Author: Pat Cranham
Porsche ace joins 888 as new car enters frame
It has been announced that Porsche ace Tony Gilham will drive the second Triple 8 car in 2011 British Touring Car Championship. Gilham came up through the ranks by winning both the Toyota MR2 and VW Cup championships before moving into Porsches in 2008 in a very distinctive green and pink number 34 liveried car.
Gilham who finished 3rd in class last year taking 15 podiums out of 20 in the pro-am1 category and inside the top 10 overall is obviously very excited about joining the pinnacle of Britain's motorsport with such a big team and the 31 year old said, "The BTCC is something I've wanted to do for an awful long time. I had opportunities to go with several other teams but, once I'd heard of Triple Eight's interest in me and met with their management team, my mind was made up. Decisions like these are never easy to make, but I'm sure that by working with Triple Eight it will help me gain the knowledge and experience necessary for a successful BTCC campaign".
Team boss Ian Harrison is also pleased to have Gilham on board after looking at him for some time and said, "I'm pleased to welcome Tony to the team. We've been keeping an eye on a number of drivers running outside of the BTCC for a little while now and Tony was one of those who caught the eye. I'm sure he'll settle into things very quickly and surprise a few people too."
Triple 8 has made no official statement on what car or engine they will use. However it seems almost certain that they will once again use the Vectra however this time powered by TOCA's Swindon Turbo NGTC engine as reported in Autosport. On Gilham's personnel website he also states that his sponsors will become title sponsor of Triple 8 with the team running under the banner of Triple Eight Racing with Collins Contractors.
We should also see a new car at some point this season run by a new team with Proton returning to the grid as an independent team run by Welch Motorsport.
This will be the first time that a Proton as run in the BTCC since 2004 and it will be an all NGTC car.
Welch Motorsport is run by former rallycross star John Welch and has been running his son Dan Welch for a number of years first in Formula Renault and then Seat Leons for the past number of years.
Welch Motorsport clearly have their work cut out preparing the booted Proton Gen-2 model but hope to have the car ready for the second half of the season starting at Snetterton in August.
Welch Snr said, "We are scheduled to take delivery of the Proton road car today (Wednesday 16.02.11) to begin the process of building it into a BTCC car - so the realistic target is to come into the series in the second half of the season with a longer-term ambition of running two cars. Obviously it's a very different challenge but in recent years we've come up against grids of 30 or 40 cars in the SEAT Leon Eurocup and been right at the sharp end, so have learnt something about making a saloon car go quickly."
Welch Snr then finished off by giving his son Dan high praise and said, "Daniel would be one of the quick youngsters coming in. He's been very quick in everything he's driven since he was seven years old - he lives and breathes motor racing and has always been fully involved on the engineering side so is a proper all-round competitor. I'm confident he really has the ability to cut it in the BTCC."
Meanwhile at Brands Hatch this week Airwaves Racing first broke cover of their new Ford Focus' having bought the cars off of Team Aon earlier in the winter.
Both drivers Mat Jackson and Liam Griffin were on hand to test the car in an all-new red livery with a yellow flash across the bottom of the bonnet, a yellow rear bumper and Gold wheels in a throw back to the livery Motorbase used to use in the production cup back in the late 90's.
After the first test team boss Dave Bartrum was in an positive mood and said, "Apart from the obvious fact we've switched from rear-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive, this is a completely different concept and way of engineering. It's also a new challenge in terms of driving - for example engine braking has gone, because now we are running turbo engines built to the new Next Generation Touring Car regulations. Mountune has developed a Ford engine to those regulations and it's performed really. Everyone has ended the day feeling very upbeat and although it has only been our first day of running it has proved to me we've very definitely made the right move."
Also present at the test was Tom Chilton driving a 2010 spec Focus before it then becomes Motorbase's third car for 2011 while Team Aon's 2011 spec Focus gets completed. Chilton who suffered a minor off in the gravel exiting Clearways in wet conditions was pleased with his days work as he get used to the Mountune NGTC engine said, "The base car is literally identical within millimetres so even though we've run the 2010 Focus we've still been able to do some very handy development work today. Obviously last year we ran LPG-NGTC engines and this year we've switched to petrol which I'd say is just punchier all-round. Hands up, though, the off was down to me - I lent on the left rear a bit too much and the car just drifted off the edge of the track."
Also on track were Team Eurotech in their pair of NGTC powered Vectra's driven by Andrew Jordan and Jeff Smith who continue to rack up the miles before moving to Silverstone for more testing while the other continued with a second day of testing at Brands Hatch.
While the NGTC Toyota Avensis also continued to rack up good mileage after late last week testing at Brands completing over 100laps.
Driven by ex BTCC racer Kelvin Burt the test also proved valuable as the wet dry conditions meant Burt was able to test tyre suppliers Dunlop's larger 18-inch wet weather race tyre it has developed for the new breed of NGTC-spec cars that will debut on the grid this coming season for the first time.
More testing of the GPR Motorsport Avensis which has recently gone to the MIRA aerodynamic analysis facility to establish a baseline rear wing setting for all NGTC-spec cars which will further save teams building machines to the new regulations both time and development costs is scheduled for more running at Brands and Thruxton in the coming weeks.
However the NGTC Avensis will not be the only ones at the Thruxton 2 day test next week with Motorsport.com being their on hand to check up the teams progress towards the start of the season. So be sure to return to see what teams and drivers are out stepping up their season preparations.