24th July 2015

Oh my! It’s been quite a season so far hasn’t it? New cars, new driver and team combinations and tweaks to the rules have certainly provided excellent entertainment, and with the second half of the season nearly upon us, plus the return of Motorbase to spice things up, a lot can yet happen.

Take a look at the first part of the season and you can point at lots of significant things, with the championship building up nicely for the second half.

Honda Yuasa Racing
The switch to the new Civic Type R has been a very positive one, with a rejuvenated Matt Neal taking two wins and team-mate Gordon Shedden matching that tally in the championship lead. The Type R works better than the Tourer of last year, and Neal seems a happier, and therefore more focussed, driver with fewer political pressures upon him. His win at Brands Hatch came under huge pressure from Jack Goff and there will be more to come before the end of the year, while Shedden is perhaps driving better than ever. Few are as committed to a move as Sheds – Croft proved that – but rarely does he bring a car back in bits and the fact that he has scored in every race so far is key to becoming a two-time champion. Somewhere, pre-season I suggested the Flying Scotsman for the crown. I’m not changing my mind, despite…

Team BMR
…The efforts of Jason Plato. He’s had more wins than anyone, twice as many in fact, but then he would, wouldn’t he? That is in the Plato DNA. We know if there is a win to be had, he’ll go for it, but he’d be championship leader had it not been for the puncture in race two at Brands. Things like that happen to Jason: he pushes and sometimes things bite back. His pit lane start at Croft polarised opinion, but it was perfectly legal (no-one got steamed up about Andy Wilmot starting from the pit lane, oddly..!) and was typical Plato. Try something different, try to gain an advantage.

Try, try, try.

Colin Turkington has been overshadowed but has quietly got on with re-learning front-wheel drive and won at Donington. He is 34 points adrift in the championship but that is nothing with 15 races to go. He is canny enough to know that points win championships, and while more wins will help, he knows that staying in touch is crucial. Aron Smith is a puzzle: yes, he’s had his share of bad luck, like mechanical problems at Croft and Donington but he pulled that baffling chop on Josh Cook at Donington in the third race and a win went begging. Perhaps he is trying to match Plato and Turkington and is suffering as a result as on occasions he looks to overdrive a touch. He is due a win, though, and remember he bagged a victory at Snetterton last year.

Hmm. Furrowed brow. Wrinkled nose. Something’s not quite right here. I know that Triple Eight no longer has Plato nor engineer Carl Faux but it still has good people, lots of experience and two young guns in Andrew Jordan and Jack Goff. And yet… AJ seems to be spending all weekend chasing set up and only by the end of Sunday is he anywhere near happy. The fact that he is still in contention with the leading bunch in the title race is down to his ability to score whenever possible, although the race three damage and resulting non-score may tell against him. AJ hasn’t forgotten how to drive but things aren’t gelling as expected, but the second half of the season should help progress especially with Snetterton coming up where the MGs work well. And Jack Goff started the season well with a best-ever second place to Matt Neal at Brands but has faded a little since then. His over due win is….well, still in the post. Something needs unlocking in both cars to help progress in the second half of the season.

A slow-burner. Pole for Andy Priaulx at Brands was a great start as was a Rob Collard win but then things went south for a time. A brace of BMW-friendly circuits has helped boost the cars’ collective results, but can Sam Tordoff’s push for the title be maintained? Don’t bet against it while Prialux and Collard are out for more wins as well. If they do take points off the championship leaders, that will have an impact on the way things look at season’s end.

Bubbling below the surface
Josh Cook’s pace at Donington was impressive and the Power Maxed cars have moved on hugely this year making it a very worthy effort, and expect more good results from Josh and Dave Newsham before long. Tom Ingram and Speedworks continue to make progress with the Avensis looking more competitive at Oulton and Croft after Christian Dick took a more active role in setting up the car, but life is tough for the smaller teams and many out there will tell you that – Rob Austin Racing and AmDtuning.com for example.

Half the season remains and a there’s a real mix of tracks to come as which will all have an effect on results. Are we heading into a point of the year where people sacrifice results – and weight – to try to stay competitive? Lose a few points in one race and score more than your key rival in the next would be the plan and the savvy teams will be aware of that and may well play the game. The other plan could be to bank as many points as you can when you can. I wonder how many more teams will follow the pit lane start approach pioneered by Jason Plato at Croft?

There is a lot that can – and will – still happen this year. Chapter two should be a good read…

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