Well since my last blogpost, we've had 3 races from the BTCC at Brands Hatch and 4 races from the WTCC, 2 from Monza and 2 from Marrakech. To keep this simple, I'll concentrate on the BTCC for now.
This season, the BTCC has introduced the "soft" tyre , following the same idea of a choice of tyre compounds at each round in F1. The idea is that the drivers decide which of the days 3 races they will use this tyre after qualifying on Saturday. But no one knows who runs this soft tyre until the dummy grid for each race is formed.
The soft tyre can offer an advantage of up to a second per lap before the grip goes and the driver has to manage his car home. Austin, Tordoff and Neal showed this best in the races with Neal winning on his. That Honda likes the soft tyre...
Anyway, heres my quick-ish run down of the performances...better get that kettle on...
For me, Rob Austin showed how improved his Audi has become. He made rocket starts in races 1 and 2, leading race 1 on merit before giving best to Plato and Jordan. He will be a dark horse every time he uses that soft tyre if hes in the top five on the grid.
Another stand out driver was Frank Wrathall. His Toyota has improved and was in for a good points haul. However some over eager moves on Rob Austin and others meant he incurred the wrath of the stewards. However I think he will be bloody fast when the series arrives at Donington next weekend.
MG proved that their car has gotten even better. The MG6 was fast last year un the dry and that hasnt changed. Plato again showed that at Brands he is the one to beat with wins in race one and two. Tordoff also showed that hes no slouch with 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishes. This shows he getting to grips with the car quickly and that MG can now fight with 2 cars against Honda.
My personal thought is that Jason will take the title. That MG looks bloody fast.
Honda had an enduring weekend with Gordon Shedden suffering mechanical failures and an exclusion due to an over boost issue, his drives through the field in races two and three show his determination to fight for the title he won last year. Matt Neal took a win in Race 3 and points in race 2 however race one was marred with Wheel damage.
Honda never seem to have a good opening race weekend at Brands, so I'm expecting a fight back at Donington.
Andrew Jordan again showed he had good speed at Brands by taking pole and taking the fight in race one to Plato, ending in a risky move at the end of race one. Jordan has already made it clear that he wants the overall title and he opened his account well. Team mate Jeff Smith also showed well with a podium in race 2 after Sheddens exclusion. Both drivers are showing they can bring home good points and there is more to come from Pirtek...
BMW have the 125i NGTC Car and Colin Turkington back. However that didnt confirm they would have it easy. The Turk was hit twice in the race and staged comeback drives. Collard suffered mechanical woes as did Nick Foster. However, the car shows speed and promise and with development, it will challenge at the front before half term.
Airwaves was another team to suffer a weekend to forget but once that Focus works its fast. Both Jackson and Smith know this and will push to make the cars work. Again confirming the fact that just getting into the top 10 will be hard this year.
The Toyota's have upped their game this year. Speedworks have a fast lineup in Newsham and Ollie Jackson while Adam Morgan runs in the family run Cicely Team Toyota. I have high hopes after their showings at Brands. Morgan is fast and learning to take the points where he can while Newsham finally has a fast NGTC Car. Apart from being involved in mechanical failures and that race 3 crash, he will take a race at least this year. Ollie Jackson also took points and will get faster. All 4 Toyota's look fast this year and will get faster...
Dan Welch ran reliably, showing a good start in the Proton and will show more speed at Donington as the car gets faster. He's not afraid to mix it with the big boys and will fair better. Personally seeing that car mix it with the others shows its no pushover and Dan isnt either. Optimus will show his Prime soon...
So this leaves Team Hard. Virtually no testing and running 3 new NGTC Cars this year, they have already shown the hard work to make them race winners and the dedication to expand and be taken seriously. The key words are testing and time. The Passat looks great as do the Insignia's and with the lineup of Goff, Cole and Onslow-Cole the only way is up. The Passat's quickest time was 2 tenths slower than Plato so there is plenty more to come at least from TOC and he knows it. I'll be watching with interest.
I havent forgotten the S2000 guys and to be honest I see The Jack Sears Trophy a 3 way fight between Kaye, Wood and Griffin. However the experience that Girling, Scott and Nye have gained will mean this will be a 6 way fight for the JST.
Next is Donington and the introduction of Andy Neates NGTC Cruze Saloon. Again it will take time and the team will suffer its niggles. Theres also talk of Michael Caine joining the Airwaves ranks in a 3rd NGTC Focus. So the grid gets BIGGER!!!
I think with the fast flowing nature of the track, again raceday will produce 3 epic races full of incident and close racing. I expect more MG wins, but anyone could could win a race in a grid of 30 cars. I also expect a few safety car periods with the grid size this year.
Donington is going to EPIC!!!