So, the gloves are off in this year's Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
After the opening three races at Brands Hatch last weekend we have a few answers as to what is likely to happen this season – but don’t look too closely at the points table for an indication of who is going to make a mark over the next 27 races.
Honda Civic Type R driver Matt Neal heads the standings alongside MG6 racer Jack Goff. Neal took a win in the third race, while Goff had a consistently strong weekend which he capped by following Neal across the line in race three.
New rules this season have ramped up the success ballast that points leaders have to carry into each subsequent meeting and both men will head to Donington Park on April 18/19 with a whopping 66kg of lead bolted in to the passenger footwell.
That is going to seriously handicap them in qualifying and could leave the door open for some of those drivers who were unfortunate at Brands Hatch.
Chief among those was Jason Plato in the Team BMR Volkswagen CC. He was in command of race two, after a cute bit of strategy in the first race to bag pole, and was on course for an 89th career win when he suffered a puncture which put him in the gravel.
He’d qualified third and finished in that spot in the opener, and then would have added a victory which could well have seen him lead the standings. But he left trailing the top two by 19 points and now goes to Donington Park without any extra weight – a frightening prospect for his rivals.
Team-mate Aron Smith stunned at Brands with two podiums and the third Team BMR car of reigning champion Colin Turkington finished in the top five twice. There is a lot more to come here.
Three-time world champion Andy Priaulx in his WSR BMW 125i M Sport was one of the stars of the show with a pole position on his return to the category – his second successive BTCC pole, but split by 13 years!
His charge on soft tyres in race one wilted and he dropped to ninth, but was a superb battling second in race two to finish just 0.040sec behind the victorious Honda Civic Type R of Gordon Shedden. The Guernsey driver will go to the next round with 48kg on his car. That will slow him in qualifying but expect him to get back to the front for races two and three.
His team-mate Rob Collard scored a race one win as Priaulx slipped back but a tap into the gravel in race three means Collard is only tenth in the standings – and will be relatively weight-free at Donington, so there is another potential stand-out performer.
Andrew Jordan had a mediocre weekend by his standards in the MG6. The Triple Eight Racing driver, swapping to the factory team from Honda, went the wrong way on set-up and struggled until race three, when a clash with Rob Austin’s Audi A4 caused a puncture. The 2013 champion has no success ballast weight, and is determined to get things back on track at Donington. He will fly.
The battle has begun but the narrative of the season has yet to emerge. And that unpredictability is what keeps the crowd coming through the gate at touring car meetings.
By Matt James, touring car correspondent for Motorsport News.