British Touring Car Championship 2010 season in review, part 5
Once again the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has lived up to expectations and proved why it is the best National Touring Car series in the world.
This was none more evident as approaching the final meeting of the year as Jason Plato, Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden and Tom Onslow-Cole were all separated by just 24-points.
Throughout the year all four drivers had suffered various highs and the lows but in the end it was Silverline Chevrolet's Plato who took his second BTCC crown. During the final part of the review we look at the drivers battling at the tail end of the field with the hope of securing the odd point along the way.
Following his single year driving for Team Dynamics, Dave Pinkney managed to secure himself an ex-Fabrizio Giovanardi Vauxhall Vectra fitted with an all-new NGTC engine, along with some of the best BTCC mechanics from Triple 8 following their demise.
Pinkney started the season in the best possible fashion scoring points in the opening three races at Thruxton, the place where he scored his sole BTCC podium back in 2006. This was the first time in his career that he scored points in every race of a weekend and finished the weekend with an 8th and two 10th however this proved to be the highlight of a tough season.
Despite showing good pace in the Free practice sessions Pinkney couldn't turn them into good race positions as he struggled with Toca's new development engine as well as often being on the end of some physical driving. No points at Rockingham were followed by a good 8th in race 2 at Brands Hatch although he would fail to finish the other two. At Oulton he would score a single point for 10th in race 2 but at Croft he had a weekend to forget failing to finish any of the three races. At Snetterton Pinkney would pick up two more points in race 3 following a non finish and 11th but the next two meetings would prove unsuccessful for the veteran racer. At Silverstone a single 11th place finish was all Pinkney could manage which was the same story at Knockhill, which included a hefty impact with Rob Collard in the second race after he spun at the opening set of corners. At Donington he did score a single point in race 1 but that was to be his last of the season finishing 18th and 13th in the other races before ending his season in terrible fashion after blowing an engine in the first Free Practice session eliminating him from the weekend.
Making the huge step up for 2010 were Forster Motorsport who entered the BTCC for the first time. The multiple John Cooper challenge winners entered a pair of ex Mat Jackson BMW's with regular drivers team boss Arthur Forster and Martin Depper.
Both drivers struggled to get to grips with their machinery often ending up with off track excursions although towards the end of the year it appeared they were getting to grips with the car and should be able to challenge more next year which they plan to do although nothing has been confirmed yet.
Pre season was a sign of things to come for Forster Motorsport after Depper rolled the BMW in a test before Christmas at Oulton Park setting them back but worse was to follow after both cars suffered engine trouble just prior to the first event and as a result both engines had to be sent back to Germany forcing the pair to miss race 1 at Thruxton.
Both cars were ready for Rockingham although Depper wasn't to take part after getting stranded in America following the volcanic eruption in Iceland grounding all flights. Forster managed to finish all 3 races with a best of 13th before Depper joined him for Brands Hatch.
Forster ended races 1 and 2 in the gravel, finishing race 3 in 15th a place behind his teammate Depper. At Oulton Forster celebrated his first of two Independent point finishes for 13th finishing the other two races as well in 16th and 15th, Depper had been running consistently with a pair of 14th places finishes although his race 3 would end early on lap 1 going off at Cascades. Next up was Croft very much the local circuit for the team but Forster could only manage 15th in race 3 following two retirements but Depper went a lot better finishing 12th in race 2 ahead of some established drivers to take the teams best finish of the season.
At Snetterton both drivers finished two of the three races with the best finish going to Forster finishing 14th and taking his second and last Independent point of the season. Silverstone saw Forster finish all three races meanwhile his team mate Depper suffered a weekend to forget. A high speed crash in Free Practice 2 eliminated him from qualifying and gave his mechanics an all night job to finish. Things had gone better in races 1 and 2 finishing both races but in race 3 he crashed heavily into the back of Alex MacDowall after he had stalled on the grid and as a result of such big damage the decision was made to miss the next round at Knockhill.
Depper and Forster returned for Donington but once again Depper had a weekend to forget with an engine blow up in Free Practice 1 eliminating him from the weekend. Forster did manage to have a better weekend despite the odd gravelly moment he finished all three races. At the final meeting of the year Forster finished the first two races but crashed in the last while Depper at last managed to finish a race in race 3 after not finishing the following 9 although 6 of them he was to miss finishing a very encouraging 13th to take a single Independent point, one of 6 he managed to score outscoring his slightly more established team mate.
Little was known at the start of the season of ex Clio racer Lea Wood and despite not scoring an outright point; Wood impressed many in his family run Central Racing Honda Integra. As expected Wood didn't join the series until the third meeting of the year at Brands Hatch and narrowly missed out on a point finishing in 11th in race 3 after sitting inside the top 10 for most of the race. Wood again impressed at Oulton qualifying 13th ahead of a few big names finishing all three races just outside the points in 13th, 12th and 11th. Croft wasn't as successful with a best finish of 13th while after the mid season break at Snetterton two 14th's was all Wood could manage. Silverstone was a tough weekend finishing 16th in race 1 before mechanical issue's prevented wood from finishing the other races and as a result he chose to miss Knockhill. He returned for Donington finishing all three races again narrowly missing out on a point in race 3 for 11th before ending the season with a pair of 15th's but his race 3 ended early on the opening lap with engine trouble. Even though narrowly missing out on an outright point Wood was to score a total of 15 Independent points.
After entering the final two races of 2009 Matt Hamilton returned with TH Motorsport in a Honda Civic, which was last seen raced by James Kaye in 2006. Unfortunately Hamilton's season was cut short after Oulton Park for budget reasons but did impress along the way. Often a visitor into the surroundings on a Saturday Hamilton finished well in the races finishing all but three of his 16 races with a best of a brilliant 9th in the rain at Brands Hatch. As a result Hamilton took 17 Independent points in 16 races and has already announced that he hopes to be back in 2011.
Kaye himself made a shock BTCC return for the last two BTCC meetings at Donington and Brands in a WRC Developments Honda Integra run by Barwell Motorsport with a view to racing permanently in the series in 2011 although with a different machine. Kaye's return got off to a great start in race 1 at Donington avoiding the carnage and overtaking Pinkney on the last lap to take 9th after a good qualifying as well finishing 13th. He finished race 2 in 14th but failed to finish race 3 although Brands wasn't to prove as successful with Mechanical issue's in qualifying forcing him to start 23rd. He finished race 1 in 16th but had an opening lap collision with Forster in race 2 ending in the gravel whilst he also failed to finish race 3.
Martin Johnson returned for 2010 in his now almost classic BTCC spec Vauxhall Astra Coupe built back in 2001 run by his family run team Boulevard Racing. Despite the age of the car Johnson continued to impress in the car and narrowly missed out on an outright point at Thruxton finishing 11th in race 1. Johnson was flying at Thruxton literally although this proved to be his downfall hitting the kerbs a little to hard getting a puncture along the way before failing to finish race 3.
Rockingham was without doubt the highlight of his season and perhaps his career when he finished a superb 9th outright after selecting the correct tyres on a drying track. He also narrowly missed out on a point in race 3 finishing 11th after finishing 15th in race 2 but his joy was short lived failing to finish a race at Brands. Oulton Park was a tough weekend for Johnson following the death of his Father and team manager Cliff but despite this he managed two race finishes in 15th and 14th. Two finishes at Croft in 15th and 16th were followed after the summer break of a decent 12th at Snetterton although this sandwiched two non-finishes. At Silverstone he did manage to finish all three races with a best of 15th but he opted to miss Knockhill due to a family wedding and saving the budget.
He returned for Donington and narrowly missed out on a point for 11th but his aging Astra Coupe was often showing his age and resulted in a retirement and a non-start in the other 2 races. At the final meeting of the year after an 18th place finish in race 1 but again the Astra Coupe failed to start race 2 but finished 15th in race 3 in which surely must be the swan song for the Astra Coupe, which has been the most successful car of the decade dominating the series from 2001-2004. This season Johnson scored a total of 14 Independent points and it would not be a surprise to see the likeable Johnson return next year in perhaps a Vectra.
This season also saw the return of the VW brand for the first time since 1989 run by AmD Miltek.com Racing for Shaun Hollamby. The car looked great following a massive winter job where the team completely rebuilt the car from the shell up but this was always going to be a massive task for the team. With little running before the start of the season the team were effectively running each race as a public test but clearly gradually improved both in pace and reliability through out the season.
Hollamby finished race 2 at Thruxton in 18th but finished well at Rockingham with a pair of 14th's which was good enough for a 10th place Independent finish in race 1 and a point. Two retirements at Brands Hatch were sandwiched between a joint best 13th in race 2 although sadly for him this did not bring any Independent points. Hollamby managed two finishes at Croft for 16th and 15th before finishing all three races at Snetterton following the summer lay off with two 15th's. However reliability troubles struck again and problems during the Saturday of the event left Hollamby on the sidelines for the Sunday. He bounced back at Knockhill and with the help of a few other Independent drivers not attending he was able to finish a best of 13th picking up another two Independent points. At Donington he managed two finishes for 14th and 19th and again at Brands Hatch he finished the first two races in 21st in race 1 despite a major trip across the gravel and in 17th.
Hollamby however has become a major crowd favourite mainly due to his insights into the team which he posts on the official BTCC site and as a result him and the team were awarded with the Fans Favourite Trophy as awarded by the official BTCC website. Donington saw the link up between Hollamby and the fans initiative Your Racing Car and it was announced just prior to the last race that this would continue in 2011 with Hollamby and AmD returning with the Golf fresh with a new NGTC engine.
So that's a definitive look at the teams and drivers for 2010, so what's 2011 got in store for us? Well for 2011 we see the full debut season of the New Generation Touring Car's which will race alongside the current S2000 spec cars while some teams will chose to continue with their current cars whilst choosing to develop their own NGTC Turbo engine. The first to commit to 2011 were Honda Racing who will continue with current driver Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in the Civic but have opted to develop their own NGTC engine with their current engine developers. Team Aon have already been out testing at Brands Hatch in the Ford Focus with a petrol powered NGTC engine and it was announced from Ford that they will receive mechanical assistance in using the all new spec Ford Focus with the intention of building a single spec Focus that can be competed in championship all around the world. Although this once again will be a non-works team with Tom Chilton almost certain to continue to race as his Dad his co-owner of Aon. Special Tuning have also announced that they will develop their own engine and expand to a two-car team again using Seat Leons. No news has been given on drivers yet although as current driver Tom Boardman's father runs the team he must be a certainty or one of the seats.
Following the hugely successful debut of the first all NGTC car driven by James Thompson a couple of Ginetta G50 teams have announced that they will take delivery and enter the Toyota Avensis built by GPR, which he showed off to the public at Brands Hatch. The first team to announce that they will step up were Speedworks which will be driven by current drive Tony Hughes while Ginetta G50 champion Frank Wrathall will also make the jump with his winning Ginetta team DynoJet.
Although nothing official yet it looks like Chevrolet will be out to defend their drivers crown won by Jason Plato although speaking to Motorsport News they said that they were likely to continue with their current S2000 engines although there is the possibility of the team expanding to a 3 car team. It is also likely that we will see Triple 8 return with a manufacturer. Last year the team ran as an Independent outfit for the first time since they entered the series and they have already revealed that they are in talk with a number of interested parties, although the biggest noise has come from the rumour that they will again run a works deal for Vauxhall to NGTC spec, which was the sole purpose of when they were set up back in 1997.
So that's the end of Motorsport.com's coverage of 2010. Once again it has been a memorable season and we hope that we are able to bring you the same coverage in 2011. Keep clicking back for any big news that breaks over the winter and be sure to look out for all news following the Autosport Show in January, which always attracts a big BTCC presence.