After 501 laps and more than 925 miles of flat-out competition over 27 rounds, played out on nine different circuits, the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reaches its climax at Brands Hatch this weekend with five drivers going toe-to-toe for glory.
Both factory Honda Civic Type R drivers Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal will go up against two Team BMR-run VW CCs of Jason Plato and Colin Turkington. Andrew Jordan’s factory-backed MG6 GT also has a mathematical chance of the silverware.
Shedden leads the standings by 23 points, which means he has one hand on the trophy, but second-place Plato is a wily fox who has been around the BTCC block for almost two decades. It would take a real mishap for Shedden to lose his grasp on the title but the BTCC has a way of keeping the drama going to the very last moment.
Turkington is 32 points away from the summit, with Neal 37 points adrift of his leading team-mate. There are 67 points on offer in total over the three races in Kent.
The competitiveness of the category is never highlighted better than on the Grand Prix loop at Brands. It suits the shorter, longer, front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive machines, meaning no one has an advantage. It is a great leveller, which is just want you want when it is all on the line.
Shedden and Plato can rely on the backing of their sister cars should they not have a disaster in the opening round and slip back.
Add in to that mix 1997 and 2000 champion Alain Menu, who has been drafted into the Team BMR squad in a third car. He is deputising for the injured team boss Warren Scott. Although the Swiss driver has been out of the cockpit for 12 months, he loves the 2.433-mile course and could be on hand to assist either Plato or Turkington’s title hopes.
It is all to play for and even the most hardened gambler would be keeping his loot firmly in his pocket this weekend.
Jason Plato on how to qualify on pole position at Brands Hatch Grand Prix
Jason Plato’s MG6 GT was in the title fight for the British Touring Car Championship 12 months ago. He narrowly failed to lift the crown but his lap for pole position on the Saturday leading up to the showdown was sensational. He talks us around that lap, which was 0.9s faster than his rivals:
"Going in to Paddock Hill Bend, you can see that I am on the brakes over the crest going in to the corner. You approach it maybe only 10mph faster than on the short Indy layout, but it changes the right-hander dramatically. Because you are on the anchors when the car is going light, you have to have a lot of finesse and care in the braking zone to make sure she doesn’t swap around on you.
From there, it is on up to Druids. This can be a frustrating corner because you have to wait a long time on the exit. I heave on the brakes, get the weight transferred to the front of the car and get to the apex. You can get on the power and come out faster, but that compromises your line so you will see that I wait a bit before I light her up for the run down to Graham Hill Bend, the left-hander at the bottom of the hill.