This year’s annual Autosport International Show held at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre had a bigger British Touring Car Championship presence than ever before.
Centre of everything, BTCC was the superb display put on by title sponsor and official tyre supplier Dunlop. It wasn’t long into the show before an official unveiling on the stand involving Rob Austin Racing as he unveiled, with the help of two Dunlop promotion girls, his Audi A4 for next season.
This will be Austin’s third year within the series but the first where he has secured a title sponsor and been able to confirm his year’s plans prior to the start of the season. Being able to confirm his plans early Austin now feels that this will help him become a BTCC winner and said, "The partnership with WIX is fantastic for us and will provide the stability we need to be able to concentrate on winning races. It also allows us to take big steps forward in the development of the car .I have always maintained that the potential is there to win races and this year we will show it. Certainly 2013 promises to be an exciting year. I am really looking forward to the challenge of the BTCC”
Heading the cars on the Dunlop BTCC stand was the all-conquering Honda Yuasa Racing Civic belonging to BTCC champion Gordon Shedden. In total there were 4 Honda Racing Civics on display at the show with another one of Shedden’s cars on display on the Team Dynamics stand, the men behind the Honda Racing squad while team mate Matt Neal also had a couple of his cars on display at the show.
Shedden will once again be partnered by triple BTCC champion Neal as Honda Racing go for the Hat-trick of titles in an unchanged package; with the only thing left to be confirmed being what number Shedden will run whether it being the Number 1 or 52 the number he has used since entering the series in 2006.
Plato took to the stand to reflect on his hugely successful debut year with MG although, had it not been for the elements, it could have been so much more following his move from Chevrolet and said, “It took a brave decision to walk away from the environment I was in with RML and Chevrolet. There was an element of risk and gamble in that, but I wouldn't have taken that decision for anyone other than Ian Harrison and the guys at Triple 8. I just had a feeling we were going to get the job. We were ahead of our planning. We didn't really expect to have so much pace from the car so early on.”
"Our goal was to be competitive and start to look towards race wins towards the end of the year. So I'm fantastically pleased with what we achieved. To only get the car at 6am on qualifying day at the first round of the year, and then to win six races and fight for the championship was a very good performance. In the dry the MG was the machine to have, but I can't remember another season in which there's been so much bad weather, that was the big weakness last year.”
"I really want that piece of silverware in my kitchen at the end of this year now."
Tordoff has had a one off race during the final meeting of the season in 2010 with Triple 8 in their Vauxhall Vectra and is strongly linked again with Triple 8 to become Plato’s team mate. Since 2010 Tordoff has been running and winning in the Porsche Carrera cup support series to the BTCC and said on the central stage, "The plan is to race in British Touring Cars this year. It's something I've been working towards for the past four years on the TOCA package, so that's the aim. Things are still in negotiations and should be announced soon."
Another man to take to the Autosport stage was AmDtuning.com team boss Shaun Hollamby following his team’s announcement in the week that he is to switch to an NGTC Vauxhall Astra for 2013.
He reiterated the fact that he will start the season in the S2000 VW Golf that he has run for the past 3 seasons and won’t rush the build of the Astra, but hopes to have the car ready for the second half of the season hoping to emulate what Motorbase achieved last season to enter their NGTC Ford Focus from Snetterton and said, 'The Vauxhall development starts next week so we should have half a season of that process done before we debut, It's just like what David Bartrum and Motorbase did last year, and if we can achieve what they have, then that would be absolutely fantastic.'
The final two cars to be displayed on the Dunlop stand was the Speedworks Toyota Avensis and Dan Welch’s Proton. For the first time the Speedworks Avensis was displayed with double race winner from 2012 on the window of Dave Newsham following his switch from ES Racing.
No team mate has yet to be confirmed for Newsham but the team is believed to still want Paul O’Neill who drove for the team on two occasions last year taking the teams best result of the year of 4th at Knockhill, but it all comes down to budget.
As for Welch, he is likely to return with the team stating that they could build a second Proton Persona but will rely on a driver bringing the budget.
The final car on display at the show was Independent champion Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Honda Civic. Jordan, speaking on the Autoglym stand where his car was displayed, said after winning the Independent title last year, “The outright title is absolutely our aim. Me and the team are going to work very hard to achieve that.”
After two trade days the show is now open to the public for the weekend. Over the weekend the Dunlop BTCC stand will be particularly busy with BTCC drivers as the fans get the chance to meet the stars of the series.
Included in the many drivers expected to take to the stand will be Team Hard’s latest signing James Cole. Cole to date has primarily driven single seaters including Formula 2, British F3 (National class) and was the 2009 British Formula Ford champion.
Cole will use the series to launch a new road safety campaign, which he has heavy links to after an 11 year old was seriously injured after getting hit outside his school. He will drive the second Vauxhall Insignia alongside 2012 Clio Cup champion Jack Goff, while the team will also run a pair of VW Passat CC’s with multiple BTCC race winner Tom Onslow-Cole already confirmed as one of the drivers. All 3 drivers will be on the stand during the weekend for signatures while an announcement on the 4th driver is to be expected shortly.