BTCC: Series set for record breaking year following official unveiling

31 cars will take the green flag for the start of the 2014 season.

One of the most anticipated Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championships in history was officially unveiled to the Media at Donington Park yesterday (Tuesday).

A capacity grid of 31 cars was announced, the most since the single class format was formed in 1991. The grid will feature 11 different Marques in Ford, VW, Vauxhall, BMW, Audi, Toyota, Chevrolet, Proton and, for the first time in the series history, Mercedes as well as Honda and MG who continuing to lead the entry list as the two full manufacturer entries.

While other Championships continue to struggle with numbers and calibre of drivers, the BTCC continues goes from strength to strength with its strongest ever driver line up featuring 13 previous winners of BTCC racers and the magnificent 7.

For the first time in the series history the season will start with 7 former BTCC Champions after former double BTCC champions Fabrizio Giovanardi and Alain Menu have both been drawn back to the series to join exiting champions Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden, Matt Neal Colin Turkington and 2013 Champion Andrew Jordan.

Jason Plato, MG KX Momentum Racing
Jason Plato, MG KX Momentum Racing

Photo by: Pat Cranham

In front of a packed Media, series boss Alan Gow said that these were times to cherish saying, “These years are the ones we will be talking about in 10 or 20 years’ time. We have seen an explosion in the BTCC over the last couple of years. These will be the good old days.” Such is the demand to be on the grid that for the first time TOCA have introduced licences that all teams will need to have in order to compete. TOCA had hoped to give out 30 licences and keep two spare however they ended up giving out 31 with the 32nd ‘TBL’ licence having been held back for use as a ‘loan’ in case a team needs it later in the season.

As a result of the new licence system there were no new teams unveiled on the day, although the final driver for the 2014 season was confirmed with Mat Jackson announced as Giovanardi’s Airwaves Racing team mate.

Jackson has been with the Motorbase team since 2010 but had looked likely to be out of a drive after the Italian’s arrival and the team preferring Tom Onslow-Cole who drove the last 3 races last season.

Despite promo images already taken, Onslow-Cole then opted to pursue a career in GT racing allowing Jackson to continue with the team. The decision to retain Jackson was literally last minute with Jackson himself only getting the call from team boss Dave Bartrum between the official driver announcement at 9pm and the start of testing at 1pm.

The class of 2014
The class of 2014

Photo by: Pat Cranham

Despite the late call Jackson was able to get to Donington Park in time for 1pm and joined in official testing with the rest of his rivals although he only managed limited laps with his car only turning its wheels for the first time.

The morning was set aside strictly for Media access only and following the driver interviews many of the leading entries took the covers off their 2014 machines; while there were also the first ever sightings in public of Lea Wood’s newly built Houseman Racing Toyota Avensis, Chris Stockton’s Power Maxed BTC Racing Chevrolet Cruze and Robb Holland’s Rotek Racing Audi S3, as he becomes the first American to take part in the series on a full time basis.

Following all the morning’s media activities the circuit was opened to the public where official testing started at 1pm where it was hoped that we might get a better idea of who will be the man to beat in 2014, however the great British weather put paid to that with heavy rain starting after an hour, remaining wet for the rest of the session meaning some drivers such as Jason Plato in his MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save did not set a lap in dry conditions.

Ending the 4hr test on top, as he did at the end of 2013, was reigning champion Jordan in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic. Following testing Jordan described the weather as “frustrating” but valuable and said, “It was a little bit frustrating. We were about to put a new set of tyres on when it started to rain – it’s always nice to end up quickest, but it wasn’t really a proper day because of the weather and we had quite a lot to try out that we haven’t been able to do. It means that we’ve still got some unanswered questions going to Brands Hatch, but we know we’ve just got to get on with it. The car felt fabulous in the wet, so it was a case of trying a few things and then parking it up.”

With some teams heading to Silverstone for more testing when the rain started their day stopped including the Honda Yuasa Racing duo Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal who opted out re-appearing on track.

Matt Neal, Honda Yuasa Racing
Matt Neal, Honda Yuasa Racing

Photo by: Pat Cranham

In the opening hour Shedden did manage to set second fastest time but also found the gravel at McLeans bringing out a red flag in the process. Stockton also ended up in the gravel at the same corner bringing out the only other red flag, while Jack Clarke in his Crabbie’s Racing Ford Focus and Jack Goff in his RCIB Insurance Racing Vauxhall Insgnia also fell into trouble, running on the grass downhill through the Crainer Kerbs damaging their cars eliminating them from the test early on.

Finishing 3rd on his return to the series was Alain Menu in his Chrome Edition Restart Racing VW Passat. Although the times didn’t mean much due to the rain the 1997/2000 BTCC champion was delighted to be back in the series although he didn’t complete many laps due to the rain and said, “The times don’t mean too much – it was mixed conditions and we don’t know what the other guys were doing. I actually only did three proper timed laps in the dry, and we didn’t do any wet running because we’re testing tomorrow. The guys have worked really hard though and have done a great job. It’s good to be back – there was a really good turnout and the atmosphere is great. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been very excited about this year, and the number of fans here for the test was really impressive also. It’s going to be a good season!”

Ending up in 4th was Adam Morgan in his Wix Racing Mercedes. This will be the first time a Mercedes has ever run in the series and after a hugely encouraging pre-season Morgan once again impressed in both the wet and dry at Donington.

Rounding out the top 5 was the first MG driven by Sam Tordoff. Tordoff completed his lap in the dry unlike his team mate Plato however both MGs were quickest at the end of the session on the drying track, a condition that has always proved MG’s downfall perhaps at last ominously for the rest of the field proving they have unlocked how to drive in drying conditions.

Some teams now will continue to test up until the first race of the year, which will now take part at Brands Hatch in just over one week’s time.

For full images from Media day where you will get the chance to see all the cars for the first time in their 2014 livery please click [[|here]].

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About this article
Series BTCC
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Jason Plato , Colin Turkington , Matt Neal , Chris Stockton , Alan Gow , Robb Holland , Jack Clarke , Tom Onslow-Cole , Gordon Shedden , Andrew Jordan , Alain Menu , Mat Jackson , Lea Wood , Sam Tordoff , Adam Morgan , Jack Goff
Article type Breaking news
Tags audi, btcc, chevrolet, ford, proton, sereis preview, toyota, vauxhaull. bmw, vw