Gordon Shedden ready for new Snetterton’s British Touring Car bow
Snetterton is set to kick off the second half of this year's British Touring Car Championship in style over the weekend.
In one of the Norfolk circuit's prestige meetings of the season, the new track format promises to provide plenty of explosive action as the touring car series says goodbye to an eight-week mid-season break and hello to the championship run-in.
And what a climax is in prospect, as old hand Matt Neal's Honda leads Mat Jackson by just nine points with the likes of Touring Car legend and defending champion Jason Plato trying to muscle in on the action.
Scot Gordon Shedden is not far off either, sitting third and in the thick of the title battle as the trio of races at Snetterton on Sunday look to indicate who is in the best shape to prosper.
'It kind of feels like another year; it's like day one at school again,' said Honda star Shedden. 'You think we've done so much racing and so much has happened so far, but then we're only halfway through the year and we've got it all to do again, and I'm sure it's going to be just as exciting – if not more so as it all pans out.
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'I'm looking forward to this weekend and getting back into it. We've got the new circuit here at Snetterton, and I'm sure it's going to make for some exciting racing and I'm sure everyone is going to be in for treat who comes to watch.
'It'll be interesting to see how the racing actually goes. The Superbikes racing here earlier in the year was fantastic. Touring Cars is a slightly different thing, but there are a lot of very heavy breaking points that will inevitably lead to some 'assistance' going into some corners.
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'But I'm sure that will add to the spectacle and excitement and we'll get three great races.'
Snetterton has been a happy hunting ground for Shedden in the past, but even better for Plato – which could be handy, considering the Silverline Chevrolet driver believes he is facing the biggest battle of his long and distinguished Touring Car career if he is to successfully defend his title.
Several retirements this season have left Plato well aware of the need to produce a major points haul in Norfolk – at a track where he has won an unrivalled eight times.
'I came back from 56 points in 2009 and missed the title to Colin Turkington by five points, but even though it's only 40 points this time around I'd say it's much harder – the biggest ask of my career since I started in the BTCC in 1997,' said Plato.
'Matt is a seasoned pro and his team, Dynamics, know how to win titles. Plus of course their Honda has the turbo engine – our car can out-do them in the corners but can't get on terms with them down straights. From now on it's pole position or bust – that's my only chance.
'Qualifying has always been about screwing yourself up for that one-off, special 'banzai' lap but here I am, at 43, taking even bigger risks than I did when I was in my 20s.
'I'm still finding new limits within myself as I had to the last time out at Croft when I bagged the pole. I am over the limit in some places.
'Add in that at Snetterton there's a new twisty stadium section and we've got 26 cars on track this weekend, it will be very easy to trip up over traffic… it's going to be a case of shut your eyes in some places.'