New Snetterton, more excitement
The Norfolk track’s new 300 layout has got the thumos-up from the BTCC’s stars and that’s before they drive it in anger ON AUGUST 6-7 THE BRITISH TOURING Car Championship will race on the new Snetterton 300 layout for the very first time. British Superbikes raced at the Norfolk track on July 1-3, when an astonishing 43,000 people turned up to watch, but this will be the first time the new configuration has been tackled
by a high-profile car championship.
Snetterton has always been famous for its speed. However, this year everyone on the grid will be facing a very different proposition with the new twisty infield section. The drivers have all tested on the new layout and have been extremely complimentary about the changes.
It’s certainly a case of a great track being made better — a rare feat nowadays.
“All of it is a challenge, but it’s the first half of the lap where all the major changes have come,” Matt Neal commented in testing earlier this year. “That infield section is a challenge all on its own. In a race situation it’s the sort of section where errors will creep in and lead to quite a bit of ganging up and lots of overtaking opportunities.”
“Hats off to MotorSport Vision — they’ve done a fantastic job in providing an interesting circuit,” remarked Mat Jackson. “Snetterton used to be a power circuit and fast cars would always come here and dominate. It’s still got fast elements, but now there’s a technical side to it as well so you need to cover both of those areas with a good chassis and a good engine. You’ve got a lot of hard braking areas where you come from high to low speed and that will promote overtaking.” Andrew Jordan added: “When I saw the pictures of the new circuit I thought it looked
alright, but having driven it, it’s certainly challenging and it will make for good racing.” It’s not just the layout of the track that has changed, though. There have been huge amounts of money spent on making sure that spectators can see all the action on the infield section. Not that the BTCC drivers needed any prompting, but as part of the redesign MotorSport Vision boss Jonathan Palmer was keen to make sure there were plenty of overtaking opportunities around the track. “I’ve really tried to build an intelligent design so that it encourages overtaking and makes it exciting to drive around,” he said after the developments were finished
in March this year. If the British Superbike crowds in July were anything to go by, the BTCC races on the new Snetterton 300 layout will be a resounding success. Matt Neal is currently out in front in the championship with Mat Jackson and Gordon Shedden in second and third places respectively. There’s not much to choose between them though as only 40 points cover the top six. Jackson, the 2006 SEAT Cupra Champion, may be nine points away from Neal, but he is adamant that he can take the fight to him. “We can definitely win it,” he said of the championship. “I think we have the credentials, both team and driver, to take the fight to Neal and Team Dynamics who run the Hondas. Yes, we’re an independent team, but we’ve kept them honest up to now and we’ve still got lots more development to do on the cat
“There’s no escaping that they [Neal and Dynamics] have greater resources with factory support from Honda, and they’ve been around a lot longer than us and have won it twice before. But we are the hungry ones and we’re prepared to fight to the death for it.” We suspect that new BTCC driving standards advisor Jeff Allam may be opposed to a driver ‘fighting to the death’ for a race win, but we doubt many fans will have any argument with Jackson’s statement.
Add to this Jason Plato’s recent comments over engine parity between his normally aspirated Chevrolet and his turbodiesel rivals, and come Snetterton the politics should have reached boiling point. The Newcastle-born racer is currently 40 points behind Neal and if he wants to secure back-to-back titles he is going to have to hope that any engine parity problems are sorted. Either that or add Plato to the list of drivers who will be ‘fighting to the death’ for race wins. The BTCC has always produced fantastic racing and the Snetterton weekend will be no different. It will be the sixth out of 10 rounds and will mark the halfway point in the championship — if any of the drivers have title
ambitions, Snetterton will be where they need a strong weekend to set them up for the final four rounds. There may be three races for the British Touring Cars over the weekend, but even without them, Snetterton is in for a great weekend of racing. There’s a long list of high-profile support races in the shape of the Ginetta Junior Championship, Formula Renault UK, Porsche Carrera Cup GB,
Renault Clio Cup and Ginetta G50 Cup.
Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars going into Riches three abreast, Ginetta G50s hammering down Bentley Straight and even Lewis Hamilton‘s brother Nicolas in a Clio Cup car — it will certainly be an action-packed couple of days.
Race day tickets start at £25 and can be bought at www.snetterton.co.uk or by calling 0843 453 9000.