Sometimes you just have to check things out for yourself; I’d heard the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) was in spectacular health, I’d read it was in spectacular health, but last weekend I headed to Snetterton for a family day out to see if it was in spectacular health.
And it is. Not just because the made-for-television scheduling means a quick-fire succession of racing that fills the day from nine to six give or take, nor because I was reminded once again of the job Jonathan Palmer’s Motor Sport Vision firm has done to raise the standards of tracks everywhere, but nowhere more than at its own venues, but also because it was a brilliant day out despite the absence of the biffing and bumping that for some time became a hallmark of the series.
Don’t get me wrong: it was still happening here and there, but at this seventh of 10 meetings in the championship year, it seemed (almost) everyone was focused more on finishing than risking it all to grab a couple of extra points.
As the title run-in looms, the pressure of throwing it all away was seemingly enough to ensure the only thing boiling over was the bristling weekend weather. Did that mean the entertainment fell short? Most certainly not.
The consequence was an outbreak of good, mostly clean racing, none more so than at the start of the second BTCC race of the day, when young upstart Jake Hill took on series legend, championship rival and BMW team-mate Colin Turkington and sat ahead or alongside him for the best part of half a lap. It was exceptionally tight, clean racing that required immense skill and respect - and both delivered. While it was a pity it didn’t ratchet up again in the race, the skill on display was breathtaking and the high-speed, technical Snetterton circuit a great place to get a close-up taste of it all. I could only feel lucky to watch it unfold.
It won’t last, of course. Despite the BMW duo having by far the best weekend of anyone, upwards of five drivers could arrive at the season finale in contention for the championship, a possibility made all the more likely by its hybrid regulations that award less successful drivers extra electrical boost to keep things close. It remains a championship where a driver on form one weekend could find themselves scratching it out for a top 10 result in the next one.
But, even in the certainty that things will almost certainly explode at some point, that bumpers will be dented and door mirrors fly, Snetterton was a reminder that the BTCC is our easiest opportunity to watch, and truly appreciate, the finest driving skills in the country and circuits that pretty much every other country would love to have.