As well as covering all things TCR related and B-TEC in 2016, the Tintop Guru Blog will once again provide coverage of my favourite Touring Car series: The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship! This series goes from strength to strength and 2016 looks to be another belter of a season.
So, heres a roundup of the recent driver announcements…
TEAM HARD SIGN MINI CHALLENGE ACE CHRIS SMILEY
Team HARD has regular points-scoring finishes in its sights this season, after signing former MINI Challenge champion Chris Smiley for the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Smiley contested the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup in Germany in 2014 before making a one-off appearance in the VAG Trophy with the Kent-based outfit at Oulton Park last October – dominating with a double victory.
Now graduating to the pinnacle of British tin-top competition, the 23-year-old Northern Irishman will pilot the squad’s updated Toyota Avensis – a car worked on extensively over the off-season, resulting in a much lighter chassis – throughout the forthcoming campaign.
Team principal Tony Gilham sees no reason why points should not be an achievable target for Team HARD in 2016, having secured a driver he rates extremely highly and given the gains made on the team’s Toyota chassis since the end of last season.
“We have obviously worked with Chris before and have followed his progress closely throughout,” said Gilham. “Everyone who has come into contact with him knows he is a talent, and we are convinced he is more than ready to make his debut in what we regard as the world’s premier touring car championship. He is quick, dedicated and has a burning passion to succeed.
“The BTCC is ultra-competitive, but with Chris behind the wheel and the raft of updates we have brought to the Avensis in recent months, there is no reason at all why we can’t finish regularly inside the points this year. That has to be our target.”
Smiley previously tested Jason Plato’s Triple Eight Racing-run MG6 after winning the MINI Challenge JCW Class in 2013. He acknowledges that he will face a learning curve in terms of the feel of the Toyota, with the current NGTC machinery exhibiting different behaviour to what he has driven in the past.
“Whilst the NGTC Toyota cars aren’t a world away from the Minis or the Scirocco – they’re all turbocharged and front-wheel-drive – they are weighted very differently and the suspension behaves differently as they aren’t production cars, so they feel racier,” he explained. “I also have to learn about the tyres, because this will be the first time I’ve raced in a series with two different compounds. That all adds to the challenge, but I can’t wait to get going.
“The BTCC has been a dream of mine for many years, right back to when I was in karting. It will be exciting to renew battle with some of my former rivals like Jack Goff and Tom Ingram – just like old days!
MOTORBASE TO HOST 2016 RENAULT CLIO CUP PRIZE TEST
For the fourth consecutive year, Motorbase Performance will host Dunlop’s highly prized BTCC test award for the 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion.
The coveted test offers the UK Clio Cup Champion the chance to sample the multi-race winning Motorbase Ford Focus ST and to experience a full BTCC test day with exclusive support from the Wrotham-based team alongside Dunlop’s own motor sport tyre technicians.
“Dunlop are an outstanding asset to British Motorsport and the BTCC and we’re delighted to be teaming up with them again to offer a fantastic opportunity for young talent to sample a BTCC car in its full glory,” commented Oly Collins, Motorbase Performance’s Team Manager.
“We’ve seen how many young Renault Clio Cup drivers have made the natural progression through to the BTCC and I don’t see that changing any time soon. We’re proud at Motorbase Performance to continue this longstanding young driver development programme in partnership with Dunlop and look forward tracking their progression through the ranks of motorsport.
“Only last weekend we were proud to watch Jonny Adam, our young BTCC driver from 2009 compete the Daytona 24 hour race.”
Micky Butler, Dunlop’s UK Motorsport Manager added; “We pride ourselves on being able to give the top drivers in championships we support a further chance to learn and impress as part of the next step of their careers.”
“The UK Clio Cup has a reputation for producing some of the very best drivers in touring cars and also GT and sportscar competition and that was certainly reflected in the immediate professionalism and abilities of its last two champions (Mike Bushell and Ashley Sutton) when they took part in our test with Motorbase.
“The 2016 UK Clio Cup grid is looking phenomenal and whoever wins the title will richly deserve it. We look forward very much to meeting the new Champion at our test with Motorbase later in the year.”
Will Fewkes, Renaultsport’s UK Motorsport Championship Manager, said: “Dunlop are to be applauded once more for their very generous support of the UK Clio Cup Champion – in fact of motor sport in Britain. It would be very easy for a company not do to something like this but Dunlop, like Renaultsport, genuinely enjoy bringing on talent.
“Tyre technology and understanding how to get the most performance from it are among the biggest strengths any driver can ever have in motor sport. So for the driver who wins the UK Clio Cup to glean such data from a test with one of the world’s most successful motor racing tyre manufacturers and in one of the fastest cars on the BTCC grid this prize is a massively important bonus.”
The race to become the 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion – and win Dunlop’s big British Touring Car test – begins on Sat 2/Sun 3 April with the opening two rounds of the championship at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent.
HONDA YUASA RACING SIGN ANDY NEATE FOR THIRD CIVIC TYPE-R
Andy Neate has signed with Team Dynamics to take the third driver position in the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Partnering with triple champion Matt Neal and double champion Gordon ‘Flash’ Shedden, Neate will be driving a third factory Honda Civic Type R.
Having claimed the double last year with both the drivers and manufacturers championships, with Flash taking the championship to the wire by pipping Plato to the post by just four points in the last race at Brands Hatch, the Honda works team will be looking to successfully defend both their titles in the 2016 season, which kicks off at the start of April, again at Brands Hatch.
Neate has competed in British Touring Cars for several years, most recently in 2013 in the Chevrolet Cruze with IP Tech. His most notable season in 2012 was with MG KX Momentum Racing as a factory driver, piloting the MG6 GT alongside Jason Plato.
James Rodgers, Team Manager at Team Dynamics, commented: “We are delighted to have signed Andy to take on the third car and help our team point scoring capabilities for this season. The trend for increasing numbers of cars in teams has meant we are very keen to bolster our presence on the grid this year. Andy joins the Honda works team with plenty of experience to build on and a hunger for podium places, which is just what we are after.”
Andy Neate added: “Like Matt, I’ve been involved with multiple teams in British Touring Cars and so bring with me a wealth of understanding and familiarity of the championship. I’m really excited to be working alongside two of the greats in Matt and Flash and it will be brilliant to have team mates that I can learn so much from.
“The car looked epic last year and I am sure this year will be no different. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and begin to support Honda in achieving back to back manufacturers’ championships, and of course be challenging for those hard fought podiums.”
WSR CONFIRM COLLARD AND TORDOFF RETURN FOR 2016
Rob Collard and Sam Tordoff will contest the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship for Team JCT600 with GardX after a deal was struck for the race-winning pairing to remain at the squad for a second successive season.
This will be Collard’s seventh consecutive BTCC campaign with the West Surrey Racing-run outfit while team-mate Tordoff joined under the new JCT600 and GardX-backed banner in 2015.
An impressive season for the duo resulted in five overall wins for the team, with Collard taking three victories, while Tordoff ended the year as the highest non-champion in the ultra-competitive field.
Such was the success of the team’s maiden campaign that it was keen to build on momentum with a settled and proven line-up. Whilst much about the team has an air of continuity about it, the same cannot be said for the new look Team JCT600 with GardX BMWs.
The base white machines have made way for a striking silver and blue livery design, whilst the multiple championship winning cars have also undergone an extensive development programme during the off-season.
Further ties have also been made with manufacturer BMW appointing Tordoff as an Ambassador for the giant German marque, whilst GardX becomes an official supplier to BMW with its ProtectX protection products.
The silver bullet BMW 125i M Sports will now embark on a pre-season testing programme over the coming weeks with both Tordoff and Collard enjoying significant time behind the wheel. The JCT600 with GardX squad will then contest the only official test day during the BTCC Season Launch event at Donington Park on 22 March, before the opening round of the season takes place at Brands Hatch in early April.
Rob Collard said: “I am delighted to be continuing with Team JCT600 with GardX and extending my long relationship with WSR. I enjoyed a fast but sometimes inconsistent season in 2015, but there’s little doubting that we have the ingredients to fight for championships again this season. The whole team works well together and I have a good relationship with Sam, so we’re really looking forward to another successful season in the BTCC.”
Sam Tordoff said: “I really enjoyed my first season with Team JCT600 with GardX and I can’t wait to get going in 2016. Everyone at WSR is so friendly, experienced and hugely talented, which is why I know this is the best place for my career. It was fantastic to score some wins last year but now we need to do so on a consistent basis in order to challenge for the championship. We’re all focussed and driven to achieve our goals so bring it on!”
Dick Bennetts, WSR Team Principal, said: “It is great to have both Sam and Rob continue in the Team JCT600 with GardX WSR BMWs this year. Considering that Sam has only done three years in the BTCC and only one in the RWD BMW, I reckon he’ll really shine this season. Rob really lifted his game in 2015, to the point where three-time World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx acknowledged his pace on race day. The guys have been working really hard through the winter to move the 125i M Sports on to a new level, as we all know just how competitive the BTCC is!”
JACKSON JOINS JORDAN AT MOTORBASE FOR 2016 BTCC
Motorbase Performance has ignited an ambitious challenge on the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship confirming Mat Jackson’s return to the squad alongside 2013 champion Andrew Jordan.
2016 marks Jackson’s seventh consecutive year with the Wrotham-based squad after a sensational return to the BTCC grid for the second half of the 2015 season that saw Jackson and Motorbase amass an incredible seven independent race wins, four outright wins and four further podiums in just four race weekends.
Running under the Motorbase Performance banner for the 2016 campaign, Jackson returns to the grid in the #7 Ford Focus ST with backing from DUO and completes David Bartrum’s formidable driver line-up partnered with new signing Andrew Jordan in the #77 Pirtek Racing Focus.
David Bartrum, Motorbase Performance Team Principal commented; “We’re obviously delighted to have Mat back on board for his seventh year with us. Hopefully the number 7 will prove to be our lucky number this year with Mat racing back under his number 7 and Andrew as 77!
“We’ve known Mat for a long time and enjoyed one of our best periods together at the end of last season so the aim now is to carry that momentum on into this year and to focus on challenging at the front as soon as the first flag drops. There’s work to be done, particularly around the new suspension, but I can honestly say that if I was asked to pair two drivers together then Mat and Andrew would be my first choice all day long. They both tested with us at the end of last year and worked well together; there’s a great dynamic between them so I’m looking forward to seeing how they will bounce off of each other’s experience as time goes on.
“They may be in different coloured cars but they are very much team-mates and equal parts of the Motorbase stable. We have a great team behind them, so now is our time to shine.”
A name familiar to many through its various motorsport partnerships, DUO operates internationally providing specialist material processing systems to the construction industry from its Coventry headquarters and has extended its partnership with Motorbase and Mat Jackson for the 2016 season.
“It’s great to welcome back DUO for a full challenge on the BTCC;” continued Bartrum. “DUO has a great outlook on business and combines it well with motorsport and I’m looking forward to our relationship growing stronger as the season progresses. It’s thanks to DUO’s support that Mat will become Motorbase Performance’s longest serving driver.”
Mat Jackson said; “It is great to be returning with Motorbase for 2016 and to be able to carry on from last year’s performance and mount our assault on the championship. I have to say huge thanks to DUO and to Motorbase for their continued loyalty and it’s fantastic to be able to bring DUO in for a full season this year.
“We’ve got an extensive testing programme planned which starts today, and with the new regulations it will be more important than ever before to get a head start as the season kick off at Brands in April.”
Alex Moss, CEO of DUO said: “We are delighted to be working with Motorbase Performance for what will be our first full partnership year after successfully working with the team in the later part of the season last year. We had three excellent performances with Mat Jackson which has led to our association and partnership. As a business we already support several top level drivers within the sport, and the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is going from strength to strength, so the decision to get involved was an easy one to take. Motorbase Performance are a winning team and we are delighted to be working with them. For us to be part of a driver’s career as they progress through the ranks is something that we are proud to be part of.”
Motorbase Performance launched its 2016 pre-season testing programme today (February 11) at its local circuit Brands Hatch ahead of the opening rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on the GP Indy layout on April 2/3.
The full 2016 Motorbase Performance livery design and new partners will be revealed at the official BTCC media day to be held at Donington Park on March 22.
Seeing as there are more seats waiting to be confirmed before Media Day on 22 March, keep your eyes peeled for more BTCC updates from the Tintop Guru Blog!
All the best!