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. Tuesday 23 September 2014

  2. Lauda: Hamilton worth every penny 17:12

    Lauda: Hamilton worth every penny

    Niki Lauda says Lewis Hamilton showed why he is paid what he is after his second win in a row and his seventh of the season...

    F1
  3. Official: Hayden returns for Aragón 16:59

    Official: Hayden returns for Aragón

    Former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden will be back in action this weekend at Motorland Aragón. The Aspar rider has...

    MotoGP
  4. Kaltenborn: New Sauber in the making 16:27

    Kaltenborn: New Sauber in the making

    Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn says the outfit's 2015 Formula 1 car is "in the making" and that they "have not...

    F1
  5. Pedrosa keen to consolidate second 15:50

    Pedrosa keen to consolidate second

    Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says he is looking to strengthen his hold on second place in the Riders' Championship this...

    MotoGP
  6. Marussia: We will complete season 14:41

    Marussia: We will complete season

    Marussia will finish the 2014 Formula 1 season, Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon has insisted. Marussia is believed to be...

    F1
  7. Márquez out to get back on top at Aragón 14:05

    Márquez out to get back on top at Aragón

    Reigning MotoGP Champion Marc Márquez says he will be "working hard" to get back on top this weekend at Motorland Aragón a...

    MotoGP
  8. McLaren: Plan for future now almost complete 13:30

    McLaren: Plan for future now almost complete

    McLaren Engineering Director Matt Morris has confirmed the "restructuring" at the team is now almost complete. McLaren...

    F1
  9. Smedley: Maintaining third was objective 12:11

    Smedley: Maintaining third was objective

    Williams Head of Vehicle Performance Rob Smedley says he is happy the team managed to retain third place in the...

    F1
  10. Ricciardo: We will fix it for Japanese GP 11:18

    Ricciardo: We will fix it for Japanese GP

    Daniel Ricciardo is confident the power unit issues he experienced last weekend will not be repeated in Japan next...

    F1
  11. 10:56

    F1 Photos: Sochi opening ceremony

    F1
  12. Hamilton not relieved to be on top in title race 10:44

    Hamilton not relieved to be on top in title race

    Lewis Hamilton says he is not relieved to have re-taken the lead in the battle for the 2014 Formula 1 Drivers'...

    F1
  13. 09:51

    Photos: Singapore GP in black and white

    F1
  14. Button hints at new McLaren deal for 2015 09:43

    Button hints at new McLaren deal for 2015

    Jenson Button looks poised to stay with McLaren next season and says he is 'pretty happy' he will be there in...

    F1
  15. Winners and Losers at the Singapore Grand Prix 08:32

    Winners and Losers at the Singapore Grand Prix

    The 2014 edition of the Singapore Grand Prix was a slow burner but nonetheless vitally important in the context of the...

    F1
  16. Video of the Day: McLaren outside Formula 1 05:03

    Video of the Day: McLaren outside Formula 1

    Find out how McLaren Applied Technologies is shaping lives away from the circuit.

    F1
  17. Monday 22 September 2014

  18. Boullier questions Red Bull radio messages 15:48

    Boullier questions Red Bull radio messages

    Eric Boullier reckons Red Bull issued coded messages to Daniel Ricciardo in the Singapore Grand Prix. In the run up to...

    F1
  19. Russian Grand Prix circuit officially opened 14:08

    Russian Grand Prix circuit officially opened

    The Sochi Autodrom, location for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, was officially opened on Saturday. Russian Prime...

    F1
  20. Red Bull not yet considering team orders 11:11

    Red Bull not yet considering team orders

    Red Bull says it is not yet considering team orders, despite Daniel Ricciardo keeping himself within touching distance of...

    F1
  21. Video: 360-degree onboard with Buemi in Assen 10:18

    Video: 360-degree onboard with Buemi in Assen

    Sébastien Buemi put a Red Bull Formula 1 car through its paces in front of 82,000 spectators last month, as part of the...

    F1
  22. Caterham encouraged despite Kobayashi non-start 10:16

    Caterham encouraged despite Kobayashi non-start

    Caterham Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto says he is encouraged by the outfit's performance in the Singapore Grand Prix, even...

    F1
  23. Gutiérrez: Almost impossible to achieve good results 09:40

    Gutiérrez: Almost impossible to achieve good results

    Esteban Gutiérrez says it is almost impossible for Sauber to achieve good results after the Mexican slumped to his sixth...

    F1
  24. Video: Rosberg reflects on Singapore retirement 09:35

    Video: Rosberg reflects on Singapore retirement

    Nico Rosberg looks back on his short-lived Singapore Grand Prix; after starting from the pit lane and retiring amid...

    F1
  25. Wolff admits Mercedes needs better reliability 08:58

    Wolff admits Mercedes needs better reliability

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has admitted that the squad needs to improve its reliability as the championship fight enters its...

    F1
  26. Mattiacci upbeat over Ferrari progress in Singapore 07:34

    Mattiacci upbeat over Ferrari progress in Singapore

    Ferrari Team Principal Marco Mattiacci says he is confident that his squad is improving following its showing in the...

    F1
  27. Video of the Day: UPS delivers special Ferrari 05:03

    Video of the Day: UPS delivers special Ferrari

    UPS delivered a special F1 car, made of bark and fittonia, to Singapore. Representing Ferrari's partnership with the...

    F1
  28. 03:04

    Championship standings after Singapore

    F1
  29. Sunday 21 September 2014

  30. Alonso rues timing of Safety Car deployment 18:54

    Alonso rues timing of Safety Car deployment

    Fernando Alonso was left to rue the timing of the Safety Car as he raced to fourth position in the Singapore Grand...

    F1
  31. Bottas links late slump to power steering 17:53

    Bottas links late slump to power steering

    Valtteri Bottas says an issue with his power steering system contributed to his tumble down the order in the Singapore Grand...

    F1
  32. 17:45

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday in Singapore

    F1
  33. Force India reclaims fifth from McLaren 17:31

    Force India reclaims fifth from McLaren

    Force India boss Vijay Mallya was suitably elated after his team moved ahead of McLaren in the battle for fifth in the...

    F1
  34. Magnussen treated for burns after scoring point 17:05

    Magnussen treated for burns after scoring point

    Kevin Magnussen was treated for burns by doctors after the McLaren driver battled to 10th place at the Singapore Grand...

    F1
  35. Vergne fights back to earn best result of season 17:05

    Vergne fights back to earn best result of season

    Outgoing Toro Rosso driver Jean-Éric Vergne recorded his best finish in over a year as he battled to sixth in the Singapore...

    F1
  36. Vettel questions timing of Hamilton move 16:35

    Vettel questions timing of Hamilton move

    Sebastian Vettel reckons Lewis Hamilton took more risks than he needed to when passing him during Sunday's Singapore Grand...

    F1
  37. Hamilton hails 'clean' Singapore weekend 16:13

    Hamilton hails 'clean' Singapore weekend

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was pleased after a "clean" Singapore Grand Prix weekend culminated in him taking a vital...

    F1
  38. Rosberg urges Mercedes to improve reliability 15:51

    Rosberg urges Mercedes to improve reliability

    Nico Rosberg has urged Mercedes to improve its reliability after his costly retirement from Sunday night's Singapore Grand...

    F1
  39. 15:27

    In full: Singapore Grand Prix race result

    F1
  40. Hamilton takes title lead with Singapore win 15:10

    Hamilton takes title lead with Singapore win

    Lewis Hamilton moved into the lead of the championship with a commanding victory in Sunday night's Singapore Grand Prix,...

    F1
  41. 12:35

    Follow the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix live!

    F1
  42. Video: Hill, Herbert become mechanics 10:44

    Video: Hill, Herbert become mechanics

    Watch as Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert become Marussia mechanics for a practice session in Singapore.

    F1
  43. 10:42

    Photos: Historic F1 race in Singapore

    F1
more news