Colin Turkington wants a record fifth title. But there were a dozen more race winners last year, all of whom are fired up to dethrone him this time.
Forget the 1990s and the so-called golden era: the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) has never been so competitive, nor as closely fought, as it is today. And the 2020 season, which begins this weekend at Donington Park (nearly four months late), will pick up once again on a thrilling narrative that left us breathless at the end of last term.
How BMW’s Turkington earned his fourth crown at Brands Hatch, equalling Andy Rouse’s record, is already the stuff of BTCC legend. Northern Ireland’s finest celebrated a title that looked to have slipped clean through his fingers earlier in the day, only for devastating bad luck for Honda’s Dan Cammish to hand it back to him with just two laps of the season to run.
Now Cammish will be seeking retribution, as one of a new generation of BTCC heroes out to forge a piece of history for themselves. As always in a new season, there are some fresh flavours to mix up the recipe, but there are also enough of the staple ingredients to ensure Britain’s biggest and most high-profile motorsport series serves exactly what it always has: the best crash-bang-wallop tin-top action you will see anywhere in the world.
Sadly, the pandemic has had an effect on the BTCC beyond the long delay to this year’s season. Turkington’s WSR team-mate, expected title rival and 2013 champion, Andrew Jordan, felt compelled to step down because of financial pressures, and so too has Power Maxed Racing’s Vauxhall team (just for this year), leaving Jason Plato on the sidelines for now. That’s a shame, because the 52-year-old BTCC pantomime villain is just two wins away from the magic 100 mark, following his drought-breaking victory in that unforgettable last race of 2019.
Both will be missed, surely even by Plato’s old nemesis Matt Neal, 53, who is back for a 30th season. At least the delayed start has given him more time for recovery from a body-slamming mountain bike crash in the off-season.
ASH SUTTON, 26: Became the youngest BTCC champion ever in 2017, driving a BMR-run Subaru Levorg. Team and driver have switched to the new rear-wheel-drive Infiniti Q50 for 2020 as Laser Tools Racing, and Sutton went fastest in the wet in pre-season testing at Snetterton.