This weekend will see one of the most eagerly awaited seasons in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championships get under way around the 1.2mile Indy circuit at Brands Hatch.
This year a capacity and record breaking 32 cars were unveiled on the entry list; although we are more likely to have a grid of 28 cars for the season opener before we see a couple more cars join the series for round 2. The series will feature 4 previous champions with a total of 11 drivers in the field who have all tasted victory within the series.
Leading the field will be current BTCC champion Gordon Shedden who will proudly have the number 1 on his Honda Yuasa Racing Civic, after becoming only the 3rd Scottish driver in the history of the series to take the crown. Shedden however is fully aware just how many drivers are in with a chance of glory and admits he would like to emulate his team mate Matt Neal and Jason Plato (both multiple champions) saying, “There’s a good half a dozen in with a chance and there could even be 12 drivers able to win races. I think it’s got to be a goal to pursue year on year. Both Matt and Jason are in their mid 40s and I’ve got 10 years on them and I’ll try and maximise the opportunities.” Although Shedden admitted, “I guess it takes the pressure off now my name is on the trophy.”
For the past two seasons the championship has been more a less a straight battle for the title between the two Honda drivers of Shedden and Neal, who hopes to emulate Andy Rouse in 2013 as the most successful driver in the series history with 4 championship titles.
Last year the Honda’s biggest threat came from the all new MG KX Momentum Racing team which hadn’t turned a wheel prior to the opening meeting of the year, but that did not stop former double BTCC champion Jason Plato leading the series away from the meeting taking one victory.
Now the MG heads in to its second season following 2012 where Plato admitted, “In actuality 888 developed the MG into the quickest BTCC car in dry conditions from mid season onwards last year.”
For 2013 Plato will be joined by former Porsche and Clio cup race winner Sam Tordoff who is also a member of the KX Academy in which Plato is a leading figure. Tordoff has previously raced a one off meeting in the series, ironically for 888 the men behind the MG project at Brands Hatch in 2010. Big things are expected of the 23 year old and Plato believes that having both MG’s at the front will benefit the team like at Honda and said “Genuinely, I will assist Sam as much as I can to help him to produce his maximum performance. It is in my interest to have a quick team mate. With regard to watching my back...that’s an absolutely vital skill in the BTCC!”
The final champion on the grid will be Colin Turkington who will make a welcome return to the series having been left on the sidelines since clinching his title in 2009. This year Turkington returns to the West Surrey Racing team that powered him to the championship in one of their 3 brand new eBay Motors BMW 125i. Despite the new package Turkington feels that big things could happen for the new car while he admits he can’t wait to get back into the series and said, “It could be the best car we’ve ever built or it could take a bit of work. If it goes as well as it looks it’ll be a great package. It’s going to be great; I’m very much looking forward to it. The buzz and excitement about a BTCC race is something you never forget, especially at a theater like Brands Hatch.”
Meanwhile at the back of the grid the fighting will be just as competitive as drivers in the older spec S2000 cars fight for the inaugural Jacks Sears trophy. There will be 6 drivers competing for the trophy and they are James Kaye in the AmD tuning.com VW Golf, Warren Scott for Team BMR Restart Racing in a Seat Leon, Joe Girling in a Techspeed prepared Chevrolet Cruze run under the name of M247 Racing and a pair of Ford Focus’ belonging to Liam Griffin for Addison Lee Motorbase and David Nye from Welch Motorsport.
Perhaps the favourite for the trophy though will be Lea Wood who returns in his Vauxhall Vectra. Wood will run under the name of Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing and, after impressing tremendously in 2012 with a best position of 5th at Oulton Park and only missing out on an outright podium at Snetterton due to mechanical failure, said, “I know the car and the circuits inside out so we’re aiming to win the trophy.”