BTCC Title Race Gathers Pace

Tom Ingram (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis

Bank holiday crowds set for enthralling Rockingham encounter

It’s all-change at the top of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heading into Rockingham (26-27 August) for Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2017 campaign, with Team BMW’s double champion Colin Turkington holding prime position atop the Drivers’ standings with three events to go.

The trip to Northamptonshire is often a pivotal one as drivers fight to stamp their authority on the title or make their move to put themselves in the shakeup for the biggest prize in British motor sport, but is a shift in power already underway?

The pendulum swings

A week ago at Knockhill, reigning champion Gordon Shedden had to settle for damage limitation, as he and Honda contended with the rear-wheel drive might of the BMWs and Subarus – well suited to the stop-start ups-and-downs of the Scottish circuit. Home hero and triple champion Shedden had to make use of his local knowledge to notch a podium, as he battled through to hold onto a net third in the championship tally, 12 points down on new leader Turkington.

Rory Butcher (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo Ford Focus

The Ulsterman has launched himself to the fore with consistency over recent rounds – that trait a must for any prospective champion. Five podium finishes from the latest five races sent a shot across the bow of his immediate rivals. Team BMW team-mate Rob Collard is also racking up points round-by-round, leaving him well-placed in fourth. In fact, Knockhill was the first event this season where the Hampshireman had failed to make the podium, though he’s the only man to have scored points in every encounter this year.

Senna Proctor (GBR) Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra

Form man Ashley Sutton, of Adrian Flux Subaru Racing, notched a race two win to cement his status as the man in form with a high of five victories to his name this season. That latest followed a first of the season for rejuvenated BTCC legend Jason Plato, who believes his squad have finally found the ‘gremlin’ that has hampered his progress since an accident on the opening Brands Hatch weekend.

Sutton harbours second in the overall running just four points shy of Turkington, and while Plato will be going all-out to reach an unprecedented 100 wins in the series, he will be doing what he can to help Subaru and Sutton as the title fight heads towards its conclusion.

“I’ve had a right good kicking this year, and it’s just nice to take another step forward towards being competitive again,” said Plato. “It’s not just the winning it’s about being competitive and it’s nice to be there. I’m pretty awful to be around when things aren’t going well – this is my life.

Ashley Sutton (GBR) Team BMR Subaru Levorg

“We had a complete change of the differential and the car’s a different machine now. We think we’ve found the gremlin and I’m just so happy to be competitive again.

“I’m going to start enjoying myself. I think the 100 wins might be doable (he currently stands on 96). I’m playing myself back into the game and I could have been a bit more robust with Ash but what would have been the point?

“He’s got stuff to crack on with. I’m not going to give up wins, because I’m not going to take a financial penalty. But anything other than a win – he can have it! That is the way it goes and I’d expect that in return.

Gordon Shedden (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R

“I will play it honestly and nothing would give me more pleasure than to see Ash crack it and if I can help, I will. I have Ash at the forefront of my mind, most definitely.”

Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram made a long-awaited return to the top step of the podium after his start to the season had earmarked him as the early benchmark. Bad luck has conspired against the Toyota man in recent rounds, though at 61 points shy of the summit with more than 200 points still to play for, he’s not done yet.

Colin Turkington (GBR) Team BMW BMW 125i M Sport

 

All three BTCC races on Sunday, 27 August – and the day’s other races – will be broadcast live and in high definition on ITV4. Those in attendance at the circuit can stay in touch with the commentary and live timing from every session, available at btcc.net/live throughout the weekend.

Advance tickets can be booked online at www.rockingham.co.uk or via the hotline on 01536 500500 (option 1), until midday on Friday 25 August. Weekend passes cost £38, Sunday race day tickets are £30 and Saturday entry price is just £12.50.

 

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Photographs: Copyright © 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Media Office

Interview With Matt Neal

 

An Interview With Matt Neal

He made his BTCC debut at Silverstone in 1991 and has competed in 600+ British Touring Car races, has 60 wins, 16 poles, 49 fastest laps and is a 3-time BTCC Drivers’ Champion and 6-time Independent Drivers’ Champion. He has raced in Australia and Europe and was awarded the Autosport National Driver Of The Year in 2005 and 2011.

What is your favourite circuit?

In the UK Brands Hatch – Been a good hunting ground and is more old school. Overseas either Bathurst or Nordschleife. 

Who was your motor racing idol?

Nigel Mansell – He was always a fighter.

Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?

My team mate Flash (Gordon Shedden).

Do you have a pre-race ritual/superstition and if so, what is it?

I have lots, I am annoyingly superstitious. 

Is there a race or series you never competed in, but would like/have liked the opportunity?

Not having done Le Mans is a regret, but I ain’t done too badly so I’m not complaining.

What is the best race you have been involved in? For what reason?

Bathurst 1,000km 1998, we almost won it as complete outsiders and underdogs, so it was what we all achieved together.

Personal Racing Number? What is yours and the meaning behind it?

Used to go with 5 as felt it was lucky and Mansell was always red 5, currently I’m 25 because that’s how long I’ve been racing, plus I had a big win years ago running as 25.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in your racing career?

A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.

Who is the funniest person or your best friend in racing?

Steve Thomas is one of my best mates, his laugh is infectious.

Considering drivers over all-time and series’, if you were a team principal, which two racers would you have in your team if you owned one?

Current drivers, Flash and Tom Onslow-Cole

Touring car fans will be familiar with you commentating on the WTCC, is this an area you would move into in the future and what do you enjoy about it?

It’s ok I enjoy it and the people I do it with.

How did you get into motor racing, what ignited that spark to race?

All I ever wanted to do from a child was race, as soon as I could drive at 17 I bought a motocross bike and trailer as cheapest thing to get into for biggest adrenalin rush, raced that for 4 years then my Dad got me into a car simply to get me away from bikes and went from there.

Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your racing career?

My Dad without doubt.

British Touring is gaining more and more exposure recently (and rightly so) but is there anything you would like to see happen in the media to improve this?

I’d like a two driver race back like in Australia be fun and add another dimension, although that’s not exactly media related.

Outside of racing, how do you relax, what are your hobbies or favourite other sports?

I’m away so much it’s lovely to go home and spend time with the family. But mountain biking, martial arts and training I keep myself pretty busy.

If you could invite 4 famous people (dead or alive) for dinner and drinks, who would they be?

JFK, Elvis, Adolf Hitler and the Queen, just be really interested on each of their takes on life.

Who is your favourite artist or band?

Paul Weller is pretty cool and has some absolute classics all through his career.

And finally…….If you could give advice to anybody (in racing or in life), what would they piece of advice be?

Get a good education and make sure you have a good exit strategy because more don’t make it than do.

This interview took place last year and I would like to thank Matt for taking the time out to answer these questions and wish him the very best for the remainder of the season.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Gordon Shedden Leads Pack Into Croft

 

Gordon Shedden (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R

 

The 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reaches its half way point next weekend (10/11 June) as the series’ pilgrimage around the best of the UK’s motor racing venues reaches North Yorkshire’s Croft Circuit for Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the campaign.

A capacity 32-car grid will head north with drivers still searching for a foothold in Britain’s premier motor racing series, and the first dozen rounds of the season have been typically feisty and unpredictable – the fiercely competitive nature of the BTCC throwing up eight different visitors to the top step of the podium so far

.

Five marques have been represented in the winners’ circle, with Subaru joining the fold with a maiden win in 2017 via star turn Ash Sutton at Oulton Park – the site of its historic first victory in the championship last year.

The power shifted in the Drivers’ standings following the latest three rounds in Cheshire, with reigning champion Honda’s Gordon Shedden wresting control at the head of the pack after a disastrous outing for early-season table-topper Tom Ingram in the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota.

Tom Chilton (GBR) Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra

The latter will be looking to bounce back after notching just a single point at Oulton, which shuffled him from top of the tree to third on the ladder between the Team BMW pair of Rob Collard second, and Colin Turkington, fourth – both winners at Croft in 2016.

A strong crowd is expected to descend on the charming, charismatic and challenging Croft Circuit to enjoy the mid-June sun with hundreds of thousands more watching the action live on ITV4, as is the case for each and every BTCC encounter.

A year on…

Gordon Shedden endured a tumultuous first half of the campaign in 2016 in his bid to retain his crown. By the time the Halfords Yuasa Racing champion arrived in North Yorkshire, he had suffered three non-finishes. Despite this, he still sat fourth in the championship.

Croft, though, did the Scot no favours with a weekend-best result of just 13th place and a race three finish outside of the top 20 leaving him marooned way down the order in the race for the most coveted crown in British motor sport – ninth and over 50 points shy of then-leader Sam Tordoff.

It’s a different kettle of fish in 2017, though, as Shedden stands in charge at the top of the pile as he searches for a third consecutive BTCC crown. A consistent run of results, with only one non-finish, a disqualification from a provisional race win at Donington Park, encompasses two race wins and five visits to the rostrum – double the number of each in comparison to this same stage last season.

This leaves the triple champion with a very different proposition at the classic Darlington venue this time around – heading the pack with maximum success ballast on board his Honda Civic Type R, albeit at the scene of his worst weekend of 2016.

“It’s fantastic to be heading there leading the championship, but the downside to that is having to carry 75kg of glorious ballast for qualifying and race one!” said Shedden. “That means we’ll need to play the long game, but hopefully the Civic Type R will do the business and the weekend will come to me as it goes on.”

“Croft is an interesting circuit,” he reflected. “It’s a little bit like a game of two halves with some really slow, technical corners and some really fast, high-adrenaline corners, which always throws up a few surprises.”

Michael Epps (GBR) Autoaid / RCIB Insurance Racing Volkswagen CC

Those next up in the running will be hot on Shedden’s heels, ready to capitalise, and will have a job on their hands given Honda, with the exception of last year, are traditionally extremely strong at Croft with 13 wins there in the modern era – joint-most with BMW.

It is the Bavarian marque currently leading the chase with Team BMW’s Rob Collard – the only driver to have scored points in every race so far in 2017. He also happens to have a sparkling record there, having won twice in the last two visits, tallying five podium finishes since 2014.

Croft is a circuit that naturally favours rear-wheel drive machinery and the sister Team BMW machine, harbouring Colin Turkington, will surely be there or thereabouts as he aims to close on Shedden from fourth in the standings. The Ulsterman has garnered the most victories, podiums and fastest laps there in the last 20 years – 11, 19 and 7 respectively. Little wonder he has been dubbed the ‘King of Croft’.

Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram is in recovery mode and will be looking to make amends and get his title challenge back on track while Matt Neal in the second Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R is also in the mix – a stunning podium triple at Oulton Park made certain of that.

The third 125i M Sport, of BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan is currently some 50 points shy of the top of the table but a victory and a further podium at Oulton Park showed he is firmly in contention, as is the Subaru of Ash Sutton who is just ahead in the tally in sixth spot after his trip to the top step in Cheshire.

Jason Plato (GBR) Team BMR Subaru Levorg

Local Heroes

Legendary BTCC champion Jason Plato has suffered a difficult 2017 to date, with fewer points on the board after the opening 12 rounds than ever before. A heavy start line shunt at the season-opening weekend was a factor and Plato will be hoping to be back at the sharp end on home soil, with the Subaru now a race-winning machine in 2017 in the hands of team-mate Ash Sutton.

“There’s progress on my car at times but we’re still trying to fathom what exactly is wrong with it,” said Plato. “At the moment it still won’t do what we want it to do.

“Mine is not responding in the same way as the other cars – we made changes on the others and got the same reaction from each, but made the same changes on my car and there was no reaction, so something’s not working.

“I always enjoy coming to Croft,” continued Plato, who grew up in nearby Newcastle. “It’s great to see familiar faces and the racing is always good. It’s usually a rear-wheel drive track and it suited the Subaru last year and hopefully we’ll make another step there with my car and we’ll see what we can do as a team. I’m looking forward to it.”

Huddersfield’s Dan Lloyd also calls Croft home and the MG man will be hoping to make a jump next weekend and build on a season-best 12th last time out, though matching his qualifying effort last year – a front-row berth – may be a tough challenge for the MG6 on current form.

Ashley Sutton (GBR) Team BMR Subaru Levorg

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

(c) Photographs and press release courtesy of BTCC

Lights! Camera! Action!

Image credit: Warren Nel

 

What a weekend that was! The BTCC’s highly anticipated return was welcomed with open arms this past weekend, as thousands of spectators lined the grassy banks of the Brands Hatch circuit, all keenly waiting for their favourite drivers to battle it out on race day. But who would take the spoils in the opening weekend?

Saturday saw a tense, nail-biting qualifying session for pretty much every driver up and down the pit lane. Rain would cause delays and ever changing track conditions. Of course, one thing that was equal for everyone was the “success ballast.” No points scored yet meaning equal weight for all. A pure fight in terms of performance creating possibly the most important pole position of the year.

After everything was said and done it was a surprising pole for Eurotech man Jeff Smith. 2016 Brands Hatch winner Tom Ingram would complete the front row and the two Halfords Yuasa racing Hondas of Gordon Shedden and Mat Neal would line up just behind.

Lights out for race one of the day saw drama from the get-go. Contact between the fast-starting Colin Turkington and the slower Mat Neal saw them both out of the running before even reaching Paddock Hill Bend. No such troubles for Tom Ingram however as he stormed ahead despite feeling under the weather.

A short safety car period would follow whilst the two former champions were cleared from the grid. Once the race restarted it didn’t take long for Shedden to pass Smith and move up into P2. Adam Morgan in the Mercedes A-Class would also quickly follow through thus completing the podium. Pole man Smith was forced into the pits after a wheel nut failure—not the start to the year he was hoping for. Ingram though proved his worth and claimed another stunning victory, mirroring what he did this time last year.

Image credit: Warren Nel

The drama didn’t just stay in race one—this is the BTCC after all, drama is its middle name.

This time for polesitter Ingram and an electrical fault with his Toyota Avensis meant he struggled to move away for the formation laps. He did however eventually get it going and regained his position. The grid lined up and out came a yellow flag just in front of Ingram. Confusion struck and the start was aborted. The cars were send around for another formation lap. By the regulations Ingram should now have to start at the back of the grid but this was missed and he lined up on pole. The stewards decided he would then have to take a drive through penalty.

All set then and when the lights went out, drama followed once again. Another former champion in strife, Jason Plato’s Subaru wrecked up against the barrier after what seemed like an identical incident to that of Turkington and Neal in race one. With debris and a stranded car littering the track there was only one choice and that was for a red flag stoppage. Cars would be reset and the grid reformed; good news for Ingram, as this took his penalty away.

A shortened race distance meant the racing would be harder and faster right up to the chequered flag. A storming start for BMW new boy Andrew Jordan saw him jump positions straight away. His BMW team mates Rob Collard and Colin Turkington also had impressive races with Rob taking a podium behind eventual race winner Shedden and ill-feeling Tom Ingram. Turkington managed to race his way brilliantly up into the top ten from the back of the grid.

Image credit: Warren Nel

Rob Austin was the man who was picked out for the reverse grid pole position, only for it to be taken away. Rob was deemed to have had overtaken Andrew Jordan under yellow flags resulting in him being disqualified from race two and losing his fourth place finish. Pole would then land with the returning Tom Chilton in his brand new Vauxhall Astra. Josh Cook and Andrew Jordan would line up just behind, all looking to take victory early in the season.

Lights out and another storming start for Jordan in the BMW, no looking back as he stormed past Cook and Chilton to take the lead. Mat Jackson in the Motorbase Ford Focus found himself skirting through the gravel as he lost grip on the outside of Chilton. It didn’t take long for Turkington to find himself further up the field and right up behind his team mate Rob Collard, team orders seemingly in place and the lighter car of Turkington was allowed through into third place. Colin was on fire taking huge chunks of time out of the leading pair. He made short order of getting past the Vauxhall and quickly set about Jordan. A close, exciting battle between the new team mates had everyone on the edge of their seats. Colin wasn’t going to try anything silly and risk losing a 1-2 finish and followed Jordan home. A great way for BMW and WSR to kick off their 2017 campaign. Tom Chilton would hang on to take third a dream result for the new Vauxhall team.

Personally I couldn’t think of a better way to open this year’s BTCC, we had action even in qualifying. We are definitely in for fireworks this year and already I’m looking forward to Donington where it will happen all over again. Who knows what will happen, three new winners? Subaru finding their form? Or some other surprise, whatever it is, it surely will leave us breathless.

BTCC returns at Donington Park Circuit on the 15th & 16th of April.

Mitch Oakley, BTCC Editor

BTCC 2017 – Rubbing Is Racing!

(c) BTCC – Media Da

It’s almost time to set the grid for the first qualifying round of the year and then wait for lights out on the Sunday. Yes, that’s right, BTCC is back! And it’s looking better than ever. But what should you be watching out for?

(c) Halfords Yuasa Racing – Gordon Shedden

This year sees a jam-packed grid of 32 drivers. 16 of which are already race winners in the series. This is by far the strongest field we have seen for a long time on the touring car scene. Between the winning drivers they share a breath-taking 329 victories! So prepare for the races to be hard fought and the action to be closer than ever. Will we see a runaway favourite for the championship or will we get a thriller that goes down to the wire?

(c) Team BMR – Media Day Donington

Something that is for certain is that we can absolutely rely on the fireworks between Jason Plato and Matt Neal. Their fights in touring cars have become stuff of legend, epic championship battles, brutal overtakes on track and even the odd bit of confrontation in the paddock area. The Subaru of Plato is now in its second year and will be keen to show that it is the right car for the job.

(c) West Surrey Racing- Colin Turkington

Honda and Team Dynamics always seem to get stronger every year, no matter whether they are running a Civic tourer or the classic hatchback. BTCC isn’t just about those two though, oh no. Ask Collin Turkington, Gordon Shedden, Tom Ingram and the returning Tom Chilton. All just as eager to provide the action on race day and walk away with the silverware.

(c) WTCC – Tom Chilton

Speaking of Chilton, he hasn’t returned alone to the BTCC, Vauxhall are back as a works team. Partnering up with Power Maxed racing in the new Astra. The car looked resplendent today at Donnington, standing out in the white, black and yellow livery. West Surrey racing also have something to smile about as they managed to bag a works deal with BMW. With the main man Turkington back in the driving seat they will be battling hard to reclaim the title after coming so close with Sam Tordoff last year. It’s the same car with new faces over at Triple eight, Árón Taylor-Smith and Daniel Lloyd will front the charge in the MG’s.

(c) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo – Mat Jackson

My dark horse for this year though has to be Mat Jackson in the Motorbase Ford Focus. If they can get the car to perform in the early rounds then they will stand much more of a chance of having a shot at the title. Something that hasn’t really happened for the last few years. But no doubt they will be there or there about.

Whatever happens this year I can guarantee we will have a cracker of a season. Expect the racing to be heated right from lights out at Brands Hatch indy all the way through to the finale when they return to face the GP circuit. So, who’s ready?

Mitch Oakley

BTCC Entry List Announced

Today was the day the drivers and teams gathered at Donington Park for the BTCC media day. Smiling faces and an air of anticipation swept across the circuit as a 32 car grid was confirmed for what is by far the most exciting and action packed touring car series on the planet.

Gordon Shedden has again confirmed that he will not be carrying the defending champion #1 and will instead stick with his #52. He is on course to equal the record of Andy Rouse this season with four titles, but with a grid so full of experience, talent and young enthusiasm it is going to be a big ask.

BTCC is coming…….Are you ready?

Here is the full grid for the 2017 BTCC season:

#2

Tom Chilton

Power Maxed Racing

Vauxhall Astra

#3

Mat Jackson

Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo

Ford Focus

#4

Colin Turkington

Team BMW

BMW 125i M-Sport

#5

Rob Collard

Team BMW

BMW 125i M-Sport

#7

Stephen Jelley

Racing with Maximum Motorsport

Ford Focus

#10

Ant Whorton-Eales

AMD Tuning

Audi S1

#11

Rob Austin

Handy Motorsport

Toyota Avensis

#12

Mike Epps

Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing

Volkswagen CC

#16

Aiden Moffat

Laser Tools Racing

Mercedes Benz A-Class

#17

Dave Newsham

BTC Norlin Racing

Chevrolet Cruze

#18

Senna Proctor

Power Maxed Racing

Vauxhall Astra

#20

James Cole

Adrian Flux BMR Racing

Subaru Levorg

#22

Chris Smiley

BTC Norin Racin

Chevrolet Cruze

#23

Daniel Lloyd

MG Racing/RCIB Insurance

MG6 GT

#24

Jake Hill

TAG Racing

Volkswagen CC

#25

Matt Neal

Halfords Yuasa Racing

Honda Civic Type R

#28

Josh Price

BMR Racing Academy

Subaru Levorg

#30

Martin Depper

Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo

Ford Focus

#31

Jack Goff

Eurotech Racing

Honda Civic Type R

#33

Adam Morgan

Ciceley Motorsport with MAC Tools

Mercedes Benz A-Class

#40

Aron Taylor-Smith

MG Racing/RCIB Insurance

MG6 GT

#48

Ollie Jackson

AMD Tuning

Audi S1

#52

Gordon Shedden

Halfords Yuasa Racing

Honda Civic Type R

#55

Jeff Smith

Eurotech Racing

Honda Civic Type R

#61

Will Burns

Autoaid/RCIB Insurance

Volkswagen CC

#66

Josh Cook

Team Parker Racing with Maximum Motorsport

Ford Focus

#77

Andrew Jordan

BMW Pirtek Racing

BMW 125i M-Sport

#80

Tom Ingram

Speedworks Motorsport

Toyota Avensis

#99

Jason Plato

Adrian Flux BMR Racing

Subaru Levorg

#116

Ashley Sutton

Adrian Flux BMR Racing

Subaru Levorg

#300

Luke Davenport

Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo

Ford Focus

#303

Matt Simpson

Simpson Racing

Honda Civic Type R

See you at the chequered flag

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

BTCC Latest

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.

Neil Simmons

Tin Top Editor

Twitter: @world_racing

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