Brands Hatch provides one last chance to catch all the BTCC action in 2008 as it hosts the season finale this weekend with Fabrizio Giovanardi on the brink of his second title and main rival Jason Plato gunning for victory in SEAT's swansong before leaving the series.
With a fight for the independents' crown still raging between Colin Turkington, Mat Jackson and Adam Jones, and the usual 'tin-top' scores to be settled throughout the field before the final chequered flag drops, the weekend should prove to be unmissable!
For all that television offers, little can match the excitement of BTCC racing 'in the flesh', and Brands Hatch's sinuous Indy Circuit provides more thrills and spills than most, providing the ideal venue for an all-or-nothing showdown between some of the best touring car aces in the world.
As usual, the 50th anniversary season of the BTCC has been fraught with both excitement and controversy, with the on-track action typically close - and a little too close. Through it all, however, the class of Giovanardi and Plato has shone, leaving them as the only drivers with a shot at the overall crown. Again, there is history, as the same pair faced off for the 2007 title, with the Italian - already renowned for his touring car prowess around the world - finally adding the British championship to a plethora of others.
This year, the Briton will need a little more than a strong on-track performance to beat his rival, as Giovanardi needs just nine points to retain his crown, but will surely have the crowd's backing as he approaches what could be his farewell from the BTCC following SEAT's decision to withdraw at the end of the season. Plato has divided opinion throughout his career, but has been a mainstay of the series for many years, and deserves a rousing send-off if, indeed, he cannot find a way to return for 2009.
Giovanardi's quest for glory needs just a podium finish in the first of Brands Hatch's three races this weekend as his 261-point haul leaves him comfortably clear of Plato's 217, with only 52 on offer on Sunday. Third place offers ten points, while eight for fourth - provided he also gains the bonus point for either leading the race or setting its fastest lap - would also be enough for the Italian veteran. Plato, meanwhile, really needs to scoop a clean sweep of pole, victory and fastest lap to keep the battle going. However, should, by some quirk of fate, be tied on points at the end of race three, the Briton would take the title on the basis of having more race wins this season....
If anything, however, the battle for Independents glory is even more intriguing, with three drivers still in with a shout of claiming the spoils, even if Adam Jones remains an outsider, lurking lest the two pacesetters should slip up.
Turkington is poised to defend his crown, courtesy of a 22-point lead over Jackson, but, with a possible 45 points on the table should anyone 'win' all three races, the Team RAC driver cannot afford to relax. Jones, lying 40 points adrift of the class lead, will hope that the rough-and-tumble that has characterised BTCC racing from front to back will claim his rivals on what can be the most frenetic weekend of racing of the entire season.
The 'end of term' feel not only means a great atmosphere for those lining the spectator banks, but also has the effect of lifting some of the pressure on those directly involved, prompting those not going for titles to take greater risks and, generally, raising excitement levels to nail-biting proportions.