Race winner Stephen Jelley will return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship this season, driving a Team Parker Racing Ford Focus ST after a seven-year sabbatical.
The Leicester driver contested two seasons of the BTCC in a WSR BMW 320si in 2008 and 2009, and took two victories, both at Rockingham.
Since then, Jelley has competed in GTs and the Porsche Carrera Cup GB. Jelley drove for Stuart Parker’s team in the Porsche contest last year and was fifth in the standings.
He will return to the tin-top top flight in the car previously used by Alex Martin.
Jelley said: “It was always my aim to come back to the BTCC – I didn’t want to leave, but the finances weren’t there.
“Team Parker Racing can have a long future in this category and I want a long future here too, so we are looking to build together. I haven’t raced a front-wheel-drive car before so there will be a big test programme ahead of the season to get me up to speed.
“As for my aims, I will wait to see where we are after the opening sessions before we can make a realistic assessment. We are just going to focus on our own performance first and foremost.”
Team boss Stuart Parker said: “We are thrilled to have Stephen with us – he has driven for the team for four seasons in the Porsche Carrera Cup in his career and he is part of the fixtures and fittings at the squad.
“We have had two great years with Alex, who was learning all the time. Stephen is a proven race winner at this level and, although he will be getting to grips with front-wheel-drive for the first time, he can help us move forward.
“If we can be challenging inside the top ten, and then who knows what can happen with the reverse-grid draw. This will be an exciting year for us.”
BRDC Rising Star Jake Hill will race a Team HARD-entered VW Passat CC in this year’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, the Kent-based racer targeting regular points finishes, and to build on his impressive 2016 campaign.
Hill made a strong impression on fans, media and his fellow competitors, taking his Toyota Avensis into the top ten on seven occasions with a best result of fifth place at Silverstone, and is excited at the prospect of putting his first years’ experience to good use.
“It’s fantastic to know I will be back with the team and continuing my journey with them,” said the 22-year-old. “I am hugely grateful to Tony (Gilham), RCIB Insurance, AutoAid Breakdown and TAG Industries for working to get me back on board for this season, and equally have some incredible support from Sportif Motor Group, Brisky Racing and are delighted to welcome our new partners Rolec Electrical and Mechanical Services.
“Last season I learned a huge amount and felt we made some strong progress. We worked really well as a team, and it’s really significant having continuity with the crew and the partners. It’s great to be racing the Passat CC, with the latest RML equipment, as I think it will be strong at lots of circuits. The aim is to get points regularly, try and qualify well and be in the mix at every event. We are all hugely ambitious, and both Mike (Epps) and Will (Burns) will be quick so I’m sure we will all push each other hard all season.”
Hill hopes to be testing the revitalised Passat soon and has his focus on arriving at the Season Launch in Donington Park on March 16th in the best possible shape for 2017.
“I am working hard to make sure I am ready, and we aim to get to Donington in March in great shape and hopefully competitive from the outset,” he concluded. “It’s going to be really tough and unpredictable but this year I have 30 races under my belt and that counts for a lot. It’s my birthday next month but I feel I have got a pretty special early present! Can’t wait!”
“Jake was really strong last year and got the absolute maximum from the car,” said Team Principal Tony Gilham. “The team worked really well with him and with the new cars I’m confident all three of our drivers will be in the mix. All of our partners are delighted to have Jake back to continue the progress with us.”
Look out for some new and exciting initiatives to come from Jake and Team HARD. throughout the season, including the opportunity to drive the NGTC Toyota Avensis as driven by Jake in the 2016 BTCC Championship in full race trim.
Eurotech Racing has announced that Jack Goff will be joining the squad for the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Goff will partner Jeff Smith in the team’s second Honda Civic Type R.
“We are delighted to have been able to put together a deal with Jack,” said Eurotech Team Principal Jeff Smith. “We have been in talks with many drivers over the winter which has been a long process, but we wanted to get it right. Our aim was always to put a talented young gun in to the second seat which we have undoubtedly managed to achieve with Jack.
“We have been impressed with the performance and professionalism he has shown over the past few seasons in the BTCC and are confident that Jack’s race craft combined with our Type R will be a force to be reckoned with. We know our cars are capable of winning the Championship and with Jack’s proven ability we are confident this is an achievable goal. We have a comprehensive pre-season testing programme in place and will hit the ground running, from the first round at Brands Hatch – we intend to be on the podium.”
Goff said, “This is a really exciting opportunity for both myself and all of my loyal sponsors. I have been fortunate to have raced with many successful teams during my short time in the BTCC and having met the Eurotech Racing team and visited it’s very impressive facilities, it is already very clear they have all the personnel and resources to give me a great chance to be fighting for championship honours in 2017.
“The car is a proven winner, with Gordon having won the past two championships and with the Swindon engine I think we have a very competitive package for the 2017 season.
“I am under no illusions that the championship is going to be as competitive as ever this season and there is going to be a large number of drivers fighting for the trophy, come Brands Hatch in October, we just need to make sure we are mathematically in contention.
“I must say a huge thank you to all of my loyal sponsors and Eurotech Racing for giving me this opportunity.”
AmDTuning.com is an outfit looking to push its operation up a notch for the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship as it expands to a two-car operation.
Driving those striking Audi S3s will be the returning Ollie Jackson, partnered by reigning Renault UK Clio Cup champion Ant Whorton-Eales – confirmed this week by buoyant team boss Shaun Hollamby.
“I’m very pleased with what we’ve done,” started Hollamby. “Ollie came on leaps and bounds last year, getting used to the Audi S3.
“The deal was done very late in the day for the previous campaign so he was thrown in the deep end, and I think he did very well given that.
“We’ve been planning the second Audi for a year and a half now with the shell ready to go. The key for me is to get young blood into the series and Ant Whorton-Eales was always on the radar.
“He was talking to other teams and I’m really keen to have someone young and enthusiastic like him. Plus, we can fight for the Jack Sears Trophy, which we won a few years back with Dave Newsham. I know we’ll be getting a feisty racer.”
Last year, a lack of testing hampered Jackson and AmD. At the mid-season Dunlop Tyre Test, the outfit uncovered a setup tweak that yielded some half-a-second – enough to throw them into the mix for points, in what is an incredibly competitive field, throughout the second half of 2016.
“We had Keith Cheetham join us, an engineer from our GT programme, and he found a few things on the car – particularly on dampers.
“It really made the car come alive. It didn’t take much, given the competitiveness of the BTCC, to fire us up the order. We found pieces on the car setup wise and with Ollie in the car without it being a race weekend situation, it made a difference.
“A bit more luck in the last couple of races and he’d have been top ten. At Rockingham, we were legitimately battling with Gordon Shedden – a guy fighting for the championship – it was great for us.”
Jackson himself is thrilled at the promise of continuity, having signed a new deal early – giving him a good amount of time in preparation for the Brands Hatch opener over the first weekend in April.
“It’s great for me to get some continuity in touring cars and what better place to get it,” said Jackson. “We all get on really well, it’s a nice atmosphere and we’ve got a fantastic car as well.
“It’s going to be massively competitive this year but we’ve prepared well as a team and I’ve never been as ready as I am now with the deal in place early. It’s the best chance we’ve had of getting some results.
“Now we’ve a second S3, It’s double the running time and development on the car. With someone as quick as Ant, it’s all going to be very valuable.”
As for new signing Whorton-Eales, it’s something of a dream come true to be racing in the BTCC – the top of the touring car tree.
“It’s going to be a really good year. It’s a good move for me and I’m in a great car. I’m looking to learn from Ollie and overlay data to push the cars up the grid.
“It’s been a dream for years. Five years in the Clios did feel like a really long time and to win that championship last year made it feel like the perfect time to move on.
“It’s always been touring cars for me – I’ve never been interested in anything else.
“I knew the car was available and we managed to come to an agreement with Shaun [Hollamby]. I’m thankful to Stewart Lines for pushing me and getting my name out there too. I’m hoping to get dialed into the car and straight into it.”
BTCC coverage from The Pit Crew Online this season. Head over to Twitter and follow @PitCrew_Online but don’t forget the BTCC Season Launch on 16th March.
Photo Credits courtesy of BTCC.
Tin Top Editor