The final round of the DUNLOP MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) takes place at Silverstone this weekend (15 -16 October), in association with Honda Racing. With five drivers still in with a chance of being crowned 2011 Champion, crucial points are up for grabs in three BTCC races on Sunday.
Silverstone caught up with the five title contenders to get their thoughts on the weekend ahead.
Honda Racing Team driver Matt Neal currently heads the championship with 225 points, just five points clear of his Honda Racing team-mate Gordon Shedden and rival Silverline Chevrolet driver Jason Plato (currently tied in second place). Neal is more determined than ever to clinch the title for Honda at Silverstone: “I am approaching the weekend with a primary goal that one of us must win for Honda. Failure is not an option!”
Sitting right on Neal’s tail, Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato both head to Silverstone with 220 points. Looking ahead to one of the closest finishes in BTCC history, Shedden said: “It’s been a great season for Honda Racing, already double champions, but now we need the icing on the cake - the Driver’s Championship. Both Matt and I will be giving 110% to make sure a Honda crosses the finish line first at Silverstone.”
Defending champion, Jason Plato would love to retain his crown at Silverstone, but knows it will be a tough three races at the Home of British Motor Racing. “It’s exciting, really exciting, because with the number of points available, we’re still in with a shout. We’re going to give our seatbelts an extra tug and throw everything at it. My team, Silverline Chevrolet, has left no stone unturned. They’ve all put in 100% to make sure everything is perfect. One of my mantras is ‘if you’re going to get wet, might as well go swimming’, so we’re going to get our wet suits on,” commented Plato.
The Silverline Chevrolet driver added, “With the championship the way it is, with five drivers in with a chance of winning the title, I’m hoping it will capture people’s imagination. I have no doubt it will be a fantastic turn out with lots of fans attending, which will be great for Silverstone and the BTCC. Being a Board Director of the BRDC it will be extra special seeing Silverstone ram packed.”
Mat Jackson currently sits fourth in the overall Championship, 31 points off second place and 36 points behind leader Neal. The Airwaves Racing driver, who is also locked in a two-way battle for the Independents Trophy with James Nash, said: “I know that a lot of people have written off my chance of winning the outright title, and I except that it’s a tall order, but while it’s still mathematically viable, then as far as I’m concerned it’s all to play for. Silverstone will suit our car, it’s one of our stronger circuits on the BTCC calendar as a team and I really like it there. The Focus should perform well on the super-fast straights and we’re hopeful of a strong finish to our season.”
Rounding off the quintet of title hopefuls, Triple Eight Racing driver James Nash is just seven points behind Mat Jackson in the overall standings and is looking forward to the season finale at his local circuit. Nash commented: “Silverstone is one of my favourite circuits. I had some early success here, particularly in my Formula Ford days, so it’s always good to come back and recall those memories. It's my local track too - I only live about 20 minutes away, so it’s nice that more of my family and friends can come along.
"Coming into the final round still in with a chance of the overall Championship is fantastic. We actually led the way early-on and I think most people thought we'd fall by the way, but we haven't and I think that is testament to the strong team we have at Triple Eight.
"Of course, my main chance of silverware is in the Independents with just Mat Jackson and me left to battle for that one. Mat's a tough and tenacious competitor, so I'll be taking nothing for granted. The game plan will be the same as always - going for wins. It's how we got here and I see no reason to change now."
With only 44 points between the five drivers and 52 points up for grabs during the final three races at Silverstone, the atmosphere and on-track action promises to be electric. Providing fans with the best possible views, Silverstone will be opening all of its public grandstands around the National Circuit on Sunday. Two giant screens – one at Luffield and one at Copse – will also keep fans up to speed with all the on-track action.
Away from the racing, stunt driver Terry Grant will be wowing the crowds on Sunday, performing his Honda Racing Stunt Show. Fans are in for a treat as Grant attempts to complete a full lap of the 1.6 mile National circuit on two wheels, in his replica Honda Civic Touring car. For those planning to arrive early, Silverstone will also be screening the F1 Korean Grand Prix in the Paddock Bar and on the giant screens from 07:00hrs.
Race day tickets are available for £29 in advance (before 12:00hrs on Thursday 13 October), or £35 on the day. Children aged 15 and under go free**. For further information, or to purchase tickets call 0844 3728 260.
* Child tickets are for children aged 15 years and under at the time of the Event. Children using a child ticket must be accompanied by a full paying adult. Each full paying adult may bring up to a maximum of four children.