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The stars of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) are revving up for a wheel-to-wheel battle around the fastest circuit in the country this weekend as they speed into Thruxton (6/7 May) – but not before a quick pit-stop in Southampton on the way.
As the UK’s biggest and best four-wheeled motor sport series, the BTCC draws a crowd wherever it goes, so when two race cars rocked up at West Quay shopping centre in Hampshire’s largest city yesterday, there was no shortage of excitement.
Jeff Smith’s Eurotech Racing Honda Civic Type R – the pole-sitter from the 2017 curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch and pace-setter at last month’s pre-event Thruxton test – and Chris Smiley’s BTC Norlin Racing Chevrolet Cruze occupied pride of place as hundreds of interested and intrigued shoppers and office lunchers stopped by to take a look.
Not only that, but championship leader Tom Ingram, race-winner Jack Goff, fans’ favourite Rob Austin and exciting young prospect Chris Smiley took time out of their busy pre-weekend preparations to call in for autographs and selfies aplenty.
“It was great to meet so many enthusiastic fans in Southampton,” said Goff. “We had a lot of people looking at the cars and intrigued to see what goes on behind-the-scenes and find out a bit more about the BTCC in general.
“We’ve put ourselves under some pressure this weekend after going so well in testing, but the Civic has proven to be quick at Thruxton in recent years so history is on its side and I want to go out there and get some trophies.”
“I’m really looking forward to racing at Thruxton,” echoed lap record-holder and last year’s pole-sitter Ingram. “It’s a place that holds quite a few happy memories for me. I scored my first car racing podium here in Ginetta Juniors in 2009 and my first win the following year, and it’s always cool to return.
“One of the biggest challenges to Thruxton and what makes it so massively popular amongst drivers is its unique nature. It’s incredibly fast and real edge-of-the-seat stuff – like no other circuit we visit on the calendar and tremendously enjoyable for drivers and spectators alike.”
Austin has yet to reach the rostrum at Thruxton, but like Ingram, the Handy Motorsport ace has shown front-running form thus far in 2017 and is eager to maintain that momentum in the third outing of the campaign.
“Thruxton is one of my favourite circuits in the country,” he enthused. “It really rewards bravery, with a lot of very fast corners. From our point-of-view, we need to concentrate on three consistent finishes – and hopefully this is the weekend when we break our Thruxton duck.”
“I’m really looking forward to Thruxton,” echoed series sophomore Smiley. “It’s the fastest track in the UK, which brings a lot of challenges in itself – Church Corner, for example, is flat-out in sixth gear at almost 160mph.
“It will be a great spectacle with a capacity grid of 32 cars, and with it being only my second time at the circuit, my expectations are to learn as much as I can and hopefully score some strong points in the process.”
Tickets for the race weekend can be purchased on the gate, priced at just £16 for Saturday, 6 May and £33 for Sunday, 7 May. Race day tickets with paddock pass cost £43, with grandstand seating an additional £5 on Saturday; Sunday grandstand seats are sold-out. Accompanied children aged 15 and under will be admitted free of charge. Sunday morning’s Pit Walk and Autograph Session is included with all paddock passes.