So we've had our second weekend of BTCC action and some themes are beginning to appear...
First of all MG. Plato has now proven over two race weekends that the MG can still be a fast car, regardless of the weight penalty imposed upon it. He managed to battle with the Honda's in what I thought was a fair and clean manner last weekend...which is very un-Plato like...
Sam Tordoff is also proving to be a revelation. He has now managed to keep his car in the top 5 of each race so far and stay in the top 5 of the championship. He is showing a maturity and racecraft of a BTCC racer that has been in the series for the last ten years, let alone his first full season. MG now have a driver pairing that can take the fight to Honda.
Next, Andrew Jordan. For me, he is going to be a big thorn in the side of Plato and so far he is proving me right. Last year Jordan placed it safe, maybe too safe and it cost him wins. He made it clear that this year he wants the overall title and he's going about it in the right way with 3 2nd places and a win from 6 races.
He's also not afraid to fight with the works Honda's this year and thats good to see. He hounded Shedden home in race 1 and turned 2nd place into a win for race 2. Jordans already making it clear he'll go toe to toe with the big boys and its great to see.
The works Honda's had good races with Shedden taking a win and both cars scoring podiums in all three races. The fightback began here and both Neal and Shedden know they have 2 fast MG's and a fast Pirtek Honda to deal with.
Next, two men who have impressed me. Adam Morgan and Jeff Smith. Morgan has now had 2 race weekends where he has scored high and in my eyes will be pushing Jordan for the Indie title. He is driving cleaner and with a clear head. This no proves that his top ten drives last year were no fluke.
Smith impresses further as Jordan's team-mate. He made no bones about getting his elbows out with Plato, Jackson and Newsham in race two to fight for position and his qualifying in the top ten shows further improvement. Pirtek now have 2 fast drivers to aim for the Indie drovers and Teams titles.
Tom Onslow-Cole and Colin Turkington however are my heroes from the race meeting. TOC managed to qualify 11th for race 1 and moved up through the field after falling back to take 10th.
This was converted to Pole for Race 3 (Thank you very much David Brabham and yes I yelled the house down when he picked no.10 from the 3rd race draw) and he managed to fight hard and fair to finish 6th. Again this proves that the Passat CC has more to come and will be hassling the works cars before the seasons end.
The Turk however showed his experience with the BMW chassis. Still new itself, he took the lead in race 3 and built a cushion of over 4 seconds to allow him to manage the soft tyre. A perfect strategy that give him his first win since 2009 in his championship winning year.
I'm expecting a few more like that from him and others this year...
For me there are a few drivers who deserve some luck and they are all Toyota drivers. Newsham is showing good pace in the Speedworks Toyota but the bad luck for him is still there after a nudge from TOC bent a wheel in race 3 leaving him stranded in the middle of the Craner Curves!
Dave's time will come and when it does, it will be a popular win in the paddock. Ollie Jackson is still getting to grips with the Toyota after his late deal and once he gets a reliable car will be fighting for top ten points again.
Frank Wrathall is showing amazing speed in the Dynojet car with the works Toyota engine as opposed to the TOCA Engines Speedworks use. His quali lap was "out of control" as he admitted but it netted 2nd on the grid for race 1. However the car seems fragile with the throttle linkage breaking in race two and damage in race 3 forcing retirements.
When his car is reliable, Frank is fast and soon he'll be troubling the front runners...
Worryingly though, the 2 Airwaves Fords were still struggling to get into the top 10 and trouble the frontrunners. When the NGTC Focus was introduced last year it was fast out of the box, however they need to sort out the teething troubles to be able to fight for the title, which many thought would be their's this year.
The Ebay BMW's seem off the pace still but not as far as the Fords. Turkington and Collard ran in the lower ranks of the top 10 however they are well aware with more development that those 1 Series cars will be mixing it as well. However, its proving to be a fast RWD car and in the capable hand of Turks, Collard and Foster, it wont take WSR long to get this car faster.
Rob Austin managed to get "Sherman" fixed for Donington but had a nightmare weekend with incorrect gear ratios and a lack of Top Speed hampering both Audi's in qualifying and incidents in all 3 races hampering them further.
Dan Welch again suffered trying to get the Proton up to speed. His driveshaft broke before race 1 and he was playing catchup all day Sunday. When the Proton works, again its a fast car and Dan like all the others mentioned needs a good boost of luck.
So the season moves on to the country's fastest circuit Thruxton for May Bank Holiday weekend. For certain if its dry, expect MG to be towards the front with Honda chasing hard and the Toyota's in hot pursuit. Its a speed circuit so expect the racing to be fast and hectic.
Lets just hope we dont have a repeat of the torrential downpour that took place last year where one of the days 3 races was red flagged.
I think before then I will do a post about when my stepson Aaron sponsored Tony Gilham in 2011 and the fun we had at Thruxton that year. (Clue, it wasn't wet).