We are finally here; the days of counting down to the start of the 2002 season are gone and the waiting is over. By the time you read this the team's race transporter will be loaded with the team's two Honda Accords and will be heading south for Rounds 1&2 of the Green Flag MSA 2002 British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch this weekend.
Over the winter months we have assembled what we consider to be a great team of sponsors ranging from Jet, a petrol retailer, to our team principal's own football club; York City FC. With this sponsorship package in place and a pair of proven Honda Accord production class cars, we are ready to shift up a gear this season and look forward to recording some good results. The rules and regulations are essentially the same as last season, but with some of the higher profile teams such as Barwell and GR Motorsport moving up to the Touring Class it's the chance for a new assembly to take centre stage.
Like many of our competitors in the BTC-P, our deal came together very late in the day, hence many Production Class teams have had very little testing. This makes predicting what is going to happen over the weekend very difficult -- so be sure to keep your eyes on the fight for points as it is bound to be a fascinating battle. With BMW returning to the series with Edenbridge Racing, and the new Honda Civic Type-R being built by Swindon's Synchro Motorsport, it is clear that they will be many people's favourites for the title. However undertaking a project of that size is always going to have many potential pitfalls and we have taken the decision to stick with the tried and tested Honda Accords in the hope that their reliability will triumph over the likely speed of the new entries. However, not to rest on our laurels, we have signed up Peter Cate as Lead Development Driver to help us develop the car as the season progresses.
After the Official Launch day where the team's Accord completed just seven laps due to technical problems, our aim at the opening race has to be get both cars on the grid and then aim for good points scoring positions. From there, if anything goes wrong with our rivals' cars, we may well end up closer to the top step than many people think. With John lacking experience in the car, he will be relying on Jim to complete most of the set up work as he gets to grip with the left-hand drive position and a much more advanced motor car compared to the ageing Integra.
"The York City deal unfortunately took longer than we anticipated, so we have lost out on valuable track time to shake off the cobwebs in both drivers and cars, but we should be okay for the first race and after that things should start looking really good", John explains, "We have lots planned this season on and off the track, and the first race weekend will be no different I'm sure!! The car is totally different to the Integra, so it will take a bit of getting used to but I'll get there. It's a great feeling to put the York City FC and other sponsors badges on the car and fire it all up, makes a winter of hard work worthwhile, we have a great opportunity here."
The team's other driver, Jim Edwards Jnr, was all set to give up his British Touring Car ambitions after a frustrating 2001 season, and return to racing Maestros in the MGOC series, but a phone call from John Batchelor changed that, "I feel the John has done a great job in putting together such a credible bunch of sponsors and, once we have got the first couple of races out the way, we should be in good contention for race wins. I feel that we really can challenge for the title; I want the title."
Brands Hatch itself never changes, in terms of its fairly narrow track with the good combination of fast and slow speed corners to test our drivers out. The only difference from last season is the return to the daunting Grand Prix circuit. Despite it's name, the track is far from Grand Prix status, but it does provide a good test for the team and drivers to show their skills in terms of car set up. With near flat out corners such as Hawthorns and Westfield on the grand prix loop to the tight and slow Druids Hairpin and Graham Hill Bend all requiring different set-ups. The last time the BTCC used the Grand Prix loop, James Thompson was one of many who had large shunts, expect more of the same this time around.
Last seasons visits to Brands Hatch brought mixed results for the team. Despite a promising debut at the first visit to the circuit, Team B&Q did not end the season very well with neither car finishing either of the last two races. Jim Edwards managed 9th in the first race meeting, but did not race in the final meeting after falling out with his race preparation team. Despite these discouraging statistics, generally Honda Accords do go well at the circuit, and in the last four races at Brands Hatch a Honda Accord has won twice and been on the podium three times.
So in summary we can expect the usual from Team B&Q Jet York City Racing; plenty of action both on and off the track -- if you are making the journey do come by the transporter and say hello!