Pat Cranham, BTCC correspondent
Today saw the first day of the annual Autosport Show International at the Birmingham NEC. Traditionally the show is a place where many drivers and teams confirm their season’s plans and it was no exception in terms of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with AmD Tuning.com (was Miltek previously) announcing their driver whilst Speedworks confirmed a second car.
We start off with AmD Tuning who today confirmed that Ollie Jackson will pilot their VW Golf for 2012. AmD first entered the series back in 2010 with Shaun Hollamby who had a challenging first season with the Golf failing to score a point, although the Golf quickly became a firm favourite with the fans and Hollamby won the fans favourite trophy as awarded by the official BTCC website.
After the two rounds last season in the Vectra, I knew the BTCC was where I wanted to be full-time in 2012.
Hollamby had been expected to run again in 2011 before a late switch, which saw Tom Onslow-Cole take the wheel, and he quickly scored the team’s first points during round 5 at Donington. The team had their most successful meeting at Thruxton where Onslow-Cole qualified a superb 6th and finished 7th in race 1. Onslow-Cole however didn’t stay around for long and left during the Oulton Park round to rejoin his old Team, Team Aon.
Hollamby who is team boss for AmD during the day briefly returned to the drivers seat for Croft before that was taken over by former Clio Cup Champion Martin Byford who completed the final half of the season.
As for Jackson after a number of years in GT’s and in the Porsche Carrera Cup he got his first taste of the BTCC last season driving the final two meetings of the year in a Vauxhall Vectra driving for Triple 8 Racing. Jackson showed some encouraging pace and just missed out on a point for 11th at Silverstone. After his brief experience of the series Jackson is delighted to have secured a full season and said, “After the two rounds last season in the Vectra, I knew the BTCC was where I wanted to be full-time in 2012 and I’m delighted that I’ve been able to agree a deal with AmD Tuning.com. I’m really pleased to have a deal confirmed nice and early, which will give me time to carry out some decent testing before the opening rounds. Since I moved into car racing, I’ve never had a full testing programme before the season started, so it’s good that I’ll be able to spend some meaningful time behind the wheel of the Golf, especially as I don’t have much experience of front-wheel drive. My initial aim is to see where I stand when we get to Brands Hatch and then make improvements and move forwards. However, the Golf is a proven car that showed good pace in 2011 and my target is to bring home top ten finishes as the year goes on. The team has welcomed me on board and I can’t wait to get started.”
Meanwhile Hollamby is also pleased to have secured Jackson’s services and he admits he was impressed by his performances during those final two meetings and said, “We spoke to a number of drivers about 2012 and are delighted to have agreed a deal with Ollie, and have an agreement in place this early in the year. He’ll get the chance to test the VW Golf in mid-February and that will be the first part of a full test programme ahead of the new season. That is an important part of our plans for 2012 as it will be the first time we have been able to carry out a full testing programme before the season starts. Ollie impressed me last year with his performances in the Triple Eight car when you consider that he hadn’t raced a front-wheel drive machine before. I’m confident that he can help us take further steps forward and help us fight inside the top ten on a regular basis. We have made some tweaks to the Golf over the winter. We know we were down on power a little last year but I’m confident that the regulations will help with that this season and, with Ollie on board, I’m looking forward to a successful 2012.”
The other big BTCC announcement of the day was that Speedworks will enter a second car for Adam Morgan in what will be their second season within the series.
Speedworks entered the BTCC for the first time last season after a number of season’s racing Ginettas with regular driver Tony Hughes in a New Generation Touring Toyota Avensis.
Both Hughes and the team struggled with the new car and as a result missed a number of meetings to develop the car however since the end of the season at Donington they were able to call upon the services of double BTCC champion James Thompson, who was chief test driver of the prototype NGTC Avensis, where apparently he managed to show some encouraging pace out of the Toyota.
I'm very excited and I want to get out on track and in the groove as soon as possible.
Morgan’s drive comes courtesy of Ginetta as a prize for winning the Ginetta supercup last season after a nail biting final race at Silverstone. Morgan has already tested the NGTC Avensis belonging to Dynojet and the 24 year old admitted he cant wait to get started and said, "I'm very excited and I want to get out on track and in the groove as soon as possible. It's hard to say how quickly I'll adapt and what sort of results I can achieve because front-wheel drive is new territory, but I'll be delighted if I can get inside the top 12 during the first few races. I've already driven the Dynojet team's NGTC Avensis and, while it took me a few laps to get used to the feel of the car, I think I adjusted well. On top of that the racing will be different to what I've experienced, but it's a challenge I'll relish."
The show continues until Sunday and tomorrow Motorsport.com’s BTCC correspondent will be present at the show. With many more star drivers expected to attend the show over the next few days be sure to return for any more big announcements as they happen.