BTC: Keen to keep climbing

Touring car rookie Simon Blanckley goes into his home race at Croft on Sunday confident he can score more championship points.

Touring car rookie Simon Blanckley goes into his home race at Croft on Sunday confident he can score more championship points.

Coming into the Croft weekend, Blanckley lies 13th in the Independents' Championship but is just three points away from 10th. In the Independent Teams' Championship, Sibsport are currently in 10th spot.

The Durham-born racer, who drives a Honda Integra-R, admits life hasn't been easy for his independent Sibsport team, but he is learning more with every drive and the ambitious 39-year-old can't wait to add to the championship point he has already scored - a great achievement for a low-budget side.

"It's been tough, sure, especially being on a much lower budget than most teams, but I am competing in the same races as some of the best racing drivers in the world, so it's not meant to be easy," said Blanckley. "In terms of race aims, another point like the one we scored in round six at Rockingham, or more, would be good.

"I know the Croft track really well; I've been there countless times. This should give me an advantage so you never know what we could achieve."

At the top of the field, Jason Plato has enjoyed his best start to a British Touring Car Championship campaign, winning four races out of nine to lead the drivers' title race.

And the North-East-educated driver will be hoping to continue his historically good form at Croft which has seen him finish on the podium six times since 2004 - three of which were wins. However, as he is the championship leader, the driver will have the penalty of 45kgs of `success ballast'.

"Croft is one of those circuits which will suit the Seat Leon, so I'm really looking forward to going there and trying to score some big points," said Plato. "The first aim will be to try and stick the car on the front row."

Meanwhile, Seat racer Harry Vaulkhard still has high hopes of winning the Seat Cupra R Class championship this season - and the BTCC test which goes with the prize money.

And while he admits Croft isn't the kind of track which is conducive to his style of driving, he still enjoys his home race and is looking for a place on the podium.

Vaulkhard is currently equal-first in the championship with Freddy Nordstrom - on 73 points - with Ian Churchill snapping at their heels just two points behind.

And the young racer is showing maturity beyond his years to make sure he doesn't get carried away with his standing.

"I'm going to try to take a different approach to the testing and qualifying sessions because I've just been putting too much pressure on myself to do well in them. So I'm pushing too hard and I'm not relaxed enough to do a good job," said the 21-year-old.

"So if I can get a good qualifying session for Croft and take a lead away it would be brilliant. But I'm being realistic and while I won't be really happy to come away from Croft in third spot, if I'm only a couple of points away from the top it won't be that bad.

"To win this championship what you need is consistency, so if I can consistently perform well and get on the podium then pick up extra points by getting some wins I'll be in with a chance to win. That's what I really want to do this year, but I know it'll be tough because there's a lot of competition - more than there is in the other Seat championship."

Also supporting the BTCC championship at Croft will be Alan Taylor and Gary Robertshaw, the Whitley Bay-based drivers who are battling for points in the Renault Clio Cup.

Practice gets under way at the Croft circuit, near Darlington, on Saturday at 9.30am with Sunday's ten-race schedule starting at noon. Admission costs £12 per adult on Saturday and £25 on Sunday with accompanied children aged 15 and under admitted free.

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