8th May 2015

My neighbour isn’t one to indulge in small-talk. That changed a few weeks ago, when he stopped me to talk about race three at Donington. And he isn’t the only one…

Out of nowhere, we seem to have a race that has gone down in folklore. We knew it had potential thanks to it being race three and thanks to the mixed grid and thanks to the weight and thanks to the soft tyre and…. and yet, none of us expected it to be quite so dramatic.

Trackside fans loved it: television audiences loved it and the tv director, Mark Cross, hated it as he realised that he needed seven more pairs of eyes. And yet, perhaps inevitably, there are people complaining. Too much happened said one, awful driving said another. Impossible to keep track off. Someone took me to task for saying that all that drama was what the BTCC is all about.

Remember race one at Brands, the one won by Rob Collard? Thrilling wasn’t it? No. It had moments but the shuffling came from the soft tyre use and the overtaking that it sparked. The race didn’t use the success ballast and it was apparent that less happened. The point? Success ballast helps produce more action. Now, there is an argument to say that the weight increases are too much now. You go from winning one race to, say, 14th in the next. That, say some drivers, is wrong, but the weight rules are the same for everyone. That old adage of what goes around comes around is certainly true in the BTCC and there will be days when people have their day in the sun and those when they are struggling with the weight. It isn’t that a handful of drivers have been singled out to carry the weight. Ah, you may say, but the best drivers will be up front and therefore cop the ballast. Yes….but remember years ago when canny drivers would sacrifice a race one result in favour of pole in race two when it was a straight reversal of the top eight, not the random draw we have now? Yes, one Jason Plato on his SEAT debut who worked it first and although that aspect was soon changed, people were happy to use it to their advantage while they could. The same is true here: go for points but stay away from the weight. Finishing, say, fourth in two back-to-back races is more useful for point and hence the championship than a win and a 17th, for example.

Ah, but…..that isn’t the BTCC is it? Thinking of strategy and not just going all out for places. Maybe not at face value, but there have always been clever drivers who think about the championship situation, rather than trying to win every corner of every lap. This is just the same on a grand scale.

But it may be that we are getting ahead of ourselves here. Yes, we have had a stunning race that had so much in it, but will every race be like that? Not necessarily. Circuits have different characteristics, so a narrow place like Oulton Park where overtaking is harder is unlikely to generate the same type of race as Donington did. Thruxton, remember, won’t have a soft tyre so we are looking just the effect of the weight this time. Equally, who carries the weight and where they are on the grid will have an impact as well. If the weight and the soft tyre combination proves to be too much (whatever the naysayers think that means), expect TOCA to review it. For now it is the same for everyone and they have to use it as best they can and that means the guys on the pit wall have a greater part to play. There is far more to this year’s BTCC than just bash and crash, its image of a few years back.

So, to Thruxton next. Fastest circuit on the calendar, no soft tyre and a place that gives great racing. More questions will be answered on Sunday.

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