This season will see three teams using Toyota Avensis’ contest the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after it was confirmed that Frank Wrathall with his Dynojet team are set to enter the series for the third season running. While rival Toyota team Speedworks is a step closer to confirming their second driver with Lea Wood jetting off with the team to Portugal where they are conducting a two day test.
After winning the 2010 Ginetta G50 cup Wrathall and his Dynojet team were one of the first teams to commit to the Next Generation Touring Car spec cars to enter the 2011 championship. However the team was instantly on the back foot with late delivery of their cars adding to the task of trying to develop an all new specification car compared to the established teams using their tried and tested super 2000 machines.
This season we are ready to go with the Toyota.
However by the beginning of the second half of the season the team was on the pace with Wrathall getting on the podium at Snetterton with the Independent’s victory which was followed by a number of outright podium finishes during a hugely successful second half of the season.
2012 was meant to be a year where Wrathall could challenge on a regular basis but again the car didn’t hit the track until the first round of the championship after a new car was built over the winter. A single podium at Thruxton was the highlight for Wrathall during a tough first half of the year. Wrathall enjoyed his maiden BTCC pole at Snetterton which he converted into a second place finish but he couldn’t lose his or the team’s bad luck until the final race of the year when he scored his maiden victory in the practically dark Brands Hatch.
The 26 year old from Preston now admits he heads into his 3rd BTCC season in his best shape to date and said, “We are in good shape - better than we have ever started a season before. In 2011 and 2012 our car was not ready for the first races, and we fumbled our way through them with nothing to show for it. This season we are ready to go with the Toyota; the chassis is really good, and was quick on quite a lot of occasions last year, and we have not spent the winter trying to reinvent the wheel or to be too clever. We have made a few refinements here and there, which have tested well, and hopefully we will have a much better start to the championship.”
Like Dynojet 2013 will be Speedworks 3rd season in the BTCC after running Tony Hughes for 2011 and 2012 alongside another former Ginetta champion Adam Morgan in 2012. Since then Hughes has announced his retirement from the series but will remain as one of the main sponsors for this year with Morgan departing to form his own team in another Toyota.
Fans favourite Paul O’Neil was the preferred choice for the seat following his two meetings for the team last year where he achieved the team’s best finish to date a 4th at Knockhill. Sadly for everyone concerned O’Neil has recently had to admit defeat in finding the required budget for 2013 and the seat to partner new team driver double race winner with ES Racing from last season Dave Newsham remains open.
Now favourite for the seat is Wood as he has joined the team along with Newsham to conduct a two day test for the team in Portugal. Wood joined the series in 2010 following a year in the Clio cup in 2008 with a best finish of second having previously raced in hotrods and taking the Silhouette championship in 2007.
Despite running an ageing BTC-spec Honda Integra Wood caught the eye with some impressive displays and finished a best of 7th in the wet at Oulton Park during his two years with the cars. For 2012 the 28 year old from Hereford stepped up with a Vauxhall Vectra run under the name of Binz Racing again impressing with a best finish of 5th again at Oulton although he was cruelly denied a podium at Snetterton with mechanical failure when in second.
Wood has already tested the car alongside Newsham at a cold Donington late last year and would very much like the test to turn into a full drive for 2013 saying, “I had the chance to test with Speedworks last year and it went well, so it’s good to have the opportunity to go to Portugal and spend more time with them this week. This season I’d really like to get into a NGTC car and have been talking to the team about possibly doing a deal, so it’s a no-brainer for me to take up the opportunity to go and spend two days behind the wheel. As it was very cold when we tested at Donington, I’m looking forward to seeing what the Toyota can do in better weather conditions and hopefully I can give the team some good feedback on the car that will help them for the season ahead. Things are tight for everyone when it comes to putting a budget together but I’d love to have the chance to race with Speedworks this season and if I am able to put together a deal to get in the car, the time I’ll be spending in the Toyota this week could prove to be vital.”
Team boss Christian Dick is also looking forward to having Wood on board for the test and hasn’t ruled out having him on board for 2013 but admits that it all comes down to budget and said, “Lea is one of the drivers we are speaking to about the second car, but as ever, it is down to budget. However, when it comes to the test this week, we have two cars and it would have made no sense to leave one back at base and only bring Dave’s car out to Portugal; we need them both on track to maximise the time we have available to us. Lea has experience of racing in the BTCC, has shown that he is quick and has driven the Toyota before, so he was the perfect choice to come out and join us this week. We’re looking forward to having him onboard for a few days and we’ll see what happens beyond that.”