Its almost BTCC Time!!! This weekend sees the start of the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and its looking to be an interesting season ahead with a good mix of experienced heads as well as newcomers to the championship.
With this is mind, here is a recap of all the news & confirmations that took place on Media Day last Tuesday…
(WOW! Was it only 7 days ago????)
Record 32-car full-season entry announced
Five former champions, proven race winners and a growing number of young contenders to challenge for 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship
A capacity 32-car entry has been announced for the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship during the annual Season Launch event at Donington Park.
The line-up represents the largest ever full-season entry in the history of the BTCC. With all 32 TOCA BTCC Licences (TBLs) now in operation, which are required to gain entry, series organisers also had to turn away two further proposed entries from the now capacity grid.
Eleven marques are represented in the 2016 entry list with Japanese motor sport icon Subaru joining the fray as a fully-fledged manufacturer squad. Subaru join Honda, MG and BMW in the contest for manufacturers/constructors’ honours, whilst a host of independent outfits will also fight for teams’ glory.
An enthralling BTCC campaign went down to the wire last year as five former titleholders fought it out on the final day of the season. It was Honda’s Gordon Shedden who emerged victorious to win Britain’s most coveted motor sport prize, but this year the Scotsman and his fellow proven champions face a challenge from an ever-growing number of young contenders.
While the competitiveness and staggering diversity of cars remains unparalleled in comparable series around the world, the successes the BTCC enjoys on-track have been more than matched off-track, with a number of hugely significant partnerships confirmed in recent months.
New long-term contracts have been secured with loyal and valued partners in Dunlop and ITV, whilst two vital technical partnerships have also been awarded to the RML Group and Swindon Engines.
Dunlop continue as title sponsor and official tyre supplier until 2022, while ITV will continue to broadcast each and every race live, free-to-air and in high definition on ITV4, plus extensive highlights programmes, for the same period.
This year’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will again comprise of 30 races across ten events at nine venues around the UK, with the season commencing at Brands Hatch on 2/3 April and concluding on the legendary Grand Prix circuit at the same venue on 1/2 October.
Champions ready, challengers ready…
Gordon Shedden joined an elite group of two-time champions when he took the crown in the closing moments of the 2015 BTCC season at Brands Hatch.
The brand new Honda Civic Type R was immediately quick when it hit the track on the eve of the 2015 campaign. In fact, the world-renowned Type R raced in the BTCC before it was even available to buy as a road car, which added to the challenge for the Team Dynamics-run squad.
Development of the machine continued throughout its championship-winning campaign and the team has been hard at work testing during this pre-season too, so expect Shedden and team-mate Matt Neal to again be among the contenders this time around.
Arguably the biggest story over the winter was the announcement that Subaru would be joining the BTCC for the first time in its history. Team BMR is running the four-car operation and also boasts both Jason Plato and Colin Turkington in its armoury. Faced with the ‘new car’ challenge experienced by Honda last year, the team will be buoyed by its rivals’ exploits in 2015 and will look to hit the ground running.
The remaining champion on the grid is Andrew Jordan, who has swapped MG for Ford machinery in 2016. Pirtek-backed Jordan will be driving the form car too, as Motorbase Performance produced some sensational results in the second half of last season, largely thanks to star driver Mat Jackson. The former BTCC runner-up is back onboard with the Kent-based squad for 2016, with many of the experts suggesting Jackson has the best chance in his career of finally winning the title.
The other manufacturer-supported squads at MG Racing RCIB Insurance and West Surrey Racing also have championship challengers in their respective ranks.
WSR’s trio of BMWs conquered all before them in the 2014 season – winning all four championships it contested – but the squad is looking to bounce back from a fast but inconsistent campaign last time around.
In Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard the two GardX and JCT600-backed BMWs have two recognised winners. The former is one of a growing number of young contenders looking to turn sporadic race wins into a genuine title tilt while the latter’s race craft and experience is well known.
The Team IHG Rewards Club BMW – also run by WSR – will be driven by Jack Goff this year. The former UK Clio Cup champion is another talent on the rise as IHG puts its faith in Goff becoming a BTCC champion of the future.
MG has taken a similar route by also investing its opportunities in two young starlets. Josh Cook won the Jack Sears Trophy for rookie drivers and emerged as one of the gems of 2015 in his maiden BTCC campaign. A hugely popular podium with Power Maxed Racing at Rockingham proved his standout moment and Cook now gets his chance with a works team. The meteoric rise of his new team-mate, Ashley Sutton, has been even greater, as the 22-year-old graduates from Clio Cup champion to MG driver in the blink of an eye, and will surely be one to watch in his rookie season.
The young gun theme continues with more drivers than ever graduating from BTCC supporting series’. Adam Morgan and Aron Smith are among the BTCC race winners who progressed from the junior ranks a number of years ago while Tom Ingram and Aiden Moffat will be looking to reach the top step of the podium after their rostrum exploits in 2015.
Emerging rookies Michael Epps and Chris Smiley plan to establish themselves in the BTCC having now progressed to Britain’s premier motor sport series. They will join a list of six drivers contesting this year’s Jack Sears Trophy.
Rob Austin is among those who’ll be looking to string an outright championship challenge together while James Cole and Andy Neate will hope to make the most of their manufacturer-backed drives with Subaru and Honda respectively.
The entry list was completed with today’s announcement that TV star and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge race-winner Kelvin Fletcher will be joining Power Maxed Racing in its second Chevrolet Cruze, and the arrival of BKR with its new two-car team ensures the popular VW CC and Aron Smith return to the grid. Debutant Mark Howard also joins BKR as Smith’s team-mate.
In total there will be a full grid of 32 drivers with Audi (AmD Tuning),BMW (Team IHG Rewards Club, Team JCT600 with GardX), Chevrolet(Power Maxed Racing), Ford (Dextra Racing, Maximum Motorsport, Motorbase Performance), Honda (Halfords Yuasa Racing, Eurotech Racing, Speedworks Motorsport), Mercedes (Laser Tools Racing, WIX Racing), MG (MG Racing RCIB Insurance), Proton (Goodestone Racing), Subaru (Subaru Team BMR), Toyota (Handy Motorsport, Speedworks Motorsport, TLC Racing, RCIB Insurance Racing) andVolkswagen (BKR) all represented.
The BTCC prides itself on the strong and close relationships with its long-term partners, which was further enhanced during the off-season with both Dunlop and ITV committing to unprecedented new multi-year deals.
The ITV network will continue to screen the BTCC live and free-to-air until at least 2022 after a new contract was signed between Britain’s biggest motor sport series and the UK broadcasting giant – making it the largest TV contract in the BTCC’s history and also the longest sports broadcasting contract that ITV4 has ever entered into.
The ITV network has broadcast the series since 2002 – with its coverage levels increasing hugely in recent years – and this latest contract will take the partnership into an incredible 20th year.
With the current term concluding at the end of the season, this new contract commences from 2017 and will see the network continue its current broadcast arrangements, which feature at least seven hours of live coverage from each race day.
Highlights programmes will also continue to be aired on ITV4, whilst qualifying will be shown via ITV’s dedicated BTCC website –www.itv.com/btcc.
All transmissions will be streamed ‘as live’ via itv.com with highlights programmes being available to watch via the newly launched ITV Hub. The ITV network screened more than 230 hours of BTCC coverage in 2015.
This incredible news quickly followed the announcement that Dunlop had also committed to a further five years, as title sponsor and official tyre supplier to the BTCC from 2017.
The contract extends both the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title sponsorship, which began in 2005, and the official tyre supplier partnership, which began in 2003, into a third decade – making it one of the most enduring major sponsorships in top-level motor sport.
In addition, HiQ, the nationwide fast fit network (which is also part of the Goodyear Dunlop parent company) will continue its sponsorship of the MSA British Touring Car Teams Championship for 2016.
Series organiser TOCA also awarded two vital Technical Partner contracts over the winter as part of its ‘mid-term’ evaluation of the NGTC regulations.
The RML Group will supply specified chassis, suspension and associated components over the next six years, while Swindon Engines will continue to supply engines to the BTCC with a new NGTC-spec ‘TOCA’ unit being produced for the 2017 season onwards.
BTCC Series Director Alan Gow said: “This truly is a golden era for the BTCC and our developments in recent months further underline its strength and position as Britain’s most successful motor sport series – and by a very big margin.
“I’m also really pleased with the increasing amount of new talent that’s been coming into the BTCC over the last few years. Make no mistake, many will go on to become the future ‘household names’ of the BTCC and are set for great long-term careers in Britain’s biggest championship.
“With our title sponsor, television, tyre and technical partnerships all secured until 2022 it not only underlines the incredible strength and success of the BTCC – but also importantly provides a rock-solid foundation on which our teams can continue to invest and build their businesses.
“Our fantastic capacity line-up for 2016 looks set to be even more competitive and enthralling than ever – I’m genuinely excited to see how the season unfolds. The anticipation amongst our enormous number of fans is also very plain to see… the off-season has been full of intrigue.
“These really are the ‘good old days’ that, one day in the future, we will look back on with great fondness and delight. But today is all about the ‘here and now’ and we’re all looking forward to witnessing another classic year of the BTCC.”
Neal steals Sutton show with last-gasp flyer
Halfords Yuasa Racing star pips rookie in closing moments of
pre-season BTCC test
Tin-top legend Matt Neal topped the timesheets in the only official 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pre-season test, with the Halfords Yuasa Racing driver pipping young rookie Ashley Sutton in the closing moments at Donington Park.
Neal was languishing down the order until his late flurry of laps, which initially saw the triple champion fall short of Sutton’s benchmark by just 0.003s. The run continued and minutes later the Civic Type R racer had eclipsed the MG6 driver’s best by nearly a tenth of a second.
Sutton’s efforts still represented a highly productive outing for the manufacturer-backed MG squad, further bolstered by team-mate Josh Cook. The BTCC podium man also featured in the upper echelons of the order, eventually taking fifth – all the more impressive considering it was the first time that either of the young talents had driven the car.
The Handy Motorsport Toyota of Rob Austin led the way for much of the early running, before Sutton took top spot heading into the final hour – Austin eventually had to settle for third. Tom Ingram’s performance went some way to proving the pace of the Avensis by setting the fourth fastest time for Speedworks Motorsport.
Eurotech Racing enjoyed a competitive afternoon with Martin Depper and Jeff Smith finishing in sixth and seventh respectively. WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan placed eighth, whilst both Motorbase Performance and West Surrey Racing could only manage ninth and tenth in the order with Mat Jackson and Sam Tordoff.
Notable absentees from the top ten included reigning champion Gordon Shedden in the other works Honda and Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Ford Focus. The lap times throughout the field were hugely competitive, however, with the top 17 cars finishing within just one second of the pace-setting time.
The session was punctuated by a number of red flag incidents, but overall the reliability shown and mileage clocked-up by the competitors was impressive. Almost half the runners completed more than 50 laps of the 1.98-mile circuit, with AmD Audi man Ollie Jackson covering the most ground, 71 laps, on his return to the series.
The four Subaru Team BMR cars were unable to run during the session, although the striking white Levorg proved a hit when it was unveiled to the media earlier in the day. The machines of Michael Epps, Kelvin Fletcher and Stewart Lines were the others not to turn a wheel from the capacity 32-car grid.
The BTCC now moves on to Brands Hatch for the opening rounds of the season on the 2/3 April.
Matt Neal said: “It’s a nice start isn’t it, but it’s going to be very, very close out there. The TOCA engine looks strong and there are also a lot of new faces coming in, so that’s a bit of an unknown for us. Most of the day we’ve been working on TOCA components with the RML guys. It’s been a productive day, so that’s all good. I’ve just been doing back-to-back stuff for them and at the end of the day we just wanted to see what it was good for so we opened her up. We’re back at Brands tomorrow where we had a tough test last week. We weren’t fastest by a long margin so we’ll see what we can wind ourselves up for there.”
Ashley Sutton said: “We’d only had 39 laps in the car when we went quickest – to achieve that sort of pace in such a short running time was clearly more than we’d expected. I was surprised that only Matt Neal pipped us in the end. I’m very happy, and we know there’s more time in the car. You’re never sure what the other guys are doing in these situations, but we know what we were doing and the MG is just spot-on – a dream to drive. It will be nice to get a solid qualifying session under my belt at Brands Hatch. It’s not going to be easy, of course – I’m the new kid on the block, so I’m going to get pushed and shoved around a bit initially – but I’m aiming for podium finishes throughout the year, that’s where I want to be.”
Rob Austin said: “It’s been a good, solid day – we’re very happy with that. We didn’t try anything special or push too hard to be up at the front; we just went about our pre-planned programme, and to end up second quickest was a really nice feeling. I’m still very aware that I have a lot to learn with regards to front-wheel drive and race runs in the Avensis, so we are keeping our expectations in check but the car is mega – the team has done a great job with it. The target for Brands Hatch will be to bring home what points we can. I’ll be happy with top ten finishes on the first weekend – although as we’ve proved today, there’s definitely potential for more…”
BTCC prepares for season opener at Brands Hatch
Huge grid to challenge for honours in Britain’s best motor racing series
The 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship kicks off at Brands Hatch next weekend (2/3 April) with a record 32-car full-season entry preparing to do battle.
An exciting line-up of five former champions, proven race winners and an ever-growing number of young chargers will take to the 1.2-mile Indy Circuit in front of what is expected to be a huge crowd at the famous Kent venue.
Honda driver Gordon Shedden clinched Britain’s most coveted motor sport crown in last year’s pulsating tussle that went down to the wire, but the Scotsman faces a monumental challenge if he’s to retain his title this time around.
Eleven marques are represented on this year’s grid with the legendary Japanese manufacturer Subaru joining the BTCC for the first time in its history.
The ten event, 30 race format will be played out in front of hundreds of thousands of fans trackside throughout the season and there will be millions more watching each and every race live on the ITV network.
While the likes of Formula One moves its attention towards subscription-based television channels over the coming years, the BTCC will continue to provide free-to-air coverage across the UK. ITV will broadcast each and every race live and exclusively on ITV4 until at least 2022, plus extensive highlights programmes over the same period.
Talking point: It’s anyone’s guess…
Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Gordon Shedden will likely start the season as favourite, having clinched a second BTCC title in 2015, but he’ll face a growing threat from a dozen or so challengers.
The championship-winning Honda Civic Type R has been developed and tested extensively during the off-season, so both Shedden and his triple champion team-mate Matt Neal are well placed to contend.
Subaru’s entry means Jason Plato and Colin Turkington will be driving the newly-prepared Levorg, which turned heads during its unveil at Donington Park earlier this week. While the credentials of the Team BMR-run squad are not in question, the car itself is still yet to turn a wheel in anger – so it remains to be seen if the squad can hit the ground running next weekend.
One team that will be looking to pick up where it left off is local favourite Motorbase Performance. The Wrotham-based outfit won twice during the season finale at Brands Hatch in October and many are predicting that driver Mat Jackson is best placed to win a maiden title. Jackson will face a huge challenge, however, from within his own camp with 2013 champion Andrew Jordan joining Motorbase over the off-season.
MG Racing RCIB Insurance hit the track in some style during the only official BTCC test session at Donington, as its young duo wowed onlookers.
The MG6 is a proven race-winner and the squad has this year handed driving roles to two talents of the future rather than established stars. The pair immediately defied their rookie status at Donington Park when reigning UK Clio Cup champion Ashley Sutton set the second quickest time on his maiden outing in the car. Stablemate Josh Cook also featured, ending the session inside the top five.
West Surrey Racing boasts a trio of contenders in Sam Tordoff, Rob Collard and Jack Goff, whilst the best of the rest list includes the likes of Rob Austin, Adam Morgan, Aron Smith and Tom Ingram.
Local Heroes: Home advantage for Motorbase and Co…
A quartet of local teams, Motorbase Performance, Team HARD and AmD Tuning and West Surrey Racing will be hoping to impress at the season opener.
Absent from the grid over the first half of 2015, Motorbase returned with a bang last summer and was the team to beat over the final few meetings with its Ford Focus. Team HARD and AmD Tuning, meanwhile, both showed flashes of form last year and will be eager to shine on home turf.
RCIB Insurance Racing’s Jake Hill is Kent born-and-bred, and invariably produces his best performances in front of Brands Hatch’s capacity crowds. Ollie Jackson returns to Britain’s premier motor sport series in 2016 and in AmD’s Audi S3, the Surrey-based racer is behind the wheel of arguably one of the best-looking cars on the grid. West Drayton’s Matt Simpson bolsters Speedworks Motorsport’s ranks as the former European Hot Rod champion prepares to make his BTCC bow in a Honda Civic Type R.
Surrey squad WSR has three new-look BMW 125i M Sport machines in its arsenal for the 2016 campaign, as the outfit look for ‘home’ comforts at Brands Hatch to kick off its season in style.
The opening race weekend of the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship takes place on Sunday 3 April, with the entire race day broadcast live and in high definition on ITV4 from 10:15am. Those in attendance at the circuit can stay in touch with the commentary and live timing from every session, available on the btcc.net Live Zone throughout the weekend.
In addition to the BTCC, the support series on the TOCA package are set to bring even more action to the fans at Brands Hatch. Sportscar racing fans will get their fix with races from the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Porsche Carrera Cup GB and Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship. The Renault UK Clio Cup – often seen as a stepping-stone to reaching the BTCC – will also feature on the huge bill of British racing, as will the MSA Formula.
So! This season looks to be a cracking one in prospect!! Personally I can’t wait for Sunday when all the action kicks off! As is now the usual MO, I have setup a league over at Fantasy BTCC where I am looking to secure my 3rd Fantasy BTCC Title in four years. I’m always up for a little harmless competition so if you want to join in, setup a team & take a look for the Tintop Guru BTCC Fantasy league! Look for League No.12 and its a public league as well.
A Plethora Of Touring Car Action this weekend!
To add to this, if your as mad about your tintops as I am (I know theres a few of you…) don’t forget that Eurosport will be showing the first two races live of the FIA World Touring Car Championship. This year sees a reduced Works Citroen prescence, the new Works Volvo team, 2012 Champion Rob Huff in a Works Honda & Tom Chilton in a privately run Citroen at Sebastien Loeb Racing!
Meanwhile over on YouTube & Motors TV, you can see the first two rounds of the 2016 TCR International Series (Which I understand is on the support bill of some confused, poorly run & organised single seater world championship…) which takes place at Bahrain. 2015 saw a Titanic battle between five drivers throughout the season and this year looks to be even more competitive with the addition of new cars and teams. Well worth a watch!
And to throw in one final choice of awesome tintop action, don’t forget that the V8 Supercars are racing at Symmonds Plains in Tasmania this weekend. After the epic Clipsal 500 weekend, Nissan driver Michael Caruso leads the standings. However with Red Bull Racing Australia & Holden Racing Team at the sharp end of the action at the non-championship Albert Park event, expect a fightback from Ford, Volvo & Nissan to take place. These are shown on BT Sport live or via the internet.
Anyway, the buildup to the weekend will no doubt continue so itsabout time I said…
BRING ON THE TINTOPS!!!
All the best!