The BTCC teams stepped up their preparation for the 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship when 5 teams attended Thruxton's general test session, getting in valuable testing before the teams go there for real in the opening rounds of the championship on the 3rd and 4th April.
Present at the test were West Surrey racing, Team Dynamics, Motorbase, Forster Motorsport and the latest team to announce that they will be competing in the championship, Special Tuning (UK). The teams enjoyed a mixture of conditions starting off with the circuit still being damp after over night rain. They then enjoyed two sessions in bright but cold sunshine with the day ending in snow.
The teams also had to put up with a packed 41-car circuit with cars from the Clio Cup, Ginetta G50's, Ginetta Juniors, Porsche's and Ferraris making it hard to find a clear lap.
West Surrey Racing were present with two cars. The first was in the livery which appeared on the main stage of the Autosport Show and was shared by first Colin Turkington and then by Clio runner up Alex McDowall, despite having Andy Neate's name on the window. The second was in an all orange livery without any sponsors and was driven by Neate.
Despite talking to other teams it was Turkington who took to the track for the first two 55 minute sessions, perhaps giving the clearest indication yet of where he might end up in 2010. Although he took to the circuit late in session 1 he got straight on the pace and in the second session completed a large amount of laps where he was bang on the pace for the whole session.
McDowall has already tested for Motorbase and RML over the winter but this time he sampled the WSR BMW. His session didn't get off to the best of starts with a harmless spin on his first lap of the day at the chicane, but he quickly got into a good rhythm and looked to be quicker than the second WSR BMW at the time driven by Neate. Neate did compete in all four sessions and after a slow start to the day in greasy conditions, improved his pace once the track dried and got more confident as the day grew on.
WSR team Boss Dick Bennets commented on how his three drivers did after the day and told btcc.net, "Alex was pretty impressive and we're in good dialogue with him. Andy's obviously itching to race again and has been associated with the team for some time now. Both coped very well considering there was a huge mixture of weather and track conditions. For Colin it was a chance to shake off some of the rust. Clearly he's not lost any of his touch and was stunning."
Motorbase were out with Rob Collard indicating that a deal is almost done for him to continue with the team for a third year running. Collard looked to be on the pace all day really attacking the Hampshire circuit particularly at the chicane, which he was even doing during a heavy snowstorm at the end of the day.
Former double BTCC champion Matt Neal continued to test for Team Dynamics, his family run team that helped him earn his two championship seasons. The civic, which will remain in an all white livery to promote Honda UK's new Mugen Civic, ran well all day. Just like Collard, Neal looked to be showing good speed and attacking the circuit well. Neal found finding space difficult at the tight areas of the circuit and by the end of the day his bumper was looking a bit second hand after a nudge, probably with a couple of the cars.
Despite only confirming early this week that he will be making a welcome return to the BTCC Tom Boardman was present in his petrol powered Seat Leon run by Special Tuning UK with Club Seat. Boardman will be running in the same car he ran in last years WTCC but had to adapt getting back to Thruxton and running with Dunlop tyres on the car for the first time. Although not doing much running in the first session of the day he completed a good number of laps in the next two. Howver he suffered a scare in the final session when he stopped in the pits and there appeared to be a small fire coming out of both exhausts.
The final team present were the third BMW team Forster Motorsport. Despite recently purchasing a second BMW the team only ran one car due to the sessions already being filled. The car they used was indeed the newly acquired BMW and is the car that Mat Jackson ran in 2007. The team hopes to upgrade it to the spec of their other car, which is also an ex Jackson car but from 08. Both drivers, Arthur Forster and Martin Depper, are still trying to get to grips with the car after years of successfully racing in the John Cooper challenge. Sadly they could not complete as many laps as they hoped due to a number of niggling problems including a clutch failure in one of the sessions. They hope for better luck when they are due to test next Friday at Rockingham hopefully in full livery for the first time.
Stephen Jelley was also seen present at the test, last year driving for Team RAC (WSR), along with Jonny Adam, who drove for Airwaves BMW (Motorbase) in 2009. Adam was looking after drivers from TCR in the support car championship. Both have yet to get drives for next year and were not testing despite their two previous teams testing, although both were seen speaking to them during the day.
So with preparation well under way for the 2010 championship keep clicking back for news and developments ahead of media day on the 23rd March with the real thing getting under way on the weekend of the 3rd and 4th April.
See also: Photos from today's test