• Oct 5, 2011
It's not often that the series crosses these pages, but there's no getting around the fact that UK racing fans have enjoyed an unprecedented level of competition in the British Touring Car Championship this year. No season in BTCC history has had a bigger or more varied field of entries, the lead in the standings has changed hands a head-spinning eleven times this season, and with one last stop on the calendar at England's storied Silverstone circuit, it's down to a whopping five-car showdown for the title.

Still in contention for the championship this late in the season are Jason Plato (the Fifth Gear host who drives the Chevrolet Cruze touring car), Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden (both in Honda Civics), Mat Jackson (Ford Focus) and James Nash (Vauxhall Vectra). Although Neal, Plato and Shedden are very much in the lead (with 225, 220 and 220 points, respectively), Jackson and Nash (189 and 181) are both still in the running as domination at Silverstone could still catapult either to the crown.

The contest was left open after an exciting stop at Brands Hatch, where Plato took the checkered flag in both the first two races. The Civics were relegated further behind in the record 29-car field in those first two, but returned for a 1-2 finish in the third and final race of the weekend. Follow the jump for more details and start crossing off squares on your calendar until the championship wraps up with three races at Silverstone two weeks from now.
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FIVE-WAY BTCC TITLE SHOWDOWN HEADING TO SILVERSTONE

An unprecedented five drivers – Matt Neal, Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden, Mat Jackson and James Nash – will all go into the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship's nail-biting final round of 2011 at Silverstone in Northamptonshire in a fortnight's time (15-16 October) still able to be crowned Champion following yesterday's penultimate three races of the season at Brands Hatch in Kent.

In hot weather and in front of a huge trackside crowd plus a live ITV4 audience, Oxford's Plato won both of yesterday's first two races from pole position in his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze to move briefly past Neal and Shedden to the top of the standings.

Both his Honda Racing Team rivals needed to make pit stops to have punctured tyres replaced on their Civics in the first race and could only manage seventh and eighth spots in the second. But in the day's final encounter, contested by a record-equalling 29-car BTCC grid, they struck back as Worcestershire's Neal led Fife's Shedden across the line to achieve a 1-2 result for their Honda squad. Plato was back in sixth meaning Neal had regained the championship lead – the 11th time it has changed hands this season.

Meanwhile second place results in both opening races followed by fifth in the third for Warwickshire's Jackson in his Airwaves Racing Ford Focus have helped keep alive his title hopes. Fourth, sixth and third places in his 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra mean Buckinghamshire's Nash also remains in with a chance.

The five will go to Silverstone in two weeks (15-16 Octobr) in the following order – Neal, Plato and Shedden (tied), Jackson and Nash – with 44 points covering them and a possible maximum of 52 to play for in the finale. Nash and Jackson will also thrash it out for the Independents Trophy for drivers in privateer teams – 17 points separate them with a potential 45 still available from the season's final three races.

Neal, from Droitwich Spa who won back-to-back BTCC titles in 2005 and 2006, said: "A 1-2 in race three is a relief because at one stage today it really looked like the title was slipping through our fingers through some bad luck. Being back in the lead means my car will start the Silverstone weekend carrying the maximum 45kgs of success ballast, but I'd rather have points in the bag any day."

Plato, the defending Champion and who also won the crown back in 2001, added: "Realistically I think that's as far as we can go. We've made up some massive ground today, but Silverstone is going to be ideally suited for cars with turbo engines, which we don't have. It will need something very strange to happen there to stop the Hondas, but never say never..."

Shedden, from Dalgety Bay, said: "Today hasn't been an easy ride for us, but everyone in the Honda team has dug deep and it's great to end the day on a high. I have experience of being involved in the title fight on Finals Day from last year, but I'm still sure it's going to get a bit tense on the day between the five of us."

Jackson and Nash are very much the outsiders, but each believes the title is still possible while also keeping an eye on the other in their Independents battle. Jackson, from Henley-in-Arden, said: "It's game on, isn't it? I think Silverstone will really suit our car, the Focus, and while beating James to the Independents title would be nice it's the big prize we're all after." Nash, from Newport Pagnell, added: "We consistently keep picking up strong results which will be important on what's probably going to be a very unpredictable day at Silverstone. My main goal has to be the Independents championship, but you never know..."

Meanwhile yesterday also saw Plato's team-mate Alex MacDowall and Tom Onslow-Cole in his Team Aon Ford Focus stand on the BTCC podium as they each achieved a third place finish, in races one and two respectively.

Elsewhere, Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Racing Team have virtually assured themselves of the BTCC's coveted Manufacturers/Constructors and outright HiQ Teams championships. But it is still very much to play for in the Independent Teams Trophy, with just 15 points between leader 888 Racing with Collins Contractors and Airwaves Racing and a possible 45 on offer at Silverstone.

Sportsdesks: to apply for media accreditation to the BTCC's title-deciding final round at Silverstone (15-16 Oct) or to arrange interviews with drivers email the championship's Media Office btccmediaoffice@mpacreative.com or tel 01372 414120.

For full Brands Hatch race reports, results and more copyright-free hi-res imagery visit the BTCC's official website www.btcc.net

2011 Dunlop BTCC Drivers' Points after Brands Hatch (round 9 of 10):
1. Matt Neal, 225 points
2. Jason Plato & Gordon Shedden, 220
4. Mat Jackson, 189
5. James Nash, 181
6. Andrew Jordan, 127
7. Tom Chilton, 116
8. Robert Collard, 105
9. Paul O'Neill, 91
10. Alex MacDowall, 84

Manufacturers/Constructors' Points:
1. Honda/Dynamics, 556
2. Chevrolet/RML, 463
3. Arena/Ford, 383

HiQ Teams' Points:
1. Honda Racing Team, 406
2. Silverline Chevrolet, 273
3. Airwaves Racing & 888 Racing with Collins Contractors, 183
5. WSR, 153
6. Team Aon, 150

Independent Drivers' Points:
1. James Nash, 253
2. Mat Jackson, 236
3. Andrew Jordan, 181
4. Tom Chilton, 174
5. Robert Collard, 151
6. Paul O'Neill, 144

Independent Teams' Points:

1. 888 Racing with Collins Contractors, 268
2. Airwaves Racing, 253
3. WSR, 212
4. Team Aon, 208
5. Pirtek Racing, 197
6. GoMobileUK.com with tech-speed, 168

*All points remain provisional


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 10 Comments
      Lagwolf
      • 3 Years Ago
      Now I just wish someone could convince Speed to show it. (Repeats in the middle of the winter don't count.) The lengths to wish you have to go to see this great racing series if you are in the US are ludicrous.
      gtv4rudy
      • 3 Years Ago
      This racing series is fun to watch. The racing is hyper competitive with door handle to door handle banging and passing.
      MrWhopee
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is the true "stock car racing". Because the car is based on production models. Not like NASCAR, whose cars resemble nothing like the real thing. It might be "stock car" circa 1960s and 1970s, but nowadays big two-door coupes with rear wheel drive, big carbureted V8s, 4 speed manual tranny is all but extinct. It's a heck more fun to watch than NASCAR too.
      jboogiezx6
      • 3 Years Ago
      i would watch this. far more interesting to watch than the crap available to us
      breakfastburrito
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hey Chevy! Sell us a boosted up Cruze BTCC edition in the USA, and I'd become a Chevy fan. Sucks that i need to stream from the UK to watch a Chevy race...
      alphalimaindigo
      • 3 Years Ago
      How close are these to production vehicles?
        Elmo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @alphalimaindigo
        REALLY close. They're all based on production chassi and usually are powered by production engines. The only car in the series that isn't powered by its production counterpart's engine is the Cruze. The Cruze is powered by a modified version of the Cobalt SS Turbo's/Vauxhall Astra OPC's 2.0L turbocharged LNF.
      Elmo
      • 3 Years Ago
      I really want to see Jason Plato win his 2nd in a row.
      LMI500
      • 3 Years Ago
      I agree Speed doesn't get the U.S. market. They seem to think everyone loves nascrap, sorry not me! They used to show a lot more racing and this was some of it. Now, like I said it is mostly all nascrap all the time, or their so called "reality" shows that are absolute garbage. Does Speed even listen to feedback sent to them, because I've never seen any changes come from my emails.