THE British Touring Car Championship returns this weekend with the interest for Worcestershire drivers hotting up.
After more than a month since the last round at Thruxton, the action switches to Cheshire’s Oulton Park for three races on Sunday.
County driver Matt Neal, of Shenstone, sits fourth in the standings in his Honda Yuasa Racing Civic Tourer, while team-mate Gordon Shedden is eight points behind leader Andrew Jordan in second.
Evesham racer Rob Austin is struggling in 16th in his Audi A4 but second behind Alain Menu in the title race for independent drivers.
The team principal of Rob Austin Racing, who are based next to Honda in Pershore, has been boosted by an addition to his team.
Past championship runner-up and Le Mans star James Weaver has joined as chief race engineer for Austin and team-mate Hunter Abbott.
Austin said: “So far, it’s been me engineering both Audis but with James on board – he will chiefly be overseeing Hunter’s car – we will be able to devote much more time, knowledge and experience into looking through the data and improving performance.
“Someone of James’ experience is a massive asset to the team across all aspects. I’m sure the fans and media will enjoy having a former BTCC great being part of the pit lane as well.”
Neal managed one podium finish at Thruxton, while Scot Shedden made the top three twice, including victory in the second race.
Austin was disqualified in that race and given four penalty points on his racing licence for causing an incident involving Nick Foster.
Abbott is bottom of the standings in 24th and returns to Oulton Park after walking away from a serious crash.
He said: “Oulton is where I had about as violent a crash as you can have back in 2008 – ironically in a Rob Austin Racing Ginetta in British GTs. It was a huge roll and fireball at high speed on the way down The Avenue approaching Cascades and it actually removed all my nasal hair and eyebrows!
“I’m sure every driver has a similar spot they have to revisit – this is mine – and when Rob and I go on our track walk I’ll stop for a quick reflection but will be quickly over it and onto the job in hand.”