All roads lead to Snetterton as rivals chase BTCC leader Gordon Shedden
- Credit: Archant
The second half of the British Touring Car Championship begins at Snetterton this weekend with seven drivers hoping to mount a title challenge, starting at the Norfolk venue.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden arrived in Norfolk in 2016 with a 52-point deficit and was still able to steal the title away from Sam Tordoff at the final race, giving hope to anyone with a similar or smaller shortfall.
This year the Honda Civic pilot has an 11-point advantage over Rob Collard and is a further point ahead of the latter's Team BMW colleague, Colin Turkington, with both keen to keep the pressure on Shedden.
The current form man is double winner Ash Sutton, just 20 points behind the leader, with the ever-improving Subaru Levorg, and if that trajectory continues he may yet prove to be Shedden's biggest threat, especially after posting the fastest time at the recent BTCC test at Snetterton.
In contrast is Jason Plato's form with the Subaru Levorg – the double champion has looked a shadow of his former self, but did claim a podium place in the last race which could herald a better second half to the season.
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Tom Ingram will be hoping that the summer break will stop the rot. The Toyota Avenise racer was the early leader but two dismal events have seen him drop 48 points behind Shedden, although he has always shown well at the local venue.
The final two, of the possible seven contenders, are Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan. Honda pilot Neal is another to have suffered from race-ruining incidents, while Jordan, 60 points off the lead, probably has his eyes more on race victories than a title tilt in the third BMW.
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It's hard to ignore the two race stoppages last year at the Norfolk venue, with former Attleborough resident Ollie Jackson involved in both. Harshly blamed for the first, Jackson was an innocent victim in the second, and will be hoping the recent clampdown on driving standards will be effective.
At the last round many competitors found oil and water don't mix; three were injured in the biggest BTCC pile-up in recent history. Cambridge's Luke Davenport is recovering well, while Jeff Smith will be replaced by son Brett in his Honda Civic and Aron Taylor-Smith hopes to return after a broken leg.