The 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship begins at Brands Hatch in Kent this weekend, so here's a bluffer's guide to the major talking points
1 Jason Plato versus Colin Turkington
Jason Plato has, for so many seasons, been one of the BTCC benchmarks. The two-time champion has contested more than 400 races and is the most successful driver in the category’s history in terms of overall race wins. He has switched to Team BMR, which runs the Volkswagen CC, and is joined at the team by reigning title-holder Colin Turkington. Both are class acts, so expect a fierce battle for supremacy.
2 New Honda Civic Type R
There has been a lot of excitement about the rebirth of the Honda Civic Type R but it has caused a few problems for Team Dynamics, which fields the factory-supported Honda BTCC programme. Because the new car was so late on parade (the road version’s not due out until May), it has been a race against time to build it up into a pure bred track weapon. Drivers Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden know how to win, but there might be a little bit of development time needed first.
3 Andrew Jordan moves to MG
The 2013 champion will swap from the warm and comfortable surroundings of his family-run Eurotech Racing team to head up MG’s factory-backed assault in 2015. Jordan is one of the new breed, a young and feisty racer with superb car control. The MG 6 GT has proved fast in Jason Plato’s hands, but can Jordan go one better and land a drivers’ title for the reborn manufacturer?
4 New tyre rules
Just like F1, BTCC drivers have to use ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ tyres throughout a race meeting. However, there has been a slight rule tweak this year that means it is going to involve a lot more strategy to get the most from it. The soft Dunlop tyres have to be used once. Should a driver risk losing big points for a roll of the dice in the opening race (which can have a knock-on effect in race two) or gamble everything on the often chaotic reversed grid showdown at the end of the day? Cue lots of head scratching…
5 Rising stars
The BTCC is about the old guard against the new crop snapping at their heels. This year’s contest is poised to throw some very strong new names into the fray to battle with the likes of Jason Plato, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden. There’s Andrew Jordan and Jack Goff in the MG6 GTs, Tom Ingram returns in his Toyota Avensis and Sam Tordoff has a prime seat in a WSR BMW 125i M Sport. Expect them all to shine at various points.
6 Priaulx on parade
Triple world champion Andy Priaulx makes his domestic return at the wheel of the WSR-run BMW 125i M Sport. His spiritual home is at the wheel of a two-litre touring car and he will slot straight in to the BTCC and be competitive. He will have to miss one weekend at Rockingham in September due to a clashing sportscar commitment with BMW.