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BTCC 2015: Home Advantage for Honda at Thruxton?

The Honda team are expected to be on flying form at Thruxton. Image Credit: 2015 Honda Yuasa Racing Press Office

Image Credit: 2015 Honda Yuasa Racing Press Office

The first two rounds of the British Touring Car Championship have already more than proven the sensational form the series has returned to. If Brands Hatch and Donington Park proved anything, its that the old guard of the touring cars are anything but safe; the new generation of drivers are encroaching on the top positions. Heading to Thruxton however, the established teams remain on top, and it looks like it may well remain that way on Britain’s fastest and most daunting circuit. 

Over the years commenting on the motorsport world, a common observation has often been that I hold a great deal of faith in the underdogs. Apparently I have some cognitive roadblock when it comes to me aligning with any dominant team. The most relevant example I can muster must be the case of Honda in the BTCC. When they returned to the new look championship in 2002 I was a die hard fan, especially when Andy Priaulx got the team and made them a top scorer by the end of the year. However, as Honda became more and more dominant and transformed into the Neal-Shedden hybrid we know today, my love for them seemed to fade. I can only imagine that with dominance comes a sense of predictability, which in turn removes that drama and excitement that attracted you in the first place. This year however, the situation seems a little different.

We may have only had the first two rounds, but one thing that is clear beyond any shadow of a doubt is that nothing is certain anymore. The new breed of touring car stars have started their campaign for glory; Team BMR have shown blistering form, while names such as Aron Smith, Josh Cook and Aiden Moffat have taken their stand against the establishment. If there was a word to describe the 2015 season, it could only be unpredictability. Therefore, my attempt to make predictions ahead of Thruxton has already given me multiple headaches. Nevertheless, let’s give this a go.

Since 2011 there have been 12 races at Thruxton, 9 of which have been one by a single manufacturer. Of those 9 races, 8 of those have been won by the same team. The 2015 season may well be filled with uncertainty, but to put your money on a dominant Honda performance may well be one of the safest bets you could make all year. Not only is Thruxton the home circuit for the Honda team, but their composed chassis and strong engine has already given them 50% of the victories this year.

Honda are expected to be on flying form at Thruxton. Image Credit: 2015 Honda Yuasa Racing Press Office

Honda are expected to be on flying form at Thruxton. Image Credit: 2015 Honda Yuasa Racing Press Office

“We’ve had some brilliant results so far this season that have exceeded expectations – and long may they continue – but we need to keep on pushing the boundaries so we stay at the sharp end in this fast-moving championship.” Gordon Shedden

Considering Honda have seemingly out-performed their own expectations already this year, moving towards a historically Honda safe track must be a great confidence boost for the team,

We’ve got our heads down and are working hard on the car, because we know there’s still plenty of room for improvement – but we’re feeling positive. I’m looking forward to Thruxton; it’s traditionally been a happy hunting ground for us and the new Type R is monstrous through the high-speed areas, which is what this circuit is all about. That should definitely play to our strengths”  – Matt Neal

Speaking of tradition, Thruxton has never quite suited the Triple Eight MG team; the best placed MG last year was Jason Plato who managed 6th in the opening race. However, the all new line-up of Andy Jordan and Jack Goff have shown they are not be messed with this year. Andy Jordan took a win for Honda at Thruxton last year, so he knows exactly how best to tackle the tarmac for victory. I do think however that MG will struggle at Thruxton, having already fallen foul to the monstrous Honda team this year on multiple occasions.

In many ways the same can be said of both the BMW and BMR teams, who both possess either cars or drivers that are able to win at Thruxton, but question marks still hang over whether the 2015 combination will prove fruitful. I have faith that Priaulx will return after a disappointing Donington and be challenging for the podium positions and possibly even a win, following in the footsteps of Turkington who won the final race in the eBay Motors BMW last year. The new look BMR team have proven brutally fast already, and will certainly be on contention but I do not know if they will be able to match the Honda menace. Whatever happens, Turkington, Plato and supercharged Smith will be challenging from start to finish.

The high speed, abrasive circuit of Thruxton does often throw up some unexpected action, such as Simon Belcher’s stop drop and roll off the circuit last year. Questions have already been asked about the soft tyre and its suitability at Thruxton; given its performances so far it is likely that the soft tyre would not last a race. Personally I think the running of the soft tyre should be stopped at Thruxton, from a safety point of view.

The Moffatt Mercedes surprised everyone with its outright pace. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The Moffatt Mercedes may surprise at Thruxton. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The final race at Donington Park saw the dramatic rise to form of both Josh Cook and Aiden Moffat, with Cook nearly taking the outright race win if it wasn’t for the safety car. Moffat in the Mercedes is a proven racey combination already, and his determination is sending him soaring up the grid. Last year the Mercedes of Morgan finished with three top tens at Thruxton, which bodes well for both him and Moffat considering the drastic improvements that are already apparent this year. Thruxton in the past seems to have favoured the hot hatches, which would give some advantage to the A-Class over perhaps the VWs, Chevrolets and MGs. Possibly.

If the past is anything to go by, my attempts at making predictions ahead of a BTCC race meeting have been futile and utterly wrong when the results come in. The most skilled statisticians and race analysts in the world would struggle to predict the events of a BTCC race weekend. But I am nothing if not a courageous man. My predictions for Thruxton will be two race wins to Honda followed by a win for Aron Smith.

There we are, my money has been placed where my mouth is. Let’s see what happens shall we?

Bring it on!

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Peace and Love! 

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