The British Touring Car Championship returns to the Snetterton 300 circuit for the penultimate weekend in the 2020 season.
As the BTCC edges closer to the Brands Hatch finale, the title fight still remains close between the top five drivers, but there are other talking points ahead of Rounds 22, 23 and 24.
Whilst Snetterton has changed over its time, the BTCC has made an annual appearance since the championship’s first in 1959.
The Norfolk circuit takes its origins as a former RAF airfield which was turned into a racing circuit, like many disused airfield facilities at the time.
The BTCC uses the longest variant which is a 2.9 mile circuit featuring 12 corners, known as the 300.
There are a number of talking points worth mentioning as the championship heads into this penultimate weekend.
BTCC debutants and returnees
During the past number of weeks, there has been a wash of various announcements showcasing the return, and debuts of others in the BTCC.
The (only) four-time Clio Cup Champion Paul Rivett is set to make a debut for GKR TradePriceCars.com.
For the final two weekends of the 2020 season, at Snetterton and Brands Hatch, Rivett will make the most of the experience in what was formerly James Gornall’s Audi S3.
“It’s no secret that I have always wanted to race in the BTCC and at the age of 42, I know I’m not getting any younger”, he said keen to fulfill his long-awaited desire.
“For my first weekend in the car, it’s important to keep my expectations in check and not get too carried away.
“I’m looking forward to getting rid of the extra weight that I have to carry in race (45 kg) and the aim is to just make progress across the three races and move forwards.”
He will join Ethan Hammerton to complete a revised lineup from Snetterton.
Famed-stunt driver and W Series competitor Jess Hawkins is also set to be third in the line for a BTCC debut with PMR; the others prior were Jac Constable who was deemed ill and did not make his debut for them at Croft, and Clio Cup star Jade Edwards.
As the third female driver to race in the BTCC, and the second this year, Hawkins described it as a “dream” to race in the championship.
One of the more recent stories was that Glynn Geddie would be returning to the BTCC, with a full-time campaign in 2014, and 10 selected rounds in 2018, under his belt.
Racing in the soon-to-be-retired VW CC of Team HARD, he will take over the previous duties of Tom Onslow-Cole and Mike Bushell in that car to compete in the final six rounds of the season.
“During that time (not being in the BTCC), I’ve done a lot of GT racing in Bentleys and Lamborghinis which are all rear-wheel drive, so I’m under no illusion that the front-wheel drive Volkswagen CC is going to take some getting used to,” he said fully aware of the challenge ahead.
Team Principal (of Team HARD) Tony Gilham, a close friend of Geddie having raced him on-track before, has high hopes for the Scott and praised him for his ability to adapt to an array of different race cars during his career.
He wholeheartedly added how this quick adaptation to new racecraft was a “skill that couldn’t be taught”.
Another returnee includes the likes of Ethan Hammerton who made his debut in the final two race weekends of the 2018 season for Team HARD.
He will be replacing Bobby Thompson, who suffered a concussion from his high-speed accident at Croft, and will sit alongside Rivett as a revised lineup for Snetterton.
Thompson himself leads the Jack Sears Trophy standings by 80 points, thus opening up to Carl Boardley and Sam Osborne in second and third.
|Position||Driver (out of 12 drivers)||Points|
He said: “Obviously that (missing Snetterton) isn’t ideal for me in terms of the Jack Sears Trophy but the key thing is that I have points on the board and the guys who are chasing me don’t, so it’s still all to play for.
“Hopefully Paul [Rivett] and Ethan [Hammerton] can take some points off my rivals and my focus is on making sure I’m fully fit to come out and fight for the title when we get to Brands Hatch.”
The 2020 title fight edges closer to its conclusion
Aside from the returnees and rookies, the top end of the field find themselves battling for the lead in the drivers’ standings.
There are only 30 points covering the top four, who have been able to assert consistent results whereby they secure strong points finishes.
|Position||Driver||Team (C: Constructor)||Points|
|1||Ash Sutton||Laser Tools Racing||261|
|2||Dan Cammish||Halfords Yuasa Racing (C)||254|
|3||Colin Turkington||Team BMW (C)||249|
|4||Tom Ingram||Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters (C)||232|
|5||Rory Butcher||Motorbase Performance||209|
|6||Tom Oliphant||Team BMW (C)||207|
|7||Tom Chilton||BTC Racing||174|
|8||Matt Neal||Halfords Yuasa Racing (C)||160|
|9||Adam Morgan||Carlube TripleR Racing with Mac Tools||147|
|10||Josh Cook||BTC Racing||146|
The leading four drivers have each secured more than one victory so far this season, with Ash Sutton topping them off at four wins.
In the 2019 championship, Snetterton hosted rounds 16-18 whereas Knockhill hosted rounds 22-24.
Judging by the results at Snetterton last year, Tom Ingram and Colin Turkington found themselves most victorious and competitive in pace.
Dan Cammish also found himself strong with two second-placed finishes.
Although, Sutton’s excelled performances in the Infiniti Q50 have put him into strong contention to get his second title, a fellow rear-wheel drive rival to the four-time and reigning champion Colin Turkington.
Turkington will be looking for a redemption-driven weekend at Snetterton after a day to forget at Croft, having crashed into the barrier at the first turn (on cold tyres) and further to hinder his efforts to grasp a significant load of points.
Sutton also had a difficult Croft weekend having been involved in incidents triggered by the crowded-nature of the mid-pack, getting a puncture after a podium fight with Jake Hill, or also making the same mistake to find himself into the barrier at turn 1 during qualifying.
Nevertheless, he made the most of his opportunity in Race 3 (after Turkington went off at the first corner) and performed his signature climb up the grid with no weight ballast.
Turkington lost his second place to Cammish in the standings and will be keen to carry on the consistent performances for these final six rounds, also seeking for the wins against Cammish and Sutton.
A new qualifying format for this weekend
A new adjustment for this weekend involves alternate qualifying proceedings, particularly how there will be two sessions.
Instead of the usual 30-minute session, a 25 minute one will run for all drivers, prior to a shootout between the top-10 drivers who made it in that threshold at the end of the first session.
As seen more often in modern motorsport infrastructure, the drivers are given the chance to fight for the top spots of the grid without the issue of congestion on their flying laps.
In previous qualifying sessions throughout this season, there have been marginal gaps separating competitors but some found themselves in pity when another driver has caused a red flag for a crash or debris.
The driver’s debris or car becomes an obstruction on the track and disallows those who have been patient of the traffic to set their laps.
This shootout between the top-10 will give the chance for the fastest drivers to assert their true qualifying paces.
These reasons are amongst the highest as to why fans should tune into ITV4 on Sunday, and to see the title protagonists fight for the lead in the standings before Brands Hatch.