Arkas Racing has confirmed it will field two Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch cars in the 2008 HiQ British Touring Car Championship after agreeing terms with popular BTCC runner Martyn Bell.

The 43-year-old, from Barrow upon Humber in North Lincolnshire, will join Turkish racer Erkut Kizilirmak at the squad which, as in 2007, will be run by Marvin Humphries' Leamington-Spa based Tech-Speed Motorsport team. Additional technical support will once again come from Banbury-based Triple Eight Engineering Ltd.

Ending last season's championship seventh overall in the Independents Team Trophy as a single-car entrant, with 38-year-old Kizilirmak ninth in the Independents driver standings, hopes are incredibly high for Arkas Racing's second year in the BTCC now it has been officially unveiled as a two-car team.

Commenting on Bell's signing, Arkas technical director Brian Ashwood said: "We're delighted Martyn has chosen to join Arkas Racing, our chief aim ahead of the new season was to attract a second driver to the team and with two years of touring car experience under his belt Martyn is an ideal team-mate for Erkut to learn from.

"We're all confident our second season in the BTCC will be successful and, as always, a lot of fun. Having achieved a couple of overall top 10 race results last year, I think we can rightfully hope for more top 10 finishes from both Erkut and Martyn during 2008."

Bell moved into the BTCC two years ago after almost a decade in the club-level Kumho BMW Championship, a nine-year tenure in which he achieved the outright series title in 2004 with 10 race victories. In 1999 he was the Class C Champion and at the wheel of BMW M3 in 2000 and 2001 he became back-to-back Class A Champion.

Graduating to the BTCC in 2006 at the wheel of a BMW 320i E46, with the help of BMW squad Geoff Steel Racing, Bell then raced under the banner Team last season, finishing 11th overall in the Independents Trophy both years.

Like Kizilirmak, Bell has become one of the most popular figures in the BTCC and the experienced saloon car campaigner can't wait to take his maiden test mileage in one of Arkas' immaculately prepared BTC-specification Vauxhall Astras.

Speaking on his 2008 agreement with Arkas, Bell said: "Erkut and I first spoke about a possible deal at Snetterton last season as we got on very well throughout the year and raced closely on track. I'm regarding leaving the BMW behind as a step forward, not a step sideways or backwards, and I'm confident 2008 will be a great season.

"I've raced BMW since 1996, won four national championships, and I think I'm perhaps burnt out with racing the marque. I don't see I'll have any problems adjusting to the Astra and I actually think I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity to work with a professional team like Tech-Speed Motorsport and have a good team-mate like Erkut."

Bell added: "I'm indebted to my many sponsors as, without them, this just wouldn't be possible. I think we can ride high in the team championships and if Erkut and I start formation flying and bring each other on, I really believe we'll be good top 10 material."

-credit: ar