HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship squad Arkas Racing is looking forward to the opening two rounds of the 2008 season at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit just over a week from now, 29th/30th March -- the entrant's first ever meeting as a two-car team.

Now officially known as Arkas Racing with Sunshine.co.uk, the Independants Trophy outfit having unveiled its revised title at last week's BTCC Media Day at Rockingham in Northamptonshire, the team is confident 2008 will see a step forward in terms of performance and results and can't wait for the first event of the year to begin.

Returning to the BTCC for his second full season of competition in the UK is Turkey's number one saloon car racer Erkut Kizilirmak. The 38-year-old from Istanbul finished last season a highly creditable ninth overall in the Independents standings.

Due to business commitments, Erkut hasn't been able to attend any pre-season tests so the opening free practice session at Brands Hatch a week on Saturday will mark his first run in his Arkas Automotive backed Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch since last October.

While more than five months out of a race car will prove to be a challenge in itself, Erkut aims to go well at a circuit where he achieved his maiden top 10 points finishes in 2007.

Driving the second Arkas Racing Astra, and bringing with him the Sunshine.co.uk sponsorship, is Martyn Bell. The 43-year-old from Barrow-upon-Humber, who is embarking on his third season in the BTCC, has high hopes for the year ahead as he makes the transition from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive.

Having piloted rear-wheel drive BMWs for the best part of a decade, Bell is currently getting to grips with the front-wheel drive Astra he is to campaign this year. During recent tests at Snetterton, Rockingham and Brands Hatch, the North Lincolnshire racer has shown good progress.

Looking ahead to the first event of the season, Arkas Racing technical director Brian Ashwood said: "We're confident 2008 can be a very good year for Arkas Racing with Sunshine.co.uk and we're delighted to have two cars out there. It's great to have Martyn onboard and during the course of the last three tests the team has certainly gelled well.

"It's a shame Erkut hasn't been able to join us for any pre-season testing due to his business commitments so it's going to be tough for him to get up to speed quickly at Brands Hatch with just two free practice sessions before qualifying. Nonetheless, we're very positive about the year ahead and the whole team is really looking forward to it."

At last week's BTCC Media Day the team, which is run by respected BTCC specialists Tech-Speed Motorsport, played host to a group of schoolchildren from Gretton Primary School near Rockingham.

Forming part of the championship's schools programme, the visit to the track saw the star-struck kids thoroughly enjoy their behind-the-scenes visit into the Arkas Racing garage. They were able to meet the team and also get the feel of being a racing driver by taking turns sitting at the wheel of one of the Astra race cars.

The new season promises to be spectacular with a total of 27 drivers so far registered for the championship and with all race meetings set to be broadcast live on ITV4. For the first three rounds of the season at Brands Hatch on Sunday, 30th March, full recorded coverage of race one will be screened while races two and three will be shown live.

Free practice and qualifying will take place on Saturday, 29th March -- the first practice session is provisionally timetabled to begin at 09.55 with the second session at 12.20 and qualifying taking place at 15.40. On Sunday, 30th March, the three races are currently scheduled to begin at 11.30, 14.20 and 16.30.

-credit: arkasracing.com