NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP THOMPSON JOINS HONDA FOR 1997 Young star James Thompson has jumped ship from Vauxhall to join Honda's 1997 Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship campaign. The 22-year-old from...
NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP THOMPSON JOINS HONDA FOR 1997 Young star James Thompson has jumped ship from Vauxhall to join Honda's 1997 Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship campaign. The 22-year-old from York will partner Honda Accord regular David Leslie in Britain's premier motor sport series next season.
Thompson's defection to Honda after two years as John Cleland's team-mate at Vauxhall is seen as a major boost for Honda's driving strength. Thompson was the youngest ever driver to win a BTCC race when he claimed victory at Thruxton in '95, and he followed that up by scoring the new Vauxhall Vectra's only race win this season. Leslie, 42, has many years of experience behind him -- including two seasons with Honda -- and finished fourth overall in the championship this year after scoring three wins in the Honda Accord.
Honda has also announced that its 1997 Auto Trader Championship attack will be masterminded by the successful Prodrive team. Banbury-based Prodrive, famed most recently for its World Rally Championship-winning association with Subaru and Colin McRae, is no stranger to BTCC success. In 1988 the team's BMW M3 won the drivers' championship title for Frank Sytner, and Prodrive went on to collect BTCC class titles in '89 with James Weaver and in 1990 with Sytner again. Honda's switch to Prodrive follows the announcement earlier this week that the Motor Sports Developments outfit which launched Honda into the Auto Trader Championship in 1995 is to link up with Peugeot for next year. Honda Motor Europe motor sport manager Trevor Elliott said: 'I am delighted to be able to make this announcement. We have an extremely strong driver line-up of youth and experience and one of the most established and well respected engineering and preparation companies in modern motor sport.' Added Thompson: 'It's an exciting move for me. Honda is synonymous with motor sport excellence and, in the hands of Prodrive, I believe we have the resources to build a highly competitive team.' Prodrive will take delivery of the 1996 Accords in the next few days and will start immediately on an extensive winter test programme. Honda will be represented at the Tourist Trophy at Donington Park on November 3 by German outfit Honda Team Linder and the Belgian VZM team. The drivers for this event will, says Honda, 'reflect an international flavour'.
-- Official BTCC website: Best in British Motor Sport http://www.demon.co.uk/racing