It’s not every day that a team can come into the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and have such a popular following in a very short space of time… However this is exactly what Bert Taylor’s BTC Racing Team has achieved in the BTCC.
Earlier in 2018, I wrote about how the team enjoyed its first podium care of Chris Smiley at Donington Park in race two and the teams first overall race victory courtesy of Dan Lloyd winning Race Three at Croft. However, the success didn’t end there.
The remaining second half of the season got underway at Snetterton in the last weekend of July with another fine opportunity of Pole Positions and race wins presented as the series celebrates its 60th Anniversary with the “Double Diamond” Race:
A ballast-free, no holds barred, double points scoring race?
It sounds like another chance to add a new chapter to that Fairytale…
At the end of a rather exciting weekend of action, both drivers enjoyed a positive meeting with Smiley taking fifth place in race two as his highest finish of the weekend whilst Lloyd took two ninth-place finishes in the first and third races respectively.
The pace from both drivers in the Honda’s was very clear and in a short space of time they were both fighting for top ten positions in each race, regardless of the conditions.
Alongside his TCR UK commitments, Lloyd was adapting quickly on his return to NGTC machinery and Smiley was developing quickly as he adapted to a new car.
With half of the season over, here are the thoughts of Team Manager Bert Taylor:
“The 1st half of the season really was like a football match of two halves. I think we found it a little bit more difficult because we were very late with the cars and driver line up and our expectations were very high in ourselves which is only right and good.”
“We were also trying to learn the cars at the same time as Chris and James were learning also, but then James went, and that was a very difficult time for me personally. All the team rallied together and we moved on looking forward to the promise of the rest of the season.”
Rockingham: Its Smileys Turn!
With a podium finish and a race win already to the team’s credit, Rockingham presented the next opportunity in what turned out to be its last appearance on the BTCC Calendar.
The Northamptonshire circuit is well known for mixing it up in both the races and the Drivers Title race during a BTCC season, but the circuit will hold special memories for Bert for another reason.
The Honda’s were on great form in Qualifying with Lloyd taking fifth position for the first race and Smiley taking sixth place, completing an all BTC Norlin third row with only Adam Morgan, Sam Tordoff, Dan Cammish and Mike Bushell ahead of them.
Could another victory be within their grasp?
Contact in race one saw Dan finish in 21st place whilst Chris just missed the podium by a tenth of a second from Tom Chilton. Race Two would see Dan making his way up to 16th place overall whilst Chris fought back to secure seventh place and make the grid draw for the third race.
Smiley’s reward was a cool calm drive to the front on the final race of the day and in the last ever BTCC race at Rockingham, Chris took his first ever win and in the process gave the team its second win of the season.
Its clear from Bert that this meant a lot to him and Chris. Here are the thoughts of Team Manager Bert Taylor:
“You always want to believe you can achieve that win but you’re never sure. I thought Ben, Steven and I had put all the people in the right places then the man you’d always known was capable went and delivered.”
“It’s something I’ll never ever forget, and it was something we’d been trying to achieve for what felt like a lifetime after been back in the championship for only a season and a half.”
The Character Building Weekends at Knockhill and Silverstone…
With only three weekends left in the season, it’s clear that the team had good pace in the cars and two young and talented drivers pushing hard for results. However, they tested to the limits at a difficult weekend in Knockhill and a testing weekend at Silverstone.
With the wet weather making track conditions very difficult for racing, both Lloyd and Smiley tried their best on the smallest circuit on the calendar. Smiley would line up in 5th place for race one whilst traffic would hamper Lloyd and see him lineup in 14th place.
Chris would survive race one to bring his Honda home in 8th place whilst Dan struggled with contact again and came home in 25th. Race Two would witness Dan climb up 11 places to finish 14th whilst Chris slipped to 10th place by the flag.
Both cars would end up 10th and 11th in the final race of the day where conditions had started to dry off a little in what was a washout of a weekend in Scotland. Whilst Knockhill was a battle, Silverstone would be a difficult and learning weekend for the team.
The National circuit at the home of British Motorsport is always a high-speed affair however both drivers would learn lessons from the weekend. Qualifying left Smiley and Lloyd with work to do where the top 29 cars out of the 31 were covered by 8/10ths of a second.
Contact again saw the two Honda drivers fighting back in the races where Lloyd took a best finish of 15th in race three whilst Smiley had to cope with 18th overall in race two. The words “Character Building” seemed to apply.
Bert Taylor sums up his thoughts from what was a difficult six races to endure:
“It’s a fantastic feeling to know you’d done what you’d set out to do with a brilliant team of guys. We’d had our ups and downs but no more so than when Zoe (Timbrell, Team Manager) told us that she was going through and that really did put life in perspective for all of us.”
“I knew Zoe is strong and we got this far as a team and that we’d get her through the challenges she faced as a team. It’s not over and she’s still fighting and that’s all we can ask for today.”
The Finale at Brands Hatch…
The final three races of the season on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent was a golden opportunity for both drivers to end the year on a high as the Championship Battles were being decided.
Both men got to work early in Qualifying where Dan was the fifth Honda driver in the top five for race one which saw Honda’s taking all five places! Chris lined up in 8th place and both men looked capable of charging forward for more silverware.
Contact saw Smiley ruled out of the first race after a few laps whilst Lloyd brought his car home in 6th place and ready to gain more points. Race Two worked out a little better for Chris whop hauled his car back up to 12th place whilst Dan slipped back to 13th overall.
Both drivers pushed hard in the final race of the year and were rewarded with Chris in 8th and Dan in 10th place overall, bringing more points home for the team.
The End of Season Standings…
The end of year standings in the overall Drivers Championship shows Chris in 13th place on 152 points whilst, despite missing Brands Hatch Indy, Donington Park and Thruxton, Dan ended the year 18th overall on 87 points. An impressive feat from the Yorkshire driver.
In the Independent Drivers Championship, its get better with Chris classified in 6th place overall whilst Dan ends the year in 11th place, just missing the top ten by 17 points.
in the Overall Teams Championship, BTC Racing finished the year in 9th place overall, beating former champions Adrian Flux Subaru Racing in the top ten. In the Independent Teams Championship, the team ended the year in 4th place overall, beaten only by Speedworks Motorsport, Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher and WIX Racing with Eurotech. Impressive company.
What is clear is that in only its second season in the BTCC, BTC Racing pushed its boundaries and took two wins as well as a further podium finish during a season which was mixed with the new faces, young guns and old hands all fighting hard for points and prizes.
It can be said that all of the team members have worked really hard this year, not only preparing and maintaining the cars but also behind the scenes, working hard on sponsors and partners and offering top-notch treatment to its guests over all ten weekends of the series.
With the winter already in full swing and hard work underway to finalise the programme for next year, its clear from the hints given on Social Media that the BTCC is not the only series in the UK that the team aims to be a part of in 2019…
In fact, I’d say its possible that there could be a dual programme in both the BTCC and TCR UK. With the reigning TCR UK Champion having already raced for the team in 2018, you never know… But I’ll discuss that further should official confirmation of this take place.
We all know how rumours start!
I leave the final word on the team’s performance in 2018 and what its future holds for 2019 to Bert Taylor…
“If the team’s end of season report were a school report then it would read “Could do better” but the team were a little rusty and during the season we found our feet and blossomed by the end.”
“As for the future we’re looking in very good shape. Our future is in our own hands now, we’ve just moved into new facilities at Brackley and we’re looking into some other things along with our BTCC programme to which we are fully committed.”
“With the new facilities, we have the scope to fit both another touring car programme and a GT Programme in place as well.”
I will be keeping things up to date on here as well as in The Official TCR Talk Group & The TCR UK Fans Group where members will also be sharing their thoughts and any news from FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Domestic & Regional TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series which started in 2018.
Until next time, all the best!