The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s top two names, Jason Plato and Matt Neal, say that Brands Hatch in Kent is the ideal circuit for the UK’s premier motor racing spectacle to get its new season under way this coming Sunday (3 April).
The pair, both double champions, are set to renew their long and intense rivalry this weekend at the world-famous circuit near Dartford where a bumper crowd is anticipated – last October, 42,000 people came through the gates to see Plato secure his second BTCC title.
And while often in the past they have disagreed on many things, Plato and Neal are united in the view that Brands Hatch’s short Indy circuit, on which the first three BTCC races of 2011 will take place on Sunday under the glare of live ITV Sport cameras, is the perfect venue at which to stage the championship’s opening event of the year. Race day tickets for adults are still available until midday this Wednesday (30 March) for as little as £25 (visit www.brandshatch.co.uk or tel. 0843 453 9000) while admission for children is FREE – that includes access to a specially organized autograph session with the BTCC’s star drivers in the Brands Hatch pit lane.
Oxford’s Plato, once more driving for the Silverline Chevrolet team in its Cruze model, said: “Brands Hatch is a circuit that’s got sporting drama written all over it. Overtaking is possible but can be tricky so there are always fraught moments – it’s not uncommon for cars to enter corners three abreast and to see a bit of paint being traded. The public want their motor racing to be full of entertainment and at Brands with the BTCC they’ll get it.”
Worcestershire’s Neal, again in the Honda Racing Team’s Civic but now with a turbocharged engine, added: “The Brands Indy circuit has a natural amphitheater setting so the crowd can see every little bit of action unfold. That always whips up an electric atmosphere making it a great place to start the season. It’s very tight and close around there, but it’s a circuit that always produces some terrific touring car racing because of the physical way in which we race in the BTCC.”
In addition to Plato and Neal, another seven drivers on this weekend’s grid are proven race-winners in the BTCC. But with a number of aspiring young names plus several exciting newcomers also on the grid some experts are predicting that at least 12 drivers could be spraying the victory champagne in 2011.
There will be plenty of local interest on the BTCC grid at Brands Hatch this Sunday as well. Among those capable of challenging Neal and Plato for the title are Mat Jackson, in an Airwaves Racing Ford Focus run by the popular Wrotham-based Motorbase team, and New Malden’s Tom Onslow-Cole in West Thurrock outfit AmD Milltek Racing.com’s VW Golf. His car has undergone major redevelopment work during the winter and could spring a big surprise on Sunday.
Two more drivers the trackside audience will be watching for are Jackson’s Airwaves team-mate Liam Griffin, boss of one of London’s biggest private hire taxi firms, Addison Lee, and Orpington’s Tony Gilham, in a Vauxhall Vectra run by multiple title-winning squad Triple Eight. Significantly, Gilham and Griffin will be making their BTCC debuts in front of what is their home crowd.
On top of three headlining BTCC races, a further seven races for the supporting Ginetta Junior, Ginetta GT Supercup, Porsche Carrera Cup, Formula Renault UK and Renault Clio Cup series – which offer the very best in saloon, single-seater and sportscar action – are also on Sunday’s packed timetable at Brands Hatch. Notably, Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton’s younger brother Nicolas will be making his racing debut in the Clio Cup…