A look at some of the drivers have their name in the frame for a very competitive BTCC seat.
Yesterday, 12th January, the British Touring Car Championship organisers TOCA revealed that there will be a full grid of 29 cars for the 2021 season, a fantastic achievement considering the current situation the world finds itself in.
The season will see new cars being entered from the likes of Team HARD and teams merging such as Motorbase and AmD Tuning (MB Motorsport).
However the biggest piece of news to come out of the reveal was the confirmation that Speedwork Motorsport, the team behind Toyota’s manufacture program, will field a two car entry, increasing their presence on the grid and taking on the likes of BMW, Honda and Vauxhall with a multi car entry.
With star driver Tom Ingram gone however, the team will be starting from scratch with an exciting new two car line up. In this piece, I will be looking at the drivers Toyota could be considering.
The first name that Toyota could be considering is Motorbase driver Rory Butcher who finished the 2020 season fifth, having been in the title fight until the later stages of the championship.
Rory is known to be one of the fastest drivers on the grid, having won the 2019 Independents Championship for AmD Tuning before his move to one of the championship’s biggest Independent teams in Motorbase.
However, the team has recently been purchased by AmD boss Shaun Hollamby alongside Pete Osborne, father of fellow BTCC driver Sam, and it is likely the seats at the team have already been filled ensuring Rory will need to look elsewhere if he was to stay on the BTCC grid.
Rory has shown us all what he can do in the series, and in small cars, only time will tell if he does indeed end up in a Toyota.
The second driver Toyota could be considering is 2013 BTCC Champion Andrew Jordan, who was left without a drive for 2020 after his split with WSR.
Like Rory, his speed is unquestioned, and his consistency throughout the years is an enviable trait for other drivers to try and match. Andrew still contested rounds in various championships throughout 2020 such as the Mini Miglia Championship in which he shone. It showed he has lost none of his speed despite being away from Britain’s premier tin top series.
Like many drivers, Andrew has been very vocal on social media about his chances of being on the grid this season, and by the sounds of his remarks, he has effectively confirmed it will not be with former team WSR, so maybe Toyota is his next step?
Another star name that Toyota could consider is triple BTCC champion, Gordon Shedden, who took an enforced sabbatical in 2020 after Audi’s withdrawal from the WTCR left the popular Scott without a drive.
Having left the BTCC at the conclusion of the 2017 season, rumours have never stopped about Gordon returning to the BTCC, most noticeably last season when he was rumoured to join Motorbase alongside Ollie Jackson and compatriot Rory Butcher. Another rumour which emerged was a third Yuasa Halfords Honda, however again this did not materialise.
Although sadly it seems a Shedden return is an outside bet due to his lack of personal sponsorship, it may be a move that Toyota are willing to foot the bill for, his speed is immense as well as his fan appeal which could help Toyota put their team and aspirations further on the map.
An outside bet this one but bear with me.
Darren Turner is currently an Aston Martin factory driver in the World Endurance Championship however he has dovetailed similar commitments with the BTCC before, his last season in the championship being in 2008 as a factory Seat driver alongside Jason Plato.
Despite his long time away from the series, in which he achieved five wins and a best championship result of sixth, I feel that Toyota could consider the Brit due to his work as the BTCC’s test driver for the new hybrid technology being used in 2022. The car used for the testing, a Toyota.
His knowledge of the car and the future rule changes in the series could prove vital and it may sway Toyota into considering Turner for one of their seats.
Rick Parfitt Jr
Time to look at the only driver on this list who would be a rookie in the championship however is by no means a rookie in motorsport.
Rick Parfitt Jr has made no secret about his intentions to drive in the BTCC this season, a series he considers his dream to make it in, documenting his push for sponsorship to make his aspirations become a reality on social media throughout the off season.
Before 2020, the popular 46-year-old from Chertsey spent four seasons in the British GT championship, contesting the series for Team Parker Racing and JRM Racing between 2016 and 2019, in which he won the 2017 championship alongside Seb Morris in Bentley Continental GT3.
There have been rumours circulating throughout the winter linking Rick with multiple teams, however it will be interesting to see if he is considered by Toyota.
Another driver from the British GT championship who could be being considered is Sam Smelt, who currently competes for Speedworks Motorsport in a GT4 Toyota Supra alongside James Kell.
Prior to racing for Speedworks in the British GT, Sam has raced in the BTCC, contesting a single season with AmD Tuning alongside Ollie Jackson in an Audi S3.
After switching to the British GT championship for 2019 in a Ford Mustang, 2020 saw Sam take his maiden GT4 Class podium at Donington Park eventually finishing last season eighth in the standings.
With many star names being associated with Toyota, his links to the manufacture and Speedworks could prove vital in his chances of taking one of the two seats.
They are the drivers I feel Toyota are potentially looking at, there are plenty of other drivers I would love to see compete in that car however I feel they are a little more farfetched.
If you feel I have missed anyone out please feel free to get in touch or comment below!
Pictures: www.btcc.net, www.motorsportimages.com, www.autocar.co.uk, www.dailysportscar.com, www.autoexpress.co.uk