Exclusive Interview with Tom Chilton

Tom doesn’t need much introduction. He made his debut in the BTCC aged 17, driving a Vauxhall Astra for Barwell Motorsport. He would take his first victory at Silverstone in 2004. He has taken 15 victories to date in the BTCC.

He very kindly agreed to answer some questions for us.

Warren Nel

Now two podiums at the start of the year at Brands Hatch, including a win that was taken away from you was a good start even excepting the penalty for the clash with Matt Neal. Then 4th being the best result in race two at Donington Park was quite a good start. Sum up your thoughts for me at this stage, as you were fourth in the overall championship and also first in the Independents Championship.

Tom Chilton at the wheel of his Motorbase Focus during race three, Brands Hatch. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Tom Chilton

We got off to a great start to the year. After Race two at Donington Park, we were leading both the British championships which is nothing to be sniffed at. Our problem was when we hit the hard tyre in race 3, we cannot get the hard tyre to work at all. 

W.N

Thruxton was a nightmare of a weekend, and I see that you have suggested to Mark Blundell that he should step out of the championship following the clash, you had with him during qualifying. Could you describe what actually happened, and how that effected the rest of your race weekend?

Tom’s car on the grid at Thruxton in May. Photo credit, Motorbase/Jakob Ebrey

T.C

Nightmares are better than how Thruxton went. It’s frustrating when anybody holds you up in qualifying, especially someone with so much experience like Mark. Having said that, Team Shredded Wheat racing with Gallagher was amazing and fixed the car so quickly. 

W.N

Thinking about car setup, do you think there are certain tracks that the Focus goes better at, and what influence do the different tyres have in making the car stable? Also, when success ballast is added to the car, do you change anything in the setup to compensate?

The BTCC always offers spectacular racing. Photo credit, Motorbase/Jakob Ebrey

T.C

The Focus has always been better at the tight twisty circuits due to its shorter wheel base and hatchback shape not needing to worry about drag for straight lines as much. Last year, I got a double podium at Oulton Park which is a real chassis circuit. You have to always change the car between circuits, tyres and success ballast. Which is one of the reasons why the BTCC rewards such experienced teams and drivers. It’s very hard to get it perfect every time. 

Tom celebrates his win last time out at Croft! Photo credit, Motorbase/Jakob Ebrey

W.N

It looks like Josh Cook and Rory Butcher are the drivers that you will be battling with for the rest of the season for the Independents Crown. When you look at the standings, can you see any other drivers like Jake Hill, Sam Tordoff and Adam Morgan joining the battle for this championship?

Tom celebrates with the champers! Photo credit, Motorbase/Jakob Ebrey

T.C

This championship is one of the most competitive championships in the world. You can’t count anyone out. All of our lap times are so close it still can be anyone’s. For me I just need to focus on myself and keep clicking those gears. Points make prizes and I love prizes!

 

Many thanks to Motorbase/Jakob Ebrey for the photos and for Romy Chandler for arranging the interview.

Interview with Tom Ingram

I got the chance to speak to Tom, driver for Speedworks Motorsport in the British Touring Car Championship at this years Autosport International Show at the NEC.

Tom Ingram, Speedworks Motorsport driver. Photo credit James Matthews

I asked him to sum up his 2018 season.

Well, kind of a really positive one, we can’t really look back at it with a lot of regrets, we’d have liked to have come away with the championship obviously, but given the situations that kind of happened throughout the year, I don’t think we really stood a chance with the failures that we had, so you know it was an incredible year, the best year we’ve had in the championship. Getting the independents championship back again was brilliant, the team title was superb again but it was a bit of a kick in the teeth to miss out on the overall title, of course it was, but off the back of such a strong year it’s great to now go into 2019 with the new project.

 

Thinking of the new project, can you tell us how that came about?

We’ve kind of working with Toyota for a number of years, and this is the first time that we’ve been really able to get to the point to get a deal together and get it over the line. We  knew we’d be running the new Corolla, back Silverstone time – It was quite early on we kind of knew really, and really the timing was correct, with the new Corolla coming out, it’s got such a good heritage in not only motorsport, rally and various other formula’s as well. But really, it’s right sort of time, with the road version being launched in the UK and the right time to bring it back into the motorsport scene and try and revive the Team Toyota GB name at the same time. It’s a really exciting time and the car is in build at present, we’ve finished the fabrication on her, so she’s up in build at the moment and we should have a finished car kind of by the start of February time and we’ll start testing by the middle to end of February and we’ve got a good testing schedule in the winter, so that we can hit the ground running and aim for some wins at Brands Indy by the time we get there.

 

Now, thinking of that, what is your schedule with testing?

Well, we’ve got three days in testing in Spain and then the majority of the testing will be done in the UK. Really for us, we just need mileage, we just need to keep going and going and find out what big areas we need to work on, because we know we’re going from a long wheelbase to a short wheelbase car and that comes with its own challenges. We’ve got to understand what that is going to do to the balance of the car, but that should only make it better. Now when you start to look at the numbers and the stats on the Corolla it will be a fantastic car, we’ve just got to understand it first, because with the difference in wheelbase, the lower centre of gravity and all the other parameters that we’ve got in it looks like a bit of learning, it will be a stunning car.

Tom won his second consecutive BTCC Independents Championship last season. Photo credit Warren Nel

Thinking of Brands Hatch, you’ve going with the goal in the new car to win there?

Yes, of course. The plan is very much to hit the ground running at Brands Hatch Indy, kind of start where we left the 2018 season and be in a position to look to win the championship, of course we’d like to, but realistically we’ve got to look more at the following season as our go to year, but of course whenever you enter a season, you enter to win, not finish second. Our goal is very much to win it, but we’ve got a bit of a mountain to climb to get there.

 

What do you think makes you such a good overtaker, as you won the forever forward award last year? What is it about your style of driving that lends itself to that?

I’ve never been what I’d class as a dirty driver, I’d never cause a collision to make a move, I’m not hard driver, but of course if there is half a chance slipping your nose down, I’ll run you wide. I’m not going to be running into the back of people and running them wide and then two corners later get it given back to you, so you gain a bit of respect when you’re a clean driver. Now the car was superb last year, one of the genuine reasons was that the car was fantastic, when we took weight out of the car the thing would come alive, so that is part of it, when you’ve got a very good car under you, its very easy to get past people, a little bit tactfulness, we’ve always done it very smart, you don’t have to be dirty driver, its always been done cleanly, which lends you respect if people understand that you’re going to getting past at some point rather than sitting behind them all race.

 

Finally, just thinking back to the testing, which UK tracks will you be at?

We’re going to be all over the place, a real mix of circuits from slow to fast, high to low grip, but ultimately, we’re at the mercy of the great British weather. We’re also at the mercy of the Spanish weather, as we’re off to Spain which also wasn’t great last year. Really, we’re mindful of trying to get as much mileage in, because we need time in the seat, we need the wheels turning everyday of the week if we can, but we’ll see if we can.

 

The track in Spain, which one is that you’re going to?

We’re going out to Calafat, there’s a number of us going there, Motorbase are going there I believe that Ciceley are going there, a fair few going out there so at least we’ll have a bit of a benchmark to look at.

 

Well, a big thank you for Tom’s time. We’ll be watching with interest when the car hits the track.

 

Header photo credit, Warren Nel

BTCC Snetterton Preview

Josh Cook at last years Snetterton race. Image courtesy of BTCC

This weekend is the sixth meeting on the 2018 BTCC calendar, and also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the BTCC forming. There are numerous things to be discussed about the weekend, most notably the special ‘Diamond Double’ race, which is a mouth-watering prospect for both the drivers and their fans. First, however, let’s recap.

Recap

Last time out at Croft was a hectic event packed with action as well as a resurgence from the reigning champion Ash Sutton. Sutton scored his first win of the season in round thirteen and his second in round fourteen. Dan Lloyd took to the top step of the podium in round fifteen after benefiting from the reverse grid. Colin Turkington emerged from Croft as the championship leader, despite having only won a single race so far this year. The BMW driver, however, has finished on the podium an impressive five times, showing that consistency has been key to the season thus far. His nearest challengers, Tom Ingram and Matt Neal, aren’t far behind. Neal in particular should be one to watch this weekend, with the Hondas having run fastest in the two day test at Snetterton.

Ash Sutton at Croft 2018. Image courtesy of BTCC
The circuit

The circuit itself is an exciting one, with two of the longest straights in the country as well as the iconic ‘bomhole’. Rob Collard is the man with the lap record, a 1m56.352, which was set in 2016.

Diamond double

The drivers will have the perfect opportunity to set a new lap record in the third race of the weekend. Dubbed the ‘Diamond Double’, round eighteen of the season has a completely different format to the other races. The race will be for double points, with its own qualifying session used to determine the grid. All cars will be on base weight and the length of the race is approximately double that of a regular one. The double points on offer will allow drivers to potentially close gaps (or open them) throughout the championship standings. Expect a highly competitive race with perhaps a hint of caution, as not finishing this race would be very detrimental to driver’s championship hopes.

Overall this weekend looks set to be another thrilling chapter of this season’s BTCC championship. Be sure not to miss the action, especially the Diamond Double race. Going into the business end of the season, it could be hugely significant.

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