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BTCC 2019 half term report: Next stop, Snetterton

Wednesday, July 03 2019

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship reached its halfway point at Oulton Park last weekend ahead of a summer break and 15 more races, the next three of which come at Snetterton on Sunday 4 August.

That makes this the perfect time to reflect on a thrilling season so far, and look at which storylines you'll need to keep an eye on when the championship returns in Norfolk next month.

Turkington and Jordan positively beaming

One of the biggest stories of the off season ahead of the 2019 BTCC was Team BMW's decision to return the iconic 3 Series name to the grid with 330i M Sports for Colin Turkington and Tom Oliphant, with a third car run under the BMW Pirtek Racing banner for Andrew Jordan.

The new machine has hit the championship like a rocket, with nine wins from a possible 15 races so far. Four of those have gone to reigning champion Turkington who leads the championship. Jordan sits second in the standings, a hugely impressive achievement considering he was effectively ruled out of the Donington Park meeting with accident damage.

Pressure will be on BMW's rivals to pull a rabbit out of the hat and close the gap at Snetterton, and whether or not they're able to do so will be key to determining the fate of this year's championship.

Cook bubbling away in third

Last season was something of a watershed moment for Josh Cook's BTCC career as he finally stepped onto the top step of the podium with two wins. The BTC Racing Honda Civic Type R driver has already matched that tally this year, and third place means he's the best-placed man on the grid to pounce on the BMW drivers.

After winning the opening race of the year on a wet Brands Hatch Indy circuit, Cook picked up another win at Thruxton and has consolidated his status as a contender by finishing in the points in every race bar two. The Civic Type R is a good car, and one that won at Snetterton last year in Matt Neal's hands. Cook will be keen to emulate that at least.

Butcher carving up the BTCC in breakthrough year

Rory Butcher may not have been top of many people's list as a potential BTCC champion at the start of the year, but he's truly arrived at the front end of the championship now. Armed with a proven Honda Civic Type R, run by the Cobra Sport AmD team, Butcher has already picked up his first win in the series. 

The Scotsman has since proved that was no fluke with a series of front-running performances, and he may have won at Oulton Park if not for running wide at the Island hairpin whilst chasing on-the-road leader Jake Hill.

Butcher remains an outside bet for the BTCC's overall honours, but that may well play out in his favour as the season goes on, and he certainly can't be discounted when it comes to picking up further race wins.

Sutton, Cammish and Neal in the fight

Three big names sitting close to the top of the table, but without wins to their name, are Subaru's Ashley Sutton and the Honda duo of Dan Cammish and Matt Neal.

Sutton has been on the podium four times already this year in his Subaru Levorg, whilst Cammish has picked up five and has moved slyly up the table in recent races to sit sixth overall in the championship standings.

Matt Neal has been racing in the BTCC since 1991, and the three-time champion has lost none of his hunger - you have to go back to 1998 to find the last time he went through a full season of the BTCC without winning a race. You wouldn't put it past the veteran campaigner to pick up his first win of the season at Snetterton.

Wins for Chilton and Ingram

Two of last season's major protagonists are a little further adrift of Turkington, but both Tom Ingram and Tom Chilton will fancy other chances of having an impact on the BTCC when the action resumes.

For last year's runner-up Ingram it's been a learning year in Team Toyota GB's new Toyota Corolla, and he is ninth in the standings with 50% of the season to go. Learning a new car with a single-car entry was never likely to be an overnight success, but a first win was chalked up at Donington Park and the car has a hefty number of points finishes to its name. Ingram will be a factor at times for the remainder of the season.

Chilton has four podium finishes against his name already this year, including a win at Croft. A disappointing weekend at Oulton Park sees him a little further down the order than perhaps is reflective of his pace.

Plato back in the thick of it

Following the disappointment of his first winless season in the BTCC last year, Jason Plato has worked his way back into frequent front-running contention behind the wheel of Vauxhall machinery. The two-time BTCC champion's Vauxhall Astra is a frequent fixture in the top-ten, and he picked up a podium at Croft.

But for an incident that was no fault of his own at Oulton Park, the BTCC legend may have been in a position to challenge for a podium or even win. Plato's fire is still burning, and there will be opportunities between now and the end of the year for the cunning veteran to add to his 96 race wins in the BTCC.

Jelley been on form

A positive story from the BTCC this year has been the resurgence of Stephen Jelley in Team Parker Racing's BMW 125i M Sport, as raced to last year's crown by Turkington. Jelly benefitted from a penalty for on-the-road race-winner Jake Hill to claim his first BTCC win in a decade last time out at Oulton Park, and his form thus far in 2019 has indicated that he may well be there to pinch more wins when the opportunities arise.

Much more to get excited about 

As ever with the BTCC, there is lots more to get excited about ahead of the championship's return for the second half of the season at Snetterton. Can Tom Oliphant become the third BTCC works driver to win in the new 330i M Sport after a promising start? Will Sam Tordoff claim the victory of which his pace thus far this year has been worthy? And, how will Jake Hill bounce back from losing his maiden victory in the BTCC following a post-race penalty for a tap on Matt Neal?

I guess you'll just have to join us at Snetterton in a few weeks' time to find out…

The second half of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship kicks off at Snetterton on 3-4 August, building towards the season finale at Brands Hatch on 12-13 October. For more information, please click here.