The great touring car champion makes a long awaited return to the BTCC.
The 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship keeps getting better and better and we are still more than 6 weeks away from the start of the season, after the news that former double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi will make a sensational return to the series driving for Airwaves Racing in one of their Ford Focus entries.
Giovanardi was officially announced as an Airwaves Racing driver on Tin Top Tuesday, a radio show dedicated to the series, and will be 1 of 6 champions on the grid for 2014 along with Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden, Jason Plato, current champion Andrew Jordan and the returning Alain Menu, whilst Colin Turkington is expected to make it champion number 7 on the grid although he has yet to be officially confirmed in a year that will feature more former champions than ever before in the series history.
Giovanardi is the most successful Touring Car driver in the world with 8 Touring Car titles to his name from around Europe; including two British Championships in 2007 and 2008 when driving for Triple 8 Racing as a works Vauxhall driver between 2006 and 2009. The Italian was last seen in the championship at Thruxton in 2010 driving for Triple 8 following Vauxhall’s withdrawal from the series. Giovanardi put a late deal together on the grid for the opening round and, with no testing promptly, went on to win 2 out of the 3 races; however the sponsor for the weekend, Uniq, decided not to take up their option for the season and Giovanardi has been on the sidelines ever since.
Speaking on his BTCC return the former double champion admitted it could have happened sooner but is now delighted to be back on the grid and said, “When I stopped racing with Triple Eight I had a chat with David Bartrum and we tried to find a deal, but there wasn’t the condition to do that, so now after four years, David has given me the technical effort to win the championship. I am really looking forward to coming back to this special championship. For the last four years I have done long distance racing and for me, it’s quite boring! I need to be fighting for championships and this is the best place to find that, so I’m really happy to be back. Obviously, I have to respect the other guys out there but I want to come here and try to win another championship; I need to win the third one!”
Team boss Dave Bartrum was also on the show and confirmed that Motorbase will continue with 3 Ford Focus’; 2 under the Airwaves Racing banner and another in different colours. “This is a very important year for Airwaves Racing. This is going to be the one when we really do underline the product we’ve built here at Motorbase Performance and Fabrizio is the man to show you how it should go. I tried to get Fabrizio on board a couple of years ago, we’ve talked a lot about touring cars and this year I decided just before Christmas that was the right way to try and go. It was something that Airwaves set out in their criteria; they wanted us to up our game, and I was very happy to meet it. A lot of work has gone into the car over the winter. I’m really pleased with what the team has done, they’ve worked very hard. As I’ve said before, you need to take a step back and look sometimes, that’s what we’ve done and now we’re hoping to get the reward. We’ve always been proud of our driver line-up and no more this year than last year, but this year it’s got a little Italian spice to it that might take the team forward that bit more.”
Following the news that Giovanardi will return to the series, 2014 undoubtedly is shaping up to be one of the best in the series history, especially with 7 former champions on the grid and the series in its best shape without doubt since the great Super Touring era.
As for Giovanardi and Airwaves Racing, Motorbase will certainly be hoping on a better year than last year after bursting on the scene with their Ford Focus after the summer break in 2012 winning after only 4 meetings. 2013 proved to be a much tougher year than expected, particularly the first half of the season with the team’s first podium not occurring until Snetterton after the summer break and, although more podiums happened, the team didn’t secure wins that were anticipated at the start of the season.
There is little doubt that Giovanardi is one of the best in the business and the noise coming out from the Motorbase team is all positive about the work they have done over the winter on their Ford Focus; so if the team can produce a car capable of winning we can look forward to Giovanardi being back on the top step of the podium very quickly.