team HARD. last in an NGTC Vauxhall Insignia.

5. Speaking of Team HARD. they have been out testing their NGTC cars with some notable drivers. Apart from Warren Scott who drove the Passat in 2013, Dave Newsham tested the car at Croft and 2009 BTCC Champion Colin Turkington have also tested the VW Passat CC at Silverstone. However no driver lineup has been confirmed by the team at this time.

Finally, TOCA has confirmed today that they have allocated all of the new TBL Licenses that lock in team entries in the BTCC to the end of the 2016 season. They have confirmed a full entry of 32 cars whilst there is a reserve list of 3 cars in case any teams have to relinquish their TBL for any reason.

So its good to see that so many plans are falling into place for drivers and teams this early!!



Friday, 29 November 2013

WTCC: A Little Clarification on the WTCC 2014 Classes...

So for the past few seasons, trying to determine the different types of Super 2000 Regulation Touring Cars competing in the FIA World Touring Car Championship has been difficult at best...

God knows the missus gets confused herself just trying to figure them out...

And to her they are just "cars going round and round and round..."

So the different class classifications have been made easier for 2014. Each type of Super 2000 Touring Car Catergory will be split into the following:

"TC1" or Touring Car 1 will be cars built specifically to the new 2014 regulations. So thats the Lada's, Citroens, Honda's and RML built Chevys.

"TC2" or Touring Car 2 will be Super 2000 cars built between 2011 and 2013 that use the 1.6 Litre Turbo engines. This includes the BMW 320TC, Honda Civic WTCC, SEAT Leon WTCC, LADA Granta Sport, Volvo C30, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze that we all know and love. These cars will operate in the 2014 WTCC but will be slower than the TC1 cars.

"TC3" or Touring Car 3 will be Super 2000 cars that use the 2.0 Litre Normally Aspirated Engine that dates back to the beginning of the WTCC in 2005. These cars normally compete in the Eurosport Asia Trophy. These would be the BMW 320si, SEAT Leon, Chevrolet Lacetti/Cruze, Alfa Romeo 156 and Honda Accord Euro R. They will also look the same as the TC2 cars so hopefully there will be some form of graphic to determine what car is what Class.

To add to this, its looking highly likely that both the TC2 Class and TC3 Class will be eligible to compete together in the FIA European Touring Car Cup.

Its been too long and very difficult to differentiate these cars up until now and hopefully these new classes will help to clear this up.



Monday, 18 November 2013

WTCC Macau: Muller and Huff step up as Chaos reigns...

Well, The FIA World Touring Car Championship enjoyed its usual spectacular finale on the streets of Macau.

With Yvan Muller declared Champion, the race for 2nd place in the championship behind was down to Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Chilton and James Nash and Macau didn't not disappoint in mixing this battle up.

During practice, Chilton had a big accident which damaged the Chevrolet Cruze and put him on the back foot. After Qualifying, Tarquini needed an engine change which ruled him out of race one and put him at the back of the race two grid.

A "normal for Macau" disrupted qualifying session which saw three stoppages during Q1 after Michael Soong, then Hugo Valente and finally Fredy Barth had session stopping incidents. Barth's crash was so bad that Weichers Sport withdrew from the rest of the event.

Muller took Pole Position in his Cruze by a full second from Montiero in the Honda Civic. Tarquini and Huff lined up 3rd and 4th for row two whilst Michelisz and MacDowall took 5th and 6th to complete row three. Row Four was held by Chilton and Nash with James Thompson putting the LADA 9th and Tom Coronel qualifying 10th and taking Pole for race two.

Oriola didnt make it into Q2 after losing out in Q1 due to the incidents on track. Tom Boardman had a fantastic run in Q1 and would line up 12th behind Huff's Munnich Motorsport team-mate Marc Basseng for both races.

In race one Muller led from Pole to take a lead he would never lose. Monteiro held 2nd but would go on to spend the race defending from Huff's SEAT and Michelisz in the Zengo Motorsport Civic. The first lap would be completed by the field without incident however on lap 2 that would change.

Oriola had shown in free practice and qualifying that he had very good speed but his impatience would boil over. On lap 2 he tried a move on the inside of Tom Chilton at Maternity corner and instead made contact with the Cruze, putting Chilton out of the race. This would not be the only incident the spaniard would be involved in...

Oriola would later be passed by Basseng who was showing that he wasnt intimidated by the circuits legendary reputation and was on full attack until he passed Oriola on lap six.

Muller would go on to win from Monteiro and Huff who joined the frenchman on the podium. Michelisz, MacDowall and Nash would finish 4th, 5th and 6th and for Nash, this secured the Yokohama Independents Trophy. Basseng, Oriola, D'Aste and Boardman rounded out the top ten with Coronel finishing 11th.

Race Two however was another matter...

At the first start of race two, Coronel led away from Thompson whilst Huff made his way from seventh on the grid to third. Michelisz however was tapped from behind into what would lead to a race stopping incident. After the cars were cleared, Boardman, Bennani, Valente, Calko, Kozlovskiy and O'Young would not take the restart.

The 2nd start took place behind the safety car where Coronel again led away from Thompson. Huff held station in third whilst further behind Muller and Montiero made contact into San Francisco corner. Muller continued whilst Montiero retired to the pits.

On lap 4, Thompson had to pull off a massive defensive move to hold off the flying Chevrolets of Chilton and Nash and managed to keep 2nd as Nash ran into Chilton. However on lap 5 Chilton would slow with engine problems after Maternity and this would cause another stoppage.

Eurosport Asia Trophy driver Eurico de Jesus hit Chilton in his normally aspirated Honda Accord causing the track to be partially blocked. But on the next lap, as many cars slowed realising the danger, Felipe De Souza in a China Dragon Racing N/A Cruze hit Muller at high speed in the rear whilst the Engstler BMW of Jo Merszei hit the Nika Racing Chevrolet of Taniguchi.

30 minutes later and the race re-started with Huff passing Thompson at Mandarin whilst Nash passed the LADA at Lisboa to drop Thommo to 4th. The LADA simply didn't have the pace to hold off the Chevrolets and Oriola was next to pounce...

Remember Oriola's move on Chilton in race one? Well he tried it again at Maternity on Thompson and made contact again with the LADA hitting the wall. What looked a promising race for the englishman ended there.

Huff went on a charge after Coronel and passed the Dutch BMW driver to take the lead whilst Oriola passed Coronel for 2nd on the final lap. Huffy went on to take his 6th win in the WTCC, tieing him with Eduardo Mortara for the most amount of wins on the streets of Macau. Behind Huff, Oriola and Coronel completed the podium with Nash, MacDowall and Muller 4th, 5th and 6th. Completing the top ten behind them were Basseng, Engstler, Tarquini (who started from the pitlane) and Henry Ho, competing in an N/A BMW.

After the races, Oriola would be penalised by 30 seconds for his race one incident with Chilton and reprimanded for his race two incident with Thompson.

Here's a hint Pepe... You cant pass at Maternity!!!

So in the end, Tarquini secured 2nd place behind Muller from James Nash who took 3rd in the overall title race.

And so the 2013 FIA WTCC season ends. Now the work begins on the 2014 season which sees bigger, faster, more aerodynamic cars from newcomers Citroen joining Honda, LADA and RML built Chevrolets.

What has been confirmed so far is that Campos Racing will field a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze for Hugo Valente whilst Tom Chilton will drive a 2014 Cruze but we are waiting for confirmation of what team. Bamboo has purchased 2 Cruzes whilst RML will take a year out, due to return in 2015.

Sebastian Loeb joins Muller at Citroen whilst Rob Huff joins Thompson and Kozlovskiy at what will be a 3 car LADA team. Honda confirmed cars for Tarquini and Montiero whilst Michelisz and Bennani will recieve customer support.

Also, 2014 will see the current crop of S2000 cars that will be known as TC2 cars still eligible but over 1 kilometre, they will be 1.5 seconds slower. So far the Engstler BMW team are expected to compete in TC2 whilst Campos have said they will run cars and Munnich Motorsport will make a partial programme.

Well, if you ask me, next year looks rosy. So enjoy the run to Christmas, make sure the tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped and the cupboards are stocked.

Meanwhile I'll keep you updated with all the tintop news.



Sunday, 10 November 2013

WTCC: Anything Can happen at Macau...

Theres a saying in Motorsport...

"Anything can happen at Macau..."

The Macau Grand Prix celebrates its 60th Anniversary this year by having two weekends of top level Tintop, Single Seater and Superbike racing.

Every year for as long as I have been on this earth (hint: since 1977) and before there has been an End of season event at Macau where motorsports best comes and attempts to win the race in the catergory they participate in.

Its known to be the jewel in the crown for aspiring Formula One drivers that take part in the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix.

Its known to be the best of the best for the road and circuit racing Superbikers that try and tame the street circuit.

Its also known as the season finale for the FIA World Touring Car Championship since 2005.

But what makes makes Macau so special?

Well its a Street Circuit. Straight away you think of other street circuits such as Monaco, Porto, Marrakech and Pau which all have their own unique attributes. The level of concentration to thread the racing line in Practice, Qualifying and the Race during the weekend is increased tenfold, whilst safety is at its highest it can be.

But while Monaco is tight and twisty, Pau is slow and challenging, Macau is odd in that it has a long fast section of straights where the WTCC Cars will reach 150 mph and it has fast tight and twisty sections that follow, daring the drivers to go as fast as they can, getting as close to the barrier or wall as much as they dare. Its got the slowest, tightest hairpin in the world and its following is legendary and iconic.

Its also an impressive mark on any motor racing drivers CV to have taken a win at Macau...

For those that win on the streets of Macau in tintops, it ticks a box that shows that driver has the talent to win WTCC Titles, knowing how to push his touring car to the edge, often leading to a talent recognised as being one of the best Touring Car drivers in the World, along with such names as Muller, Winkelhock, Soper, Biela, Menu, Harvey and Huff.

For those that win on the streets of Macau in the Formula 3 Grand Prix, it ticks a box that is often a precursor to a future Formula One seat again joining an elite of recognised talent. Such great names that have won the Formula 3 GP as Ayrton Senna, Rickard Rydell, Michael Schumacher, David Brabham, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard.

In WTCC terms, Macau has often been the scene of Championship finales that include huge crashes and awesome, heroic drives. Andy Priaulx won all three of his WTCC Titles at Macau, Yvan Muller lost the 2009 title to then SEAT team mate Gabriele Tarquini due to mechanical failure. Rob Huff won both races in 2011 but despite that, Muller won the 2011 title.

In 2013, Yvan Muller has already won the FIA WTCC Drivers title. However there is the fight for 2nd place in the final standings between RML's Tom Chilton, Castrol Honda's Gabriele Tarquini and Bamboo Chevrolet's James Nash.

The Yokohama Trophy for Independent Drivers Title is also up for grabs between Bamboo Chevrolet team-mates James Nash from Milton Keynes and Alex MacDowall from Carlisle.

Expect fast close racing, safety cars, huge crashes and edge of your seat racing...

So, now you can understand why they say that "Anything can happen in Macau..."

If you fancy a spot of decent racing before the Austin Grand Prix, check out Eurosport and Motors TV if you have it and set your TV Box to record.



Saturday, 9 November 2013

WTCC China: Chilton and Montiero to the front...

For the 2nd year in a row, the FIA World Touring Car Championship headed to the Grand Prix circuit at Shanghai for the penultimate two races before heading to the legendary Macau Guia circuit for the season finale.

Now I love watching the WTCC racing at Shanghai as its the final purpose built circuit the series races on and it provides good racing from the tintops. Last year, the three works Chevrolet drivers of Rob Huff, Yvan Muller and Alain Menu were fighting it out for the title and no quarter was given or asked by any of them.

This year, with Muller crowned as Champion, the view turns to who will end up 2nd in the title race. A fight that is between three drivers: Tom Chilton, Gabriele Tarquini and James Nash.

The two Chinese rounds also saw two swedish touring car legends return to the WTCC for one off appearances:

Rickard Rydell and Volvo.

Rydell returned to the series to occupy the seat at Nika Racing vacated by former 2012 STCC team-mate Michel Nykjaer and Japan WTCC event only entrant Hiroki Yoshimoto. Rydell is familiar with the car and team having raced for them in 2011 and 2012 in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship.

Volvo returned to the WTCC after last competing in the 2011 season with a lone C30 Drive, then driven by Robert Dahlgren. This time it was driven by 2013 STCC Champion Thed Bjork. The one off visit to the Chinese round was to evaluate if the WTCC was maintaining its "Cost Effective" racing.

Now I admit, I'm a big Rydell fan and Volvo fan from back in the SuperTouring days when the Rydell/Volvo combination was mighty in the BTCC, but I also maintain that the experience he holds makes him just as good a driver as Muller and Tarquini. When all three men were team-mates at SEAT, Rydell was the match of both men.

So personally, as I've written in previous blogs, I hope that both Rickard Rydell and Alain Menu will return to the WTCC and that Volvo will consider a return also.

Anyway, to business...

In Qualifying, the top 6 positions for race one were taken by Chevrolets. Yvan Muller took Pole from RML team-mate Chilton. Row Two was taken by Tuenti Racings Pepe Oriola and  Bamboo Engineerings James Nash with Alex MacDowall and Rickard Rydell locking out row three. Norbert Michelisz took 7th ahead of Rob Huff in the Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon whilst the two Works Hondas of Tarquini and Montiero locked out row five, giving Montiero Pole for race two.

Notable losers in Qualifying were James Thompson, Tom Coronel and Thed Bjork in the Volvo. Bjork qualified 12 in Q1 meaning he could progress through to Q2, however as he was not scoring points and wasnt eligible to go through to Q2 due to the one off entry, this would have elevated Tom Coronel to 12th... However it didnt...

When Q2 began only 11 cars would go out. Bjork would later suffer a 5 place grid drop for being underweight by 5kgs due to not having an on board camera and would start 17th for both races.

James Thompson showed good speed in the Lada Granta but didnt make it into Q2. However the Lada has always showed better race pace than qualifying pace this year.

Whilst Qualifying took place on a dry track, race day was damp with both races declared wet. First retirement was Thed Bjork in the Volvo, which refused to fire up due to Battery issues.

From the start, Muller led Chilton away whilst Oriola pursued both of the RML Chevrolets. With the young spaniard on wets, he soon overtook the slick shod cars and took the lead. But Oriola was unable to make a gap big enough to defend his lead and later on in the race, he fell back.

Rydell and Thompson also took to wet tyres and both moved through the pack in the beginning, however it was Rob Huff who made good progress. The SEAT driver fell back behind the three Honda Civics due to the track conditions but the 2012 WTCC Champion made his way back past them to end up challenging Oriola for 5th at the flag.

As Rydell fell into the clutches of Nash, MacDowall, Michelisz, Huff, Tarquini and Montiero, Oriola lost out to Muller and Chilton. Tom then started to put pressure on Yvan and on the final lap got a great run out of the hairpin to run side by side through the final corner and take the race win by hundreths of a second.

Chilton won from Muller, Nash, MacDowall and Oriola, who held off Huff for 5th. Tarquini took 7th from James Thompson who held on to 8th. Surprise of race one was Tom Boardman who worked his way up to finish 9th with Michelisz 10th. Montiero finished 11th whilst Rydell fell to 14th.

Race Two was an all Honda affair as Montiero led away from Tarquini, Michelisz and Huff. Coronel made contact with Rydell who held on to a fantastic slide, however the Swede would retire later on with damage.

Whilst the Works Hondas broke away, Michelisz led a pack of cars that included Huff, Muller, Nash, Oriola and Coronel. Chilton lost ground at the standing start and found himself battling with the BMW's. Muller soon found his way past Nash, however he couldnt break the stern defence of Huff and would finish behind his ex team mate.

Oriola, Nash and Coronel would have an exciting battle between them with Coronel passing Nash, only for the BMW to lose out to the superior grip of the Chevrolets and watched as both Oriola and Nash passed back again.

Chilton would fight his way past the BMW's, following the canny Stefano D'Aste who made his way quietly through the field. Both Fredy Barth and Darryl O'Young collided at the hairpin on the last lap in thier BMW's.

So Montiero took his first WTCC win in three years followed by Tarquini, Michelisz, Huff and Muller. Nash, Oriola, Coronel, D'Aste and Chilton completed the top ten.

Now time for some 2014 WTCC News...

One confirmation for 2014 was announced when Lada confirmed that Rob Huff would be joining James Thompson and Michael Kozlovskiy on a 3 Lada Team on a 2 year contract. Having both of these drivers in the team will push Lada forward in 2014 with both Huffy and Thommo well known for developing cars. This knowledge will also be useful for the Lada Priora WTCC car being considered for the 2015 season.

Meanwhile on the run up to the Chinese WTCC weekend, Honda confirmed that they would retain Tarquini and Montiero in the Works Castrol Honda's. Zengo Motorsport confirmed a one car effort for Norbert Michelisz whilst Italian team ProTeam were confirmed as the recipient of the 4th 2014 Honda Civic with Mehdi Bennani at the wheel.

Several other announcements made were that Munnich Motorsport will run a partial WTCC program next year with the Class B SEAT Leon whilst they run a partial programme in the new FIA World Rallycross Championship using Audi A3's in the Supercar catergory. However the team confirmed they will return for a full WTCC programme in 2015.

Volvo have announced that since taking part in the WTCC this year, they are investigating the possibility of seeing if the S60 model can be converted to the 2014 Super 2000 rules for a potential future entry. Along with the V8 Supercars S60 being run by Garry Rogers Motorsport next year and the announcement of an NGTC Volvo being built for entry into the BTCC next year, could this be a full time return of Volvo to top line tintops?

Finally, many sources expect an announcement to take place either at or after the Macau finale regarding RML's 2014 Chevrolet plans for the 2014 season. Rumours say that between 6-8 new Cruzes could be seen next year but we'll have to wait and see who has them and who is driving them.

So, more pieces fall into place as the 2013 season winds down and prep begins for the 2014 season. But as they say...

"Anything can happen at Macau..."



Saturday, 28 September 2013

WTCC China Update...

A quick update on the World Touring Car Championship with some news being revealed this week.

Firstly, Volvo have announced that they will be making a one off return to the WTCC in China. The Polestar team will run the same C30 that took was driven in the 2011 season by Robert Dahlgren.

This time out it will be driven by recently crowned 2013 Scandinavian Touring Car Champion Thed Bjork. Whilst the car will run with an extra 40kgs as per the rules, Bjork's talent is the best, having won multiple Swedish and Scandinavian Touring Car titles.

The aim of this one off return? Well Volvo have confirmed they still see the WTCC as a viable option and this could be a possible precursor to an entry in 2015 when the new regs will have been in effect for a year. Lets see how that goes.

Secondly, Bamboo Engineering have confirmed this week that they have purchased two 2014 RML Chevrolet Cruze's. With Bamboo being the customer Chevrolet team since they entered the WTCC, this comes as no surprise.

What will be interesting is the driver choice. James Nash and Alex MacDowall are both capable of winning this years Yokohama Trophy for Independents and both have been very competitive overall in this seasons races. Tom Chilton has also has made it clear he wants to remain with RML in some capacity and brings Aon Sponsorship so who knows?

What has been mentioned is there could be up to six 2014 Cruze's available so after the season finale at Macau, its going to be a very interesting off season.

Anyway, its a long way to 3rd November when the series races on the Shanghai Circuit, so lets see what else is announced by then...



Sunday, 22 September 2013

WTCC 2014: My concerns for the future...

Earlier this year the FIA announced its new for 2014 Super 2000 regulations for cars entering the FIA World Touring Car Championship from 2014.

In a nutshell the new cars will be lighter, faster, more aerodynamic and wider...

Now with these rules came the question: What year do they come into effect?

Originally this was slated for 2015, however with Honda and Lada committed to the WTCC for the next 2-3 years and with Citroen wanting to enter but their decision dependent on when the rules came into effect, it was decided that they would come into force in 2014.

Now with Honda already commiting to providing 4 2014 Honda Civics whilst the current crop of Civics will be upgraded, Lada confirming that their 2 Granta's will be upgraded and possibly joined by a 3rd Granta and Citroen confirming they will have 3 C-Elysse's for Muller, Loeb and a 3rd driver, this still leaves a question over the other manufacturers who have cars present and the problems facing the independent teams for 2014 who dont have the budget to build new cars.

So I thought I'd lay them out for you...

Firstly, SEAT.

Now earlier in the season SEAT introduced the Leon Cup Racer and put it on show from the Salzburgring WTCC event onwards. The car itself looks the part and when the new regulations were confirmed at Porto there were high hopes that we would see the return of a works team from the spanish manufacturer for the first time since 2009.

However 2 weeks ago, SEAT confirmed that they would not be entering the Leon Cup Racer into the 2014 WTCC as the cost of building the car in time for next season would be too high as Citroen already have their car built and testing. They also felt that it would be too expensive developing the car when they are already on the backfoot.

What they did confirm was that they were to going to concentrate on using the Racer model in enhancing the current SEAT Supercopa single make series around Europe, expanding the series into new markets and more support for teams that enter the Single Make Trophy in the European Touring Car Cup.

So, this means that there will be no new SEAT's built to the new rules. What this does is leaves the current WTCC SEAT teams with two options:

A. Move on to a new manufacturer who has plans to have customer 2014 S2000 cars.


B. Leave the WTCC for pastures new.

Now Munnich Motorsport have already said that staying in the series next year will be difficult without a 2014 car, however they have the option of going to the new World Rallycross Championship for next year. Special Tuning Racing have been a SEAT Customer team for the past few years as has Campos Racing or SUNRED Engineering as they were known before. For these teams the options are also become a customer of a new manufacturer or look elsewhere.

STR have raced in the BTCC with the S2000 Leon and the BTCC offers an alternative if they can build an NGTC spec car. For Campos, I would expect a return to Spanish national level racing like the new Leon Cup Racer series mentioned.

But these are educated guesses on my part. Not gospel truths.

Next, BMW.

Now, its well known that support for the WTCC BMW Customer teams has been in short supply since BMW pulled its works team at the end of 2010. Whilst Augusto Farfus and Andy Priaulx tested the 320 TC with the 1.6 litre engine in early 2011, development has been little. The BMW Customer teams have all complained of a lack of straightline speed and BMW Motorsport boss Jens Marquardt has made it clear that there is no more development due for the 320 TC as their focus is on the DTM and endurance programmes.

So, at the moment, the same situation faces the ROAL Motorsport, Engstler, PB Racing and Proteam Customer BMW teams. Either sign up for a new manufacturer or leave... But there is a 3rd option...

There has been talk of developing an upgrade kit to allow the 320 TC to be competitive in 2014 guise with some private engine development discussed between the teams. ROAL did mention earlier in the year they would look at other makes but with all races using standing starts in 2014, any BMW entered has a chance as long as its upgrade proves competitive.

I have ranted on before how I think that BMW should've stayed on in WTCC but my hope is that with the new regs in place they will consider a works team return or increase support for their customer teams to be competitive.

Next, Chevrolet.

Now this year all 6 Chevrolet Cruzes have been run as Independent entries: RML, Nika, Tuenti and Bamboo. The Cruze has been the dominant force in WTCC since 2010 and a lifeline for this car and the teams that have run it was presented last week.

After Sonoma, it was reported that RML, who built and own the Cruzes from scratch, are looking at a programme of potentially upgrading up to 6 Chevrolet Cruzes to the new 2014 regulations. There has also been talk of renewed support from Chevrolet but nothing is confirmed.

However were there to be upgraded Cruzes on the grid, they would still be a force to be reckoned with. The car is already a good competitive base to work from. But lets see what happens.

Whilst there has been a positive effect by  moving these regulations forward by a year, there has also been a negative consequence. Before the 2013 WTCC season started, Arena International or Team Aon closed it doors after developing the Ford Focus S2000 cars for the WTCC and racing them in the capable hands of Tom Chilton and James Nash in the 2012 WTCC season.

Now during the winter break, there was talk of backing and support from Ford and rumours linking such names as Alain Menu and Fabrizio Giovanardi to a potentail 3 car team with a much upgraded and developed Focus. However this never happened.

But the WTCC Fords found a new home with Rotek Racing, a team that takes part in the german VLN series and co-owned by American Touring Car ace and Team HARD stalwart Robb Holland. In fact earlier this week the two cars were staying at the Team HARD headquarters before being sent of to the german base of the Rotek Racing squad.

Now, Robb and the team have tested the cars with the upgrades in suspension, chassis and engine that were due to be undertaken by Team Aon themselves and were looking to run the cars before the end of this season intending on a full season next year. But with the new regulations already cleared for next year, this has caused Robb and Rotek to pause for thought on the best course of action to take.

Quite simply, an upgrade kit would be expensive, considering the Mk 3 Focus was built and raced in the BTCC in 2011 in its original S2000 form before being updated to FIA S2000 specs. As this is an independent entry, the cost has to be weighed out as to whether this is feasible or not in the long run. Another option would be to race it in the ETCC with a 2 litre Normally Aspirated engine, but again this requires a budget capable.

The final issue to be aware of is that any cars that take part next year but conform to the current 2011 S2000 1.6 litre turbo regs will be uncompetitive. Basically the 2014 cars will have a power increase of 80bhp and are designed to be 1.5 seconds faster...per kilometre.

As pointed out by Yvan Muller over the Japanese WTCC weekend, that means that if he drove his current S2000 Chevrolet Cruze over the same 54 second lap at Suzuka East Circuit as his Citroen C-Elysse 2014 car, the Cruze would be 9 seconds per lap slower.

9 seconds per lap! Both the WTCC races were 26 laps today meaning any current S2000 has no hope of winning a race next year. Now for the Independent that has no other option, thats fine but thats still one hell of a performance hike. There is talk of a possible seperate championship akin to what was the Jay-Ten Cup a few years ago as cars were then being converted from 2 litre N/A to 1.6 Litre Turbos.

Again we'll have to see. Theres also talk of other manufacturers joining next year but again, we'll have to wait and see who.

So whats the outcome of the decision to introduce the new S2000 regulations in 2014 and not 2015?

The answer is two fold:

Its a great outcome because Citroen has entered the fray to bring the manufacturer count in the championship to 3 for the first time since 2009 and there will be a double figure amount of new cars on the grid. It also opens up the driver market as well to allow good drivers a chance at being in these newer cars.


Its also concerning considering how many independent teams there are in the championship that have a customer team relationship using cars that, if kept in their current form, will be uncompetitive by design of the new rules and also making a clear 2nd class behind the newer cars.

This could also mean that stalwart teams that have been the backbone of the WTCC, whilst manufacturers have come and gone, now face an uncertain winter either forging new relationships for new cars, try building their own or go off to pastures new.

I will be following this with interest, as will every fan and media member, over the next few months. I just hope this will encourage a surge of manufacturer growth over the next few seasons and not damage the series further. The WTCC is a great championship and deserves some positive momentum.

Once again I stress that a lot of this post is my own thoughts on what I think will happen based on information already provided by other sources!



WTCC Japan: Muller seals the title as Norbi & Coronel star...

When the FIA World Touring Car Championship arrives in Japan, it is always embraced fully by the fans and this is due to 2 reasons: Tom Coronel and the fact that the Japanese love their racing...

Well Tom certainly upped the ante this time!

Better get the kettle on before reading this one...

Just before the weekend though, Michel Nykjaer announced that he would no longer be racing for the Swedish Nika Racing team. Due to finances (the bain of all Touring Car drivers) Michel could not complete the season with the team. I can say happily that was a lot of support for the driver and I for one can say he was missed during the 2012 WTCC season and will be during the rest of this season.

Although Michel was part of the Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden team with swedish Touring Car legend Rickard Rydell as his team mate in 2012 in the Super 2000 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, he had a great year and has made strides as a top line Touring Car driver this year. Hopefully he will return next year in the new look WTCC.

Also for the Japan WTCC weekend was the start of the Eurosort Asia Trophy with 9 drivers from Japan, China and Macau registered to take part. Big names racing over the weekend would include Hiroki Yoshimoto who would take Nykjaer's place at Nika Racing, former Honda and Bamboo Chevrolet driver Yukinori Taniguchi replaced Fredy Barth at Weichers-Sport in the BMW and Masaki Kano who would replace an unwell Franz Engstler for this weekend in the BMW 320TC.  

This also marked the first anniversary of Honda entering the WTCC, where 12 months ago Tiago Monteiro entered a JAS Honda Civic built to Super 2000 regulations after enduring a tough year in the SUNRED SEAT Leon. So Honda decided to enter a 4th car or the weekend for Super GT driver Takuya Izawa to celebrate that fact.

However in what proved to be a very close Qualifying session, it would be the Zengo Motorsport Honda Civic of Norbert Michelisz that would take Pole Position on home ground, leaving the works JAS Honda's slightly confused as to where he found the pace from as Michelisz was fastest in Q1 and Q2, setting only one lap in both sessions. Tarquini and Monteiro were not amused...

There were a few surprises in Japan and one of them was Alex MacDowall's increased pace, where he qualified in 2nd place for race one next to Michelisz. Chilton and Muller were on the second row whilst Monteiro joined Nash on the third row or 5th and 6th. Oriola lined up 7th with Tarquini 8th and the BMW's took row 5 with Bennani 9th and Tom Coronel 10th and more importantly, on Pole for race two...

There was another entertaining episode of the "Rob & James Show" with Huff and Thompson fighting it out to get both of their cars into the top 12 for Q2. Both men were successful, however in Q2 Huffy would put his Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon in 11th whilst Thommo would qualify the Lada Granta in 12th.

In the title race, all Muller needed to do to sew up the title would be to finish 4th or higher in race one, regardless of where Tarquini finished in that race. With Nykjaer out for the season, this meant that Tarquini could fight for 2nd in the title race with Chilton making strides in points after his Sonoma debut win.

In race one, Norbert ran off into the distance. He had pace from the rolling start and made sure he held a gap over the Chevrolets that pursued him. MacDowall managed to hold off Muller after the Frenchman had passed Chilton around the outside of turns 1 and 2.

However Monteiro had ideas on a good showing during the races and things were not to go his way. At the final corner, Tiago understeered and fell down the field to 8th. This would put him into the clutches of Pepe Oriola but more on that later...

Muller tried his best to reel in MacDowall and take 2nd, but the Bamboo driver held off the more experienced RML driver and took 2nd behind Michelisz with Muller 3rd and Chilton in 4th.

Behind them Tarquini retired with technical issues however that saved him from what was a frantic battle that involved Monteiro and Oriola in the Tuenti Racing Cruze. Pepe made it clear over several laps that he was the faster driver and Tiago defended well however it all ended badly as Oriola hit Monteiro at the final corner, causing the Honda driver to retire and the young Chevrolet driver handed a drive through penalty.

All this allowed James Nash to quietly take 5th position whilst James Thompson pulled off the defence of the weekend from a queue of cars behind that included Rob Huff, Tom Coronel, Marc Basseng in the 2nd Munnich Motorsport SEAT and Fernando Monje who made progress though the field to finish 10th. 6th place was the best place finish for a while for the Lada diver and showed that the Lada Granta was an agile car on this kind of circuit.

With his 3rd place finish, Yvan Muller sealed his 4th WTCC Title and beat Andy Priaulx into 2nd in the WTCC records by becoming the series first 4 time WTCC champion. He gave thanks to the RML Team or his title win as he later explained up until one month before the season started, they did not have a program in place. He also explained that from now on he would support Tom Chilton in trying to beat Tarquini to 2nd in the drivers title.

But wait!! That still leaves race two!!

With Bennani on Pole and Coronel alongside him race two was always going to be about which BMW driver had the best start and who would have the best defence. Coronel looked the better of the two as he had saved 2 sets of fresh tyres for the Japanese WTCC weekend.   

This was also the 200th WTCC race since the championship started in 2005 and the first race that took place was also won by a BMW, in that case it was Jorg Muller at Monza.

Bennani made a cracking start and led Coronel into turn one as the rest of the field funnelled in behind. There were two casualties in this race as Michelisz made contact with Muller. Muller retired on the front straight cuasing a safety car whilst Michelisz limped home with a puncture and broken suspension.

At the re-start, Bennani led away from Coronel and the racing between the two BMW drivers was hard but fair and it took the Dutchman until lap 17 to pass the Moroccan who ran wide at turn 2. Coronel took the lead and went on to win the race from Bennani, making this the 3rd win for Coronel in the WTCC and also in Japan.

Mehdi Bennani is another driver who will soon win a WTCC race. he has had at least 3 2nd places this year, all in race two format, but he is fast and young and hopefully that win will come before the end of the season. Monteiro took 3rd for Honda whilst Tarquini made up for the race one retirement by taking 4th behind his team-mate.

James Nash finished in 5th with Tom Chilton not far behind him and keeping close company with the Bamboo driver during the race. Charles Ng took his best ever finish in the Engstler BMW by taking advantage of the tussle at the front and made his way up to finish 7th. Behind him was another frantic battle involving James Thompson in the Lada who at the start of the last lap was in 9th place and looking good for another points finish in the nimble Granta.

But this was not to be. 

During the fight led by MacDowall who was defending from Thommo, Basseng, D'Aste, Darryl O'Young in the 2nd ROAL Motorsport BMW and Monje in the Campos SEAT Leon no quarter was given and none was asked. However Basseng gave Thompson a slight nudge and who in turn nudged MacDowall in the Bamboo Cruze leading to both Brits falling down the order.

In the end, the finishing order behind Huff in 8th was Basseng in 9th and D'Aste in 10th with O'Young taking 11th ahead of Thompson who beat MacDowall to 12th by 1/10th of a second.

So although the East Circuit is not one to the fans liking, yet again it showed that it can offer good racing on the shorter circuit. Lets hope next year that we get to race on the full Grand Prix circuit. I still maintain that the picture of the newer faster 2014 S2000 cars flying through the spectacular 130R corner is one that should happen.

So the series moves on to the Shanghai Grand Prix circuit at the start of November where last year the title race was on between the Works Chevrolet drivers of Huff, Menu and Muller and where Colin Turkington showed what he could do in a WSR run bright yellow Chevrolet Cruze.

This year the field will be joined by a one of appearence of the Polestar Volvo team who have confirmed that they are still interested in the WTCC and that the C30 entered will be driven by 2013 STCC Champion Thed Bjork. This is a "toe in the water" exercise as Volvo still see the WTCC as a viable future option so lets hope this leads to a possible 2015 entry by the Swedish Manufacturer...

Anyway with the next WTCC races not until the beginning of November, there is the small issue of the settling of the British Touring Car Championship, so I'll get started on those blogs in the coming weeks...

Until then, All the best!


Thursday, 19 September 2013

WTCC USA: Muller denied as Chilton & Tarquini win

Since the beginning of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship when Tom Chilton was announced as team mate to Yvan Muller in the Lukoil RML Chevrolet team, I stated that he was quick enough to take a pole position and a win before the seasons end...

At Sonoma Raceway, he delivered both.

And my god did I cheer!

This years championship has seen overall race wins for Chevrolet drivers Yvan Muller, Michel Nykjaer, James Nash and now Tom Chilton. (Yes I know, Pepe Oriola won a race in Marrakech but that was in a SEAT Leon) Tom has proved this year he can mix it with his more experienced team mate who has been driving the Cruze since 2010 so a win wasnt far away.

As far as the Sonoma WTCC event was concerned, this was the first of the tracks where Yvan Muller could win his fourth WTCC Title. To do it he would needto outscore both Michel Nykjaer and Gabriele Tarquini significantly in both races.

In Qualifying, as well as Chilton taking pole position with Muller on the front row with him, there was one big loser: Tom Coronel. The ROAL Motorsport driver had the speed to get into Q2 but with his time set earlier on in Q1, he lost out to other cars setting faster laps. Tom would start both races in 13th place, but that didn't stop him attacking in both races.

So after Qualifying was over, the race one grid read as: Chilton, Muller, Monteiro, Oriola, MacDowall, Nash, Michelisz, Huff, Nykjaer and Tarquini. This meant that Tarquini was on Pole Position for race two, but bad luck was to befall Nykjaer. After qualifying, his car was adjudged to have a techncal infringement and along with the Campos SEAT drivers of Valente and Monje, he was sent to the back of the grid for race one.

For Muller, this made his attempt at taking the title a little easier as Nykjaer was 2nd in the title race.

In race one, Chilton led from the rolling start and never looked back. However Montiero got a great start from 3rd on the grid and leaped past Muller into 2nd place. The Portuguese Honda driver would do his best to hassle Chilton but he would not get past and with Muller staying in 3rd, the race one podium was set.

Muller did suffer some pressure from the Bamboo Engineering Cruzes of Alex MacDowall and James Nash but held them both off. This ws a good showing from MacDowall as he is yet to take a win this year whilst Nash has a win and the Yokohama Independents title lead. Tarquini brough his Honda Civic home in 6th.

However the battle of race one was down to Huff, Coronel, Basseng, D'Aste, Oriola and the amazing Tom Boardman who started race one in 20th position. This train of cars was being held up by Huff in his Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon and it was obvious at the time that Coronoel and the others were faster. Oriola fell in with this group after outbraking himself at the chicane earlier in the race.

Nykjaer and Valente made good progress through the field as they hassled James Thompson for 13th place until the last lap when they both made it past the Lada. Whilst the Chevrolet was the car to have, the Lada's wre not happy in the US.

The race finished with Chilton taking his first WTCC from a charging Monteiro with Muller in 3rd. MacDowall, Nash and Tarquini took 4th, 5th and 6th repectivel and behind them came Coronel, who passed Huffy 3 laps from the end with Huff, Basseng and D'Aste rounding out the top 10.

With Nykjaer being put to the back of the grid for race one, this ment that ProTeam driver Mehdi Benanni was promoted to 2nd on the grid for race two. Normally when he's on the front row of the grid for race two, Bennani makes a cracking start but in this case, Tarquini held the BMW at bay to lead into the first corner.

Michelisz lost out to Huff who took third place on the road whilst Tom Chilton got too much wheelspin and fell down the order from his 10th spot. Chilton would make it to 11th place by the end of the race. Huffy would soon retire with a puncture however promoting the Zengo Honda driver to 3rd place.

However Michelisz set off after Benanni and set the fastest lap in the process, but this was soon to be a lesson in defence for the young hungarian. As ever, Muller had made his way through the field passing Montiero, Nash and the retiring Huff and hassled Michelisz to the end. Coronel again fought his way through the field from 12th on the grid to pass Nash, Basseng and D'Aste taking fellow BMW driver Fredy Barth with him for company. Both drivers again showing that the BMW has pace.

So race two finished with Tarquini taking the win from Benanni with Michelisz in 3rd. Muller took 4th with Monteiro, Coronel, Barth, Nash, Basseng and D'Aste rounding out the top ten finishers.

With Tarquini and Michelisz taking 1st and 3rd in race two, this sealed the Manufacturers Title for Honda in 2013. With their only competition being Lada who have not taken a podium or win yet this season, Honda where well and truly pleased to achieve this in their first year as a Works Team in the WTCC.

What this did mean though was that Muller would have to wait for his title until the next round that was due to take place at Suzuka in Japan on the East Curcuit. Howver the chances of him being caught in the title race are slim and both Nykjaer and Tarquini would need Muller to retire from all of the races at Japan, China and Macau...

Not bloody likely...

With the championship now heading to the Asian side of the calendar, this also meant the beginning of the Eurosport Asia Trophy in the WTCC. This is a trophy that is new for this year where any drivers from Japan, China or Macau can take part in Normally Aspirated 2 litre Super 2000 touring cars of even in the current 1.6 litre Turbo S2000 touring cars where they can win prize money. This is done to promote touring car racing in Asia where there is plenty of homegrown talent always wiling to take part in the overall championship.

However I, like many WTCC fans must register my disappointment that the WTCC is again using the East Circuit which is quite imply akin to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. Hopefully next year, the FIA and the WTCC will find the money and allow the series to race on the Gand Prix circuit.

What a sight it would be to see the new breed of Super 2000 cars at full chat coming through the 130R corner...

Anyway, as you can tell I'm catching up on my blogs again and pretty soon I should have the Japan blog up.

Until then, Cheers!


Sunday, 15 September 2013

2013 BTCC Final Three Races Catchup

So after checking my blog, it would seem that I haven't posted since 28th September. My apologies for that as it was down to an intense hunt for work.

Thankfully I can say that I am now employed so I can get back to the blogging!! Now normally I would put a blog out about each BTCC round but I have decided to for go that to do a catchup.

Whats also obvious is that the whole month of October has past and we now have a newly crowned BTCC Champion in the form of Andrew Jordan. And well done to him. He's looked the most committed and the most willing to take the fight to the four established BTCC Champions competing this year: Jason Plato, Colin Turkington, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden.

Better get the kettle on.... Yup its one of those long ones...

Maybe a few biscuits too...

Things swung in Jordan's favour at Rockingham. Although he had won races previously in the season, Jordan often qualified behind Neal for the first race on Sunday and needed a change of luck. That luck came in the form of what was to be a bad day for Matt himself.

While Plato stuck his MG on pole for race one with Rob Austin alongside him in his NGTC Audi A4, Jordan had a spectacular first lap that left him with a lead he wouldn't lose. An accident involving Andy Neate, Ollie Jackson and Dan Welch brought out the safety car and when racing resumed, Neal spun down to 14th in the damp but drying conditions. Whilst Jordan won from Mat Jackson and Rob Austin, he also took the championship points lead. Shedden, Plato and Turkington were 4th, 5th and 6th followed by Collard, Newsham, Jack Goff and Wrathall.

In fact 9th place for the Team HARD. driver was the beginning of a welcome return for Jack Goff after missing the three Knockhill races and the beginning of an impressive turn of speed that the former Clio Cup star is known for...

He's one to watch...

Race two will probably go down as the most fan popular race of the season. Rob Austin powered "Sherman" into the lead at the start and stayed there, taking his first BTCC overall win in drying conditions. Rob has taken podiums throughout this season and a switch to the TOCA 2 litre turbo engine has paid dividends. However it wasnt an easy win as Shedden and Turkington progressed forward to pressure Austin.

Matt Neal suffered retirement on lap 10 and Jordan finished 8th. After the race three draw, Jordan was picked for pole and he drove hard for the win to take a second race win from Sunday. He was chased home by Turkington and Plato but in turned kept his championship lead and that was vital as the BTCC headed to Silverstone.

Other drivers who showed an upturn in performance at Rockingham were Dave Newsham in the Speedworks Toyota, Mat Jackson in the Airwaves Ford and Sam Tordoff who returned to his usual top six position in the championship. Tom Onslow-Cole had a quiet return with Airwaves whilst Team HARD. debutants Howard Fuller and Andy Wilmot showed good speed in the Vauxhall Insignia and VW Passat respectively. Meanwhile Lea Wood won the inaugural Jack Sears Trophy by taking three wins in the S2000 class at Rockingham.

The high speed nature of the Silverstone National Circuit normally favours the faster MG compared to the more nimble Honda but this year was honours even between the two marques in my opinion. With 45kgs on board in qualifying presenting a new challenge for Jordan, the aim for him was clear: leave Silverstone with the points lead intact.

Whilst Plato took pole for race one in an MG 1-2 front row lock out, Jordan lined up 10th with title contenders Turkington 4th, Neal 9th and  Shedden in 16th. Whilst Plato led Tordoff to a 1-2 finish, Newsham starred from 3rd on the grid on lap one but a spin on cold tyres dropped him down the order. However all four NGTC Toyota's would show great speed on race day and soon places were made up. Behind the MG's Neal took 3rd whilst Turkington was 4th, both drivers trying to close the gap on Jordan who finished race one in 6th, shedding his weight for race two.

Whilst Plato roared off the line, things exploded behind with Austin, Wrathall and Onslow-Cole making contact, causing an early safety car period. This allowed a ballast free, soft tyre shod Jordan to quickly move forward when racing resumed and soon he was hassling Plato for the lead. Although there was contact between them, the racing stayed fair and Airwaves Ford driver Aron Smith joined the fight in the final laps. Plato went on to win from Jordan and Smith.

Turkington was 5th behind Tordoff whilst Neal held off Shedden, Newsham, Welch and Jackson for 6th which after the race three draw would give the Honda driver pole. Indeed the performances from Neal (with a broken finger) and Welch (with injuries from his crash with Andy Neate at Rockingham) were standout due to injuries they drove with. However another man on a mission was Gordon Shedden, looking to retain his title from 2012.

Shedden went onto win race three from Aron Smith, taking another podium and showed the ever improved pace of the Airwaves Focus. Neal was 3rd and with Jordan finishing in 5th and Plato 7th, things were looking good for Jordan. However Turkingtons hope took a battering blow after Mat Jackson tried a move at Copse that resulted in contact and retirement for the Ebay BMW driver.

Other drivers of note from Silverstone were the Toyota's of Dave Newsham and Ollie Jackson at Speedworks, both whom enjoyed a great battle with Ciceley Racing's Adam Morgan during races two and three. Also Aiden Moffat who replaced Andy Wilmot in the VW Passat and scored his first points as well. Moffat had an outing in the Finesse Motorsport S2000 Chevrolet Cruze at Knockhill but suffered mechanical issues.

However here is another youngster racing for Team HARD. and at Silverstone he showed good pace...

For Jordan it was mission accomplished as the series headed for Brands Hatch and Finals Day. Andy led Matt Neal by 34 points and Gordon Shedden by 35. Turkington was 48 behind with Plato 49 behind. However with a Maximum of 67 points on offer, all five drivers had a chance. Even Plato who had ruled himself out of the title race and there would be surprises to come on a wet and horrible race day...

Race one saw Plato and Tordoff lock out the front row with Jordan hussling his Pirtek Racing Honda to 3rd. Championship contenders Shedden took 4th with Turkington 6th for the grid. Both Matt Neal and Aron Smith suffered crashes in qualifying whilst Jake Hill showed good pace by qualifying the 2nd Rob Austin Racing Audi in 10th place. Hill showed well in the wet conditions earlier in the year at Croft where he took a JST win in the S2000 Focus.

In the race itself Plato moved into the lead whilst Shedden moved ahead of both Jordan and Tordoff to keep pressure on the MG in the wet conditions, typically the achilles heel of the NGTC built car. Turkington was eliminated on lap one after being spun round and making head on contact with his team mate Nick Foster.

Tom Onslow-Cole was having a better weekend and managed to pass Andrew Jordan to take 4th after Jordan went wide at Graham Hill bend in the slippery conditions. He also outshone the regular Airwaves Ford frivers Mat Jackson and Aron Smith who finished in 9th and 10th. However Andy kept his title lead intact even with Neal making his way up to 6th at the end of race one.

Then came race two and the biggest twist in the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship...

Plato led home Tordoff for another MG 1-2 finish, proving that race one was no flash in the pan with Mat Jackson third, but earlier in the race disaster struck the title aspirations for Jordan. Coming into Surtees on lap 2, Jordan left the door open letting Aron Smith pounce for position. However Smith passed Jordan for position and then made contact with Rob Collard in his BMW. Jordan was forced to try and avoid Collard and Neal made contact with the Pirtek Honda on the left rear wheel.

Andy was out in what was his first retirement all season. Thats how good this guy has been in 2013. I can tell you that the missus and I cried out in despair as we watched, horrified that Andy could lose out on his title in waiting that he was working so hard on.

Whilst Plato went on to win, Neal retired during race two and then the engine bay caught fire to add further despair to his title hopes which were now over. Shedden finished in 7th place and after Alan Gow did the race three draw, this put the 2012 champion on pole with Team HARD's Jack Goff alongside.

See, told you that guy Goff was fast...

So the title now fell to three men. Jordan, Plato and Shedden. It was a simple permutation. Shedden needed to win with Jordan not in the points. But if Plato was in a podium position, Jordan needed to be 7th.

Race three began with Shedden taking the lead from Goff who was right behind the Works Honda and pushing him in the wet, hard. It was obvious there was pace in the Insignia and a possible win was on the cards. Whilst Goff hassled Shedden, Jordan was making his way up through the field whilst Plato was falling back on max ballast in the worsening conditions.

The turning point came when Jordan passed Plato for 9th. From that point on the title was Andy's and we tantalisingly watched as Plato circulated behind the Honda whilst Shedden did everything he could to hold off Goff. Jack gave 110% and it was his best performance of the season taking 2nd in the race behind Shedden and adding another podium to the three that Tom Onslow-Cole took in the VW Passat at Thruxton and Croft. That capped off an up and down year for the Kent based team having built their own NGTC Cars.

But all congratulations finally go to Andrew Jordan, not only 2013 overall Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion but also 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Independent Champion. After the ups and downs of the 2012 season, he came back a drove a determined and driven season. He is a deserving champion and a popular champion.

Finally the overall standings at the end of a spectacular BTCC season:

Andrew Jordan    397pts
Gordon Shedden  390pts
Jason Plato          380pts
Matt Neal              356pts
Colin Turkington  347pts
Sam Tordoff         286pts
Adam Morgan     233pts
Mat Jackson       225pts
Aron Smith          201pts
Dave Newsham  176pts

Now I realise the BTCC season is over but I will try to keep you updated with any news as its released regarding developments on the 2014 BTCC and WTCC seasons.

I'll also be keeping an eye on the last two WTCC race weekends at China and Macau.

So stay warm and enjoy your weekend!!



Tuesday, 10 September 2013

BTCC Knockhill: RWD Dominates the day...

Colin Turkington stamped his authority on raceday and his intent to win the 2013 version of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill by taking two dominant wins whilst Rob Austin showed much improved form in his popular Audi A4 "Sherman"

Better go and put that kettle on...

Matt Neal said at the start of the season that along with Plato, Shedden, Jordan and himself, that Turkington was not to be ruled out of the title race and the 2009 BTCC Champion proved that at Knockhill making sure that the 2013 title fight would continue to remain close.

MG, however, had a weekend to forget at the scottish venue with both MG6's showing to be uncompetitive in the days three races and putting Plato on the backfoot in the championship. Both the Honda and BMW teams would make gains and show that since the mid-season break they are the cars to beat.

There were some new and old faces that joined/returned to the BTCC at Knockhill. Fan favourite and ITV4 Pundit Paul O'Neill signed a deal with Team HARD to take part in all three races in a Vauxhall Insignia. He was joined by scottish driver Kieran Gallagher who would drive the 2nd Team HARD Vauxhall Insignia. It is hoped that in 2014, O'Neill will be a full time driver in the ever expanding Team HARD roster.

16 year old racer Aiden Moffat would join Finesse Motorsport in the S2000 Chevrolet Cruze that Joe Girling piloted earlier in the season and would also take Tom Chilton's record for being the youngest diver to take part in the BTCC. Renault Clio Cup racer Mike Bushell replaced Andy Neate in the IP Tech NGTC Chevrolet Cruze after a positive test at Snetterton.

As is the way when the championship makes its annual trek north of the border, there are a few who can't or don't make the trip for budget or other reasons. James Kaye and Shaun Hollamby's AmD team didn't make the trip, neither did Andy Jordan's Pirtek Racing team mate Jeff Smith.

In qualifying for race one, Rob Austin took a surprise Pole Position by 47 thousandths of a second from Colin Turkington, ensuring an all RWD front row for race one. Andrew Jordan would show his awesome qualifying pace that has become the norm this season by taking 3rd place. However due to his third visit with the stewards at Snetterton, Jordan had a 6 place penalty and this left him 9th after adjusted times.

There was a break during qualifying as Warren Scott went off at Scotsman corner in his NGTC VW Passat and both O'Neill and Gallagher made a good start to their partnership as Paul ran into the back of Kieran during the session. Paul would start 17th in race one in what turned out to be a difficult race day for the fan's favourite.

So the top ten for race one was Austin on Pole, Turkington, Shedden, Plato, Neal, Morgan, Wrathall, Tordoff, Jordan and an excellent 10th place for Dan Welch in "Optimus" the Proton. Lea Wood took Pole Position for the Jack Sears Trophy from Liam Griffin.

I am so loving the fact of the names that some of these NGTC Touring Cars have... "Sherman"..."Optimus" Naming your BTCC car for the season or for good should be mandatory.

Race one would see Austin get a great start off the line with Turkington and Shedden in pursuit all fighting for the lead. On lap 2, all three drivers would arrive at the hairpin side by side and thats where Turkington pounced, taking the lead from Austin with Shedden pouncing later to take 2nd from the Audi driver. However whilst Turkington disappeared into a lead he would not lose, Austin would chase the Honda Civic driver all the way but with no way past on the tight scottish circuit to regain his position.

Toyota driver Adam Morgan showed that once again he was not afraid of fighting with the big guns of the championship by passing Matt Neal and Jason Plato on his way to 4th position. Jordan would only move up one spot to 8th by the end  shedding his success ballast for the 2nd race. Rob Collard in the 2nd Ebay BMW 125i would prove a revelation during the race, starting 12th and finally finishing 6th, showing that he has lost none of his talent in the team. Team mate Nick Foster however would have a run in with Paul O'Neill during the race, resulting in contact with the Team HARD driver, sending him into the barriers. Paul would not take part in race two due to the damage and would suffer further issues in race three.

Lets hope he gets a full season with the team next year in one of their NGTC cars.

After a brief safety car period, the racing resumed with Turkington taking the win from Shedden and Austin joining him on the podium. Morgan would finish 4th ahead of Plato, Collard, Neal, Jordan and Tordoff with Aron Smith taking 10th place in the Airwaves Ford. Liam Griffin took the JST win ahead of Lea Wood.

Race two offered more of the same excitement. Turkington motored into a lead he would never lose and this time with 45kgs of success ballast also added to the BMW. 4 laps in he had a 5 second lead! Austin make another great start in the Audi and managed to pass Shedden into the first turn, using the RWD start to his advantage. Shedden had no answer to the Audi this time around and they would finish in that order.

Rob Collard showed that he was definitely a man on form by moving his way from 6th on the grid in race two to 4th by the end. This was helped when Morgan pulled off with technical issues with the Toyota whilst the handling problems that plagued Plato in race one got worse with the MG driver falling back down the order.

Matt Neal found the lighter Honda more to his liking and with Plato falling back made his way up to 5th, but he had to fend off the attentions of his title rival Andy Jordan in the Pirtek Honda who, with no weight either, was on a mission to try and force the 3 time BTCC champion into a mistake. Neal held off the Pirtek Charger til the end, but whilst Turkington gained on points in the title race, Jordan was reducing the gap between himself and Neal.

Something that has bugged me is Andrew Jordan's ability to end up with Neal one place ahead or behind him in the races this year. Andy needs a break with either Neal retiring or with several cars scoring points between them.

Plato and Tordoff suffered handling issues whilst the Airwaves Focus was making an impact again. That Focus in 2012 was a revelation but this year it has been a work in progress. Whilst Aron Smith retired, Mat Jackson would have an entertaining fight with Speedworks driver Dave Newsham until the end also. Griffin took his 2nd JST Trophy during the race.

Who says short tight tracks make racing boring...

Race Three offered its usual action packed excitement as it does at all the BTCC venues. Andy Jordan was chosen for race three pole and duly led away from the start, repeating the same show that Turkington had dislayed earlier in the day by building a gap. Even a delayed safety car period to remove Warren Scotts stricken VW didnt worry the Pirtek driver.

Behind, Matt Neal and Rob Collard renewed thier old rivalry as they fought for 2nd place. Neal eventually managed to pass the BMW driver for 2nd and would try to catch Jordan but he was too far gone by the finish. Collard fell into the clutches of title chasing team mate Turkington and for a while it seems that the Ebay BMW team may employ team orders. But this didn't happen and after the race Turkington confirmed that it was still too early for team orders to be employed...

Rob Austin would take 5th place by the end after a great battle with Shedden, however this ended on lap 17 when the scottish Honda driver retired the Civic at turn one with flames belching from the car. Gordon escaped the car unhurt and the race carried on. Austin was followed by Plato and a hard charging Dan Welch in the Proton. Mat Jackson improved during the race whilst there were 10 retirements including O'Neill, Scott, Tom Onslow-Cole, Sam Tordoff, Newsham and Wrathall.

This allowed some of the other drivers to score points, with Adam Morgan making his way back into the points from the back of the grid, chasing the BMW of Nick Foster all the way to the end. Lea Wood would take the JST win in the 3rd race of the day.


After race three, it ws revealed that Colin Turkingtons BMW had overboosted during the race and this showed during telemetry that wilt the problem cured itself, he did enjoy a "boost" and was thus disqualified from the results.

Now my thoughts on this are echoed by fans of the BTCC. It was made clear that this was an issue set by a TOCA supplied part that malfunctioned and was not Colin's fault nor the teams fault. In fact this is what comes of TOCA adjusting the boosts on the cars for their balance of performance.

Of course if the boost was left at the same damn level on every car...

Anyway, race three finished with Jordan winning from Neal and Collard, followed by Austin, Plato, Welch, Jackson, Foster, Morgan and Will Bratt in the 2nd Rob Austin Racing Audi.

This left the championship still being led by Matt Neal as the championship headed off to Rockingham but with Andy Jordan only 6 points behind him. Shedden was in third on 266 points whilst Turkington was close behind on 263 points. Plato fell to 5th in the table on 239 points and soon declared afterwards that he was out of the title fight and that he was gunning for wins from now on.

That means that from now on, Jason is on a mission and in the right conditions that MG is bloody fast... Silverstone will be interesting...

After the Knockhill BTCC race weekend, Tom Onslow-Cole announced that due to performance issues with the VW Passat, he would not be racing in the last three weekends of the season and that these issues negated his 3 year contract with Team HARD. This led to Howard Fuller being signed for the last three race weekends at Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch of the season in the Vauhall Insignia as team mate to the returning Jack Goff.

But on the eve of the Rockingham BTCC weekend, TOC then announced that he had been snapped up by the Airwaves Ford squad to race the 3rd NGTC Ford Focus that Michael Caine drove at Croft earlier in the year. With a team like Airwaves taking on TOC, this is sure to up the game of its regular drivers Mat Jackson and Aron Smith, who incurred a six place grid penalty for Rockingham due to some robust driving at Knockhill.

This move also allowed Team HARD regular driver Andy Wilmot to realise his dream by signing up to drive the Passat at Rockingham only....

And so the game of musical chairs in the BTCC continues...

However I praise Team HARD as it is fast recognising good talent in the series and offering those drivers a chance to race in competitive NGTC Machinery, be it the Vauxhall Insignia or the VW Passat that has taken podiums this year considering the lack of development its had. I often refer to the team as the "Sauber" of the BTCC, offering the new and young talents that want to take part in the UK's top domestic motorsport series each season a chance to.

So, i'll leave you all with this late blog entry and my apologies, well aware that just 4 days ago we watched the action from all three BTCC races at Rockingham. Fear not, that blogs a-coming too...

To be honest I am behind as I am still currently looking for work. I completed a 2 week course which should open up some possibilities soon. But, fear not fellow TinTop fans!!! My enthusiasm has not dimmed!!

I'll leave you to your evening and let you enjoy that cup of tea thats due.