BTCC: Overdrive

Touring car rookie Simon Blanckley says he is "not expecting miracles" as his sibsport team go into this weekend's round at Thruxton, despite having scored their first championship point at Rockingham last time out - in only their second event.

Touring car rookie Simon Blanckley says he is "not expecting miracles" as his sibsport team go into this weekend's round at Thruxton, despite having scored their first championship point at Rockingham last time out - in only their second event.

The Durham-based driver has never raced at the track which is renowned as the fastest in the series - with speeds of up to 155mph - and is looking forward to the different types of challenge the circuit will bring.

"I'm not expecting miracles, so we'll just see how the weekend pans out, but the car should be strong especially now we have a fresh engine and I'm quietly confident," said Blanckley.

Jason Plato leads the BTCC drivers' championship by 17 points from nearest rival Fabrizio Giovanardi going into Rockingham.

He should expect fierce competition from the man who pipped him to the post last season, Matt Neal, with his old rival looking to put in a good performance in his team's new Honda Civic.

Despite retiring at Rockingham, his Team Halfords squad has won five of the last six races at Thruxton, which remains his favourite circuit.

Meanwhile, Harry Vaulkhard is hoping to overcome illness in his efforts to continue a superb start to the Seat Cupra Championship. Vaulkhard is leading the class by five points from Adrian Churchill and Mike Dobie after an eventful weekend at Rockingham, and while he is currently suffering what he believes is a throat and chest infection, the young racer is expected to line up at Thruxton.

Churchill will hopefully be back on track after his car sustained serious damage during the last round, which put him out of two races and made his two first positions at Brands Hatch all the more valuable in his efforts to push Vaulkhard all the way.

* DARLINGTON and District Motor Club open the car race season with a two-day meeting at Croft this weekend. The North-East's most successful racing series - The Northern Saloon and Sports Car Championship - heads the bill, with five TVRs taking on the mighty Marcos Mantis of Colin Simpson while Bernard Hogarth has swapped his Ferrari for ex-BTCC Ford Mondeo.

Durham's Martin Hall is also looking for a good start to the season in the Porsche 924 event. Also on the bill is the Uniroyal Fun Cup, a category for specially-built race cars with a VW Beetle body in three two-hour races.

Practice gets under way at 9.30am on Saturday with racing after lunch and the action commences at noon on Sunday. Adult admission is just £10 on both days with accompanied under-15s admitted free.

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