Tim Harvey's preview to the BTCC shootout

Tim Harvey's preview to the BTCC shootout

13 October 2011 – This weekend sees Silverstone play host to the BTCC championship finale, where the season-long rivalry between Honda and Chevrolet finally meets its end. Who better to quiz over the fantastic possibilities than 1992 Champion and ITV television commentator Tim Harvey, who dramatically clinched his own title at Silverstone.

We are poised for another energetic shootout and Silverstone is the setting. Are you expecting a challenging day in the commentary box?

Tim in discussion with ITV anchorman Steve Rider
At the end of the day, we’ve just got to keep up with who has scored the most points in any one race. There are five drivers in it mathematically, but in reality it’s three drivers who are likely to pull it off – Matt Neal, Jason Plato and Gordon Shedden. But the reality is that each one is going to have to try and out-score the other two in each race; with the unpredictability of touring car racing, that’s going to be on a race-by-race basis and we’ll see where we are at the end.

As with 1990 – when we had a transitional year, with the turbocharged Ford Sierra Cosworths plus the new 2-litre class – 2011 has witnessed a selection of different cars: turbocharged and normally aspirated vehicles, plus some NGTC runners. How do you sum it all up?
I think, on-track, we’ve had some excellent races – some really good racing, a variety of different winners and a variety of different cars being competitive.

Off-track, it’s probably been the most acrimonious season I have ever known. That’s a shame, but as you say it’s a transitional year. The trouble is, it’s people’s livelihoods, it’s their passions, it’s their competitive instincts which are all being changed, if you like, by (Series Director) Alan Gow having to bring an equivalence in parity between the cars. If you look at that, we’ve often had 12, 13 or 14 cars all covered by one second in qualifying.

You have to say, if you take a broad view of it, Gow has done a very, very good job. The trouble is, because he has had to change things to advantage some people and disadvantage others throughout the year, none of them are happy because they are all racers and all want it to go their way all the time. So I think Alan has done a good job overall but, in doing so, he has had to incur the wrath of the competitors a few times!

It certainly seems that, with the leading drivers especially, they are now using anything possible against each other – both on and off the track…
Long-time rivals Matt Neal and Jason Plato locks horns after a qualifying dispute at Rockingham
The drivers themselves – particularly Plato and Neal, obviously – are completely wrapped up and consumed in the whole thing: who’s got the advantage, what’s fair and what isn’t fair. It is all because it revolves around a driver’s whole life, you think about these things 24 hours a day.

They will repeat things which, to the outside world, might seem petty or inconsequential. But, as a driver myself, I completely understand that because they are under the pressure cooker of trying to win the championship and in each of their minds it has gone unfairly this year.

We have seen a number of titles decided at Silverstone over the past two decades – for Will Hoy, Jo Winkelhock, Gabriele Tarquini, Rickard Rydell, Laurent Aïello, Alain Menu and Matt Neal for his second title. But the best remembered is your own victory in 1992; do you think 2011 could match that, in terms of the sheer rivalries and two Champions going up against a non-championship winner?
Absolutely! I think all of the ingredients are exactly as per ’92: the acrimony in the pit lane, three drivers going for the championship, although in this particular case we have two drivers with one team as opposed to three different manufacturers. But there is still a lot riding on it; in this case, Honda and Chevrolet will both have their full-page national press adverts ready to go on the Monday morning, should they win.

In ’92, we eventually had a first-time Champion in yourself. If history repeats itself, Gordon Shedden will do the honours this weekend…
Harvey out-drove John Cleland and Will Hoy in 1992
I think Gordon has kept a quieter profile than most throughout the whole of this, which is in his nature anyway. On the day, I think the animosity between Neal and Plato could actually get the better of them. Certainly at Brands I don’t think either driver was 100 percent focused on their racing; I know they both won races, but they had a lot of other issues going on.

It’s going to come down to two things: who wants it badly enough - and that ought to be Gordon because he hasn’t won it before – plus the element of luck, which of course they can’t have any control over and in touring car racing luck will play a part.

Hopefully the title will not be decided by a collision (as it was in 1992), although all of the ingredients are there…
Definitely. As I said, the animosity is there, so I guess - if that is what it took - it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility. But, essentially, all three are brilliant drivers and they would want to win it on the track, fair and square.

With the weight penalty and reduced turbo pressure, Matt Neal insists that straight-line speeds are now Honda’s weakness. Which car do you expect to be strongest on the Silverstone National circuit?
We will have to see, because both Neal and Plato are playing down their cars’ strengths and weaknesses. This is how it is now; they have to state their car’s disadvantages in order to sway public opinion and Alan Gow’s opinion into penalising them or the other car. This is why they are all playing the game…every quote single now is about, ‘How slow my car is’ or ‘How fast his car is!’ But I think, on balance, the Honda will be the quicker car.

Do you believe series administrator TOCA has now found a fair balance?
Series Director Alan Gow
I would have said so, although at Brands Jason Plato qualified sixth tenths of a second quicker than both of the Hondas, so the Chevrolet clearly had a huge advantage for outright pace. But is that because the car suited the circuit? Is it because Jason was on top form?

Who knows, but the tradition in touring cars is that the different circuits bring out the strengths and weaknesses in different cars and it’s impossible to have all of the cars equal on all of the circuits.

I still believe that the Silverstone circuit ought to favour the Honda…if it doesn’t, in all honestly there is something wrong with the system because it’s not right if a normally aspirated car can qualify on pole by six tenths.

Theoretically, turbo cars should be on pole because they have a higher tyre wear issue during the races and should be quicker over one lap; that hasn’t happened at the moment but there are so many different ingredients into what you call parity – ultimately, lap time is the decider, but Chevrolet was certainly a lot quicker at Brands.

Whichever way one looks at it, how much must Team Dynamics - the outfit which runs the Hondas - be regretting Oulton Park (when Neal and Shedden collided and threw away a one-two finish at the last corner)?
Well…I didn’t mention it at Brands but at the moment that happened I had a feeling it could be a crucial moment in this year’s championship. They had by far and away the best car in the first half of the year, before the raft of penalties and so on came in, but they didn’t maximise their points.

Oulton Park was obviously one case where they catastrophically lost almost all of their points. They are now only five points in it and, while they won’t be thinking about it at the moment, if they lose the championship by the number of points they lost at Oulton then they’ll obviously think back to that.

I hesitate to ask: Who do you tip to become 2011 Champion on Sunday?
Harvey tips Neal for title glory
I would go for Matt Neal. I think his car will be the best, I think the odds are on Honda because it’s two against one and I think, at the end of the day, he is the team leader; although they’re joint number one, Matt is probably the team leader there – it’s his family’s business, his family’s team and I’m sure they’d like him to win, although I would personally be delighted to see Gordon take his first championship.

This is undoubtedly Honda’s opportunity; not to take anything away from Plato and Chevvy, but Honda have done the best job in producing the best all-round car.


Tim Harvey was talking to GPUpdate.net’s Gregory Haines
Twitter: @GregoryHainesF1, @timharveyracing

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Sunday 29 March 2015

  2. Rossi beats Dovizioso in Qatar thriller 19:51

    Rossi beats Dovizioso in Qatar thriller

    Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi claimed victory in the opening round of the MotoGP season in Qatar as he beat Ducati's Andrea…

    MotoGP
  3. Video: Will Power's record St. Pete lap 17:06

    Video: Will Power's record St. Pete lap

    Enjoy Will Power's record pole-winning lap for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    Indy
  4. 16:02

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday at Sepang

    F1
  5. Räikkönen achieves 'maximum' after puncture 15:20

    Räikkönen achieves 'maximum' after puncture

    Kimi Räikkönen says fourth position was the best result possible after he sustained a puncture during the early stages of the…

    F1
  6. McLaren drivers say pace 'a nice surprise' 13:41

    McLaren drivers say pace 'a nice surprise'

    Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button say that McLaren-Honda's raw pace during the Malaysian Grand Prix came as "a nice…

    F1
  7. Verstappen delighted with maiden points 12:59

    Verstappen delighted with maiden points

    Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen expressed his satisfaction after becoming the youngest ever points scorer in Formula 1…

    F1
  8. Ferrari Chairman hails 'incredibly hard work' 12:44

    Ferrari Chairman hails 'incredibly hard work'

    Sergio Marchionne praised the "incredibly hard work" of his Ferrari team after Sebastian Vettel took victory in the Malaysian…

    F1
  9. Kvyat: Hülkenberg clash a racing incident 12:12

    Kvyat: Hülkenberg clash a racing incident

    Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat played down his contact with Force India rival Nico Hülkenberg during the Malaysian Grand Prix, which…

    F1
  10. Brake issues hampers Maldonado at Sepang 12:09

    Brake issues hampers Maldonado at Sepang

    Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado was forced to retire from the Malaysian Grand Prix with a brake issue, as his and the squad's…

    F1
  11. Rosberg wants improved communication 12:05

    Rosberg wants improved communication

    Nico Rosberg has urged Mercedes to improve communication after he came home a distant third in the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  12. Merhi elated by maiden Formula 1 finish 11:54

    Merhi elated by maiden Formula 1 finish

    Formula 1 debutant Roberto Merhi expressed his joy after he was able to finish his first ever race in the sport as he came home…

    F1
  13. Hamilton: Ferrari too fast for us today 11:42

    Hamilton: Ferrari too fast for us today

    Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari were simply "too fast" to deal with during the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  14. Sepang extends Formula 1 deal to 2018 11:22

    Sepang extends Formula 1 deal to 2018

    Sepang will continue to play host to the Malaysian Grand Prix after organisers agreed a new deal to remain on the Formula 1…

    F1
  15. Vettel 'speechless' after first Ferrari win 11:16

    Vettel 'speechless' after first Ferrari win

    Sebastian Vettel said claiming his first victory for Ferrari during Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix initially left him lost for…

    F1
  16. 09:59

    In full: Malaysian Grand Prix race result

    F1
  17. Vettel breaks Mercedes run with Sepang win 09:54

    Vettel breaks Mercedes run with Sepang win

    Sebastian Vettel claimed his first victory for Ferrari as the team pulled off a two-stop strategy to beat Mercedes, which had…

    F1
  18. 07:46

    Follow the Malaysian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  19. Dennis hopeful of European turning point 07:32

    Dennis hopeful of European turning point

    Ron Dennis is optimistic that McLaren-Honda will find itself in a much stronger position when the Formula 1 paddock arrives in…

    F1
  20. Stevens unable to race amid technical trouble 07:18

    Stevens unable to race amid technical trouble

    Will Stevens is unable to start this afternoon's Malaysian Grand Prix, with Manor Marussia failing to resolve the technical…

    F1
  21. 06:32

    Revised starting grid for the Malaysian GP

    F1
  22. Video of the Day: Backstage with Sauber 04:22

    Video of the Day: Backstage with Sauber

    Go behind-the-scenes during Sauber's pre-season filming day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

    F1
  23. Saturday 28 March 2015

  24. Power starts title defence with pole, track record 21:47

    Power starts title defence with pole, track record

    Will Power stormed to pole for the season-opening round of the Verizon IndyCar Series on Saturday, setting a new track record in…

    Indy
  25. Dovizioso takes pole for Ducati in Qatar 18:21

    Dovizioso takes pole for Ducati in Qatar

    Andrea Dovizioso emphasised Ducati's progress over the winter as he claimed the third pole position of his MotoGP career at the…

    MotoGP
  26. 18:17

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday at Sepang

    F1
  27. Massa frustrated by Williams' wet pace 18:14

    Massa frustrated by Williams' wet pace

    Felipe Massa expressed his frustration that Williams is still "too slow" in wet conditions, after a rain-hit qualifying session…

    F1
  28. Montagny suspended by FIA until end of 2016 16:36

    Montagny suspended by FIA until end of 2016

    Franck Montagny has been suspended by the FIA's Anti-Doping Committee until December 2016, after he tested positive for…

    Misc
  29. Ricciardo: Fourth a 'good result' for Red Bull 14:00

    Ricciardo: Fourth a 'good result' for Red Bull

    Daniel Ricciardo was pleased with Red Bull's performance during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix after a difficult…

    F1
  30. Formula E unveils shortened Monaco layout 13:20

    Formula E unveils shortened Monaco layout

    Organisers of the Monaco ePrix have unveiled the layout for the race which will take place on May 9. The 12-turn 2.76km…

    FE
  31. Rosberg 'annoyed' by qualifying display 12:46

    Rosberg 'annoyed' by qualifying display

    Nico Rosberg has conceded that he "didn't drive well enough" during Saturday's rain-hit qualifying session for the Malaysian…

    F1
  32. Verstappen happy with first Q3 appearance 12:43

    Verstappen happy with first Q3 appearance

    Max Verstappen declared himself happy after he equalled father Jos' best Formula 1 qualifying performance by setting the sixth…

    F1
  33. Vettel reckons Sepang victory is possible 12:29

    Vettel reckons Sepang victory is possible

    Sebastian Vettel believes that he can fight for victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix, after securing a place on the front row of…

    F1
  34. Grosjean dropped two places for pit infringement 11:59

    Grosjean dropped two places for pit infringement

    Lotus driver Romain Grosjean has been handed a two-place grid penalty for a pit lane infringement during Saturday's qualifying…

    F1
  35. Both Manor Marussia drivers allowed to race 11:46

    Both Manor Marussia drivers allowed to race

    Manor Marussia's Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens have been granted permission to race in the Malaysian Grand Prix, despite…

    F1
  36. Hamilton relieved to make first lap count 11:41

    Hamilton relieved to make first lap count

    Lewis Hamilton spoke of his relief after his first timed lap in the top 10 shootout in Malaysia proved marginally fast enough…

    F1
  37. 10:38

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Qualifying results

    F1
  38. Hamilton grabs pole in rain-hit qualifying 10:37

    Hamilton grabs pole in rain-hit qualifying

    Lewis Hamilton took his second successive pole position during a rain-hit qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand Prix…

    F1
  39. Button hails 'massive step' with Honda engine 10:17

    Button hails 'massive step' with Honda engine

    Jenson Button says McLaren engine supplier Honda has taken a "massive step" in the right direction at the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  40. 08:51

    Follow qualifying for the Malaysian GP!

    F1
  41. 07:11

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Full Practice 3 results

    F1
  42. Rosberg edges Hamilton in final practice 07:06

    Rosberg edges Hamilton in final practice

    Nico Rosberg edged Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton during Saturday afternoon's final practice session for the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
more news