BTCC - Season Preview
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
The 2019 British Touring Car Championship is nearly upon us with the season starting at Brands Hatch this weekend in Kent. A capacity grid of thirty cars and fifteen teams will all battle for the honours which includes new cars, new manufactures and new drivers.
I hope this article gives you an idea of the season ahead, starting with teams.
Reigning Manufactures Champions Team BMW return for 2019 with an all new car, as the hugely successful 1 series has been replaced with the new 3 series. Reigning champion Colin Turkington returns, the first time he has defended the crown with the team he won it with, after previously leaving the sport and joining Team BMR.
Turkington is joined by a new teammate in the shape of Tom Oliphant who joins Team BMW following his switch from Ciceley Motorsport. The 28-year-old has a fantastic rear wheel drive record, having won the Ginetta GT4 Supercup championship in 2015 and was previously a front runner in both the Porsche Carrera Cup GB and Porsche Supercup.
Remaining with Team BMW, although in his traditional Pirtek Racing colours, is 2013 Champion Andrew Jordan. Like Turkington and Oliphant, he will swap his 1 series for a factory backed West Surrey Racing run Team BMW 3 series. He will be hoping to mount a serious title push in what is his third season with WSR.
Team Toyota GB with Ginsters
After over two decades away, Toyota are back in the BTCC as a factory driver with 2018 runner-up Tom Ingram spearheading their title push. The 25-year-old has become a fan favourite since his debut in 2014 for his underdog performances as his time as an independent in a Toyota Avensis and this year he is sure to have the same support.
Toyota GB will be run by Speedworks Motorsport, who has run Ingram and indeed Toyota’s since their debut in the sport in 2011. Since 2011 they have run the Avensis however now with factory backing, the Avensis has been retired and replaced with a brand new Toyota Corolla.
With only a single entry, Ingram will be hoping for a strong season in his debut season as a factory driver.
Adrian Flux Subaru Racing
2018 was a mixed season for Subaru with defending champion Ashley Sutton taking the most wins of anyone while Jason Plato struggled towards the rear of the field for the majority of the season, struggling with rear-wheel drive. Plato has now left and has been replaced by Senna Proctor, who has joined from Power Maxed Racing.
Sutton finished 2018 in fourth in the standings, and despite early season troubles in which he failed to gain a podium until the fifth round of the season, he was able to demonstrate his class in the second half of the season and will be hoping to take this form into 2019. Proctor will be hoping to adapt to rear-wheel drive quickly, in order to keep up with his teammate, having had a successful second season with Power Maxed Racing in which he finished twelfth in the 2018 standings.
With one of the youngest driver pairings on the grid, and now only a two car entry, Subaru’s Team BMR run cars will be hoping for another title push with Sutton eager to regain his crown.
Halfords Yuasa Racing
Onto the next powerhouse of the British Touring Car Championship, Honda, who have won the drivers title on average once every other year since 2011. However their last driver’s championship was 2016 with Gordon Shedden and following his announcement to leave the BTCC prior to the 2018 season, Porsche Carrera Cup GB superstar Dan Cammish was chosen to fill the triple champion’s seat.
Big shoes to fill for the 29-year-old from Leeds partnering Matt Neal, himself a triple champion, in the all new Honda Civic Type-R FK8. It was a steady start to the year for the duo, with both struggling for front end grip in the new car, however as the season went on, both Neal and Cammish started to find their feet, eventually finishing ninth and tenth, both taking two wins apiece.
2019 sees the duo return, and with a years experience under their belt, the aim must be championship glory. Neither driver is a stranger to success, as mentioned Neal is a triple champion and Cammish has won more than he has not on the TOCA such was his dominance in Formula Ford and Porsches. It may be Honda’s year to shine, with both BMW and Toyota switching to new cars, we may see the return of Honda as a serious title threat.
Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing
Time to look at the final manufacture competing in the 2019 BTCC season that have arguably one of the strongest pairings of anyone on the grid. Vauxhall, run by Power Maxed Racing, field an all new driver line up for 2019 as both Senna Proctor and Josh Cook have moved on, making way for double champion Jason Plato and veteran Rob Collard, who move from Subaru and BMW respectively.
Both drivers suffered disappointing 2018 seasons for differing reasons, with Plato struggling with the Subaru’s rear-wheel drive and Collard hampered by injuries he sustained at Snetterton, ensuring he missed the final four rounds of the season.
Both are freshly rejuvenated as Plato searches for his 100thwin in the series as Collard returns to front-wheel drive for the first time since 2007. It is an amazing coup for the team who only started in 2015, although despite this, they have quickly become one of the biggest and most exciting teams on the grid.
2019 will be a make or break year for both drivers and team, Vauxhall have one of the biggest names in BTCC history in Plato and Collard brings a wealth of experience, however with both drivers struggling in 2018 it will be fascinating to see how they both get on.
Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher
Onto the first Independent entry of 2019 and a team which have been championship contenders for years. Motorbase Performance return this season with three Ford Focus RS’ for the returning Tom Chilton, who finished a career high third in the 2018 standings, Ollie Jackson, who moves from AmD Tuning and Nicolas Hamilton, who will be competing under the RoKiT Racing with Motorbase banner.
2018 was a great year for Motorbase, an all new driver line up could have been difficult for the Kent based team, following their acrimonious split with lead driver Mat Jackson in early 2018, however they showed real pace throughout with Sam Tordoff often qualifying at the front and Chilton consistently scoring points during his near championship winning campaign.
With James Cole leaving the sport, and Tordoff moving to AmD Tuning in an effective swap deal with Jackson, it is now up to Jackson and Hamilton to provide support for Chilton, who will be hoping to go two better in 2019.
Another team who have been slowly edging their way into the championship mix over the last few seasons is Cicely Motorsport with their driver Adam Morgan in a Mercedes A-Class. 2018 saw the Lancashire driver finish seventh with three wins, his most in a BTCC season, and was in contention for the championship which was only derailed by a mid season slump.
He will be joined by BTCC rookie Daniel Rowbottom who graduates from the Renault Clio Cup championship replacing the Team BMW bound Tom Oliphant, after finishing fourth in the standings with three wins.
It is now Morgan’s eighth season in the BTCC and sixth in the Mercedes so the experience and knowledge is certainly there, which can be seen in the expert preparation and skill of both Cicely and Morgan. It is vital however that the 30-year-old avoids the mid season issues which have hindered him so many times in the past before if he is going to mount a serious title challenge.
Laser Tools Racing
After five seasons with Cicely Motorsport, Laser Tools Racing and Aiden Moffat have gone it alone for the 2019 season, taking their Mercedes A-Class with them in the process. The likeable young Scott had a mixed 2019 in which he never really got going, taking three podiums on his way to sixteenth in the series.
However this was caused by a huge amount of misfortune in which Moffat seemed to be caught up in pretty much every accident on track through absolutely no fault of his own. As the season came to an end this batch of bad luck appeared behind Moffat as he took his first win of the season at Silverstone in September and followed it up with impressive drives at the Brands Hatch finale.
Moffat will be hoping for more though and combine his obvious abundance of talent with consistent results avoiding any bad luck in the process. As a new team, and on his own, it may be a struggle with no one to share data with, however I am sure his experience will shine through.
Cobra Sport AmD Tuning Auto Aid/ RCIB Insurance
Now time to look at a team which could be a dark horse for honours in the 2019 season and certainly give the big teams a real run for their money. AmD Tuning start the year back as a two car entry, following a year as a four car entry, and have bought the machinery from the now sadly defunct Eurotech Racing outfit.
Equipped with two Honda Civic Type-R FK2’s, a known multiple championship winner, and Sam Tordoff and the hugely impressive Rory Butcher in the driver’s seats we could see a few surprises going forward. The duo have already shown great pace in pre season, with Tordoff topping the BTCC Media Day at Brands Hatch late last month and Butcher close behind in fifth, the duo only separated by 0.186 tenths of a second.
Tordoff showed fantastic pace throughout 2018 after a year sabbatical in which he nearly won the 2016 Championship, only to miss out by two points in the final race of the season, however the consistency was not there during races. As the season came to its conclusion Tordoff’s consistency developed with eight consecutive points finishes in the final eight races and going into 2019, Tordoff could find himself in a prime location to succeed.
It would be fantastic to see AmD near the front throughout. The likeable Essex based team are one of the smallest teams on the grid and have developed superbly in their time in the BTCC, this being their tenth season in the series.
Another team on the up for 2019 is BTC Racing who have retained the ever developing Chris Smiley after a breakthrough year in 2018 in which he achieved his maiden win, and partnered him with Josh Cook, who signs from Power Maxed Racing.
Cook has replaced the outgoing Daniel Lloyd and will be hoping to build on his most successful campaign in the BTCC last season, in which he became a winner for the first time on his way to sixth in the standings, his best result to date.
Despite the name staying, BTC Racing is now under new ownership as businessman and motorsport enthusiast Steve Dudman has bought the team from previous owner Burt Taylor, although Taylor remains as the Team Director. In addition to this, the team has also relocated to Brackley in the heart of motorsport activity.
The final change is an on track one as the team has switched from their previous Honda Civic Type-R F2, to the newer Civic FK8 model, used last season by Yuasa Halfords Racing. Cook and Smiley will be hoping to put their new machinery to good use in 2019.
Like last year, Team HARD will be running four Volkswagen CC’s under two different team guises, GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct, with Bobby Thompson returning alongside debutant Michael Crees and RCIB Insurance with Fox Transport who will run experienced Ginetta GT4 Supercup driver Carl Boardley and the returning Jack Goff.
Goff returns to Team HARD having last driven for them in 2014 replacing Mike Bushell who sadly had to withdraw following a sponsor stepping away. Goff was not due to be in the series in 2019, much to the frustration of many fans who felt he was deserving of a drive, however the former Eurotech Racing driver has been given a lifeline by his former employers and will be hoping to impress after finishing 2018 eighth.
Bobby Thompson is the only returning driver in the four car entry and having shown glimpses of what he could achieve last season. His teammate Michael Crees joins from the Ginetta GT4 Supercup, like Boardley, only three years after making his motorsport debut.
With Goff on board now as an experienced race winner and the young fast Thompson, Team HARD will be hoping for regular points finishes, and occasional podiums in 2019. It will be fascinating to see how the two rookies fair as well up against their respective teammates.
Team Parker Racing
Stephen Jelley and Team Parker Racing continue together heading into the 2019 BTCC season in now the only BMW 1 series on the grid, following Team BMW’s switch to the 3 series. Jelley will be hoping he left the bad luck of 2018 behind him, as he found himself in unavoidable situations resulting in DNF’s more often than not.
This is now Team Parker’s fourth season in the championship, having been an established Porsche Carrera Cup GB outfit for decades as well as competing in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and British GT.
Team Parker and Jelley are no strangers to success combined with a superb car in the 1 series, it will be great to see all three come together and allow Jelley to fight closer towards the front in 2019.
After three seasons being run by teams on the grid 2019 sees Simpson Racing compete in their first full season as a completely independent entry. Matt Simpson is once again the teams only driver who won his first ever race last season at Oulton Park, before failing to start the second or third races of the day.
Despite this disappointment, Simpson continued to impress in the midfield and achieved a second podium of the season at Rockingham.
At that point he was run by Eurotech Racing, before he and his team made the leap in August to go it alone. Simpson will continue to drive a Honda Civic Type-R FK2 this season, having contested every race he has entered in this machinery.
Simpson will be hoping to build on his 2018 triumphs this year although for the first time he will not have any data to share with another driver, an area his experience will prove vital in.
Trade Price Cars
Now time to look at the first new team in the BTCC for 2019. TradePriceCars.com will field two Audi S3’s run by AmD Tuning with Jake Hill joining the team having left Team HARD halfway through 2018.
Hill will be joined by BTCC rookie, and former Formula 1 podium finisher, Le Mans winner and CART driver Mark Blundell, who returns to full time racing for the first time since 2003. The 52-year-old has show promising pace so far, although it will be a steep learning curve for the former McLaren driver.
Following his switch from Team HARD, Hill appears optimistic with his new team as he is targeting points in his maiden outing in the Audi S3. It will be great to see how he and Blundell fair in their new machinery and see if they learn from each other as the season progresses.
The final team to look at his fellow new entry Excelr8 Motorsport, who join the BTCC after previously competing in the Mini Challenge and TCR Europe. They will field BTCC debutants Rob Smith and Sam Osborne who join from Minis and the Renault Clio Cup respectively.
Smith is no stranger to the team as he has raced with Excelr8 Motorsport in the Mini Challenge in 2018 in which he finished fourth whereas Osborne joins from the Renault Clio Cup where he ended the season twelfth.
The duo will race in a pair of MG6’s previously used by Triple Eight and AmD Tuning with two different liveries, Osborne bringing green back to MG for the first time since 2003.
It will be a steep learning curve for both drivers and indeed the team however Excelr8 Motorsport’s record in other categories speaks volumes about their professionalism. It will be great to watch how they fair.
That is all for the teams and drivers preview, the British Touring Car Championship, begins this weekend at Brands Hatch for races one, two and three of the season. I for one cannot wait until the action gets underway!