By Pat Cranham - BTCC reporter
A record 27-car grid will enter the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, the highest number for 20 years. Cars from Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Proton, SEAT, Toyota, Vauxhall and Volkswagen will all be represented on the 2011 grid which is another record, beating the previous record of 9 manufacturers as they battle around 9 of the toughest circuits in the UK.
The BTCC continues to evolve, excite and deliver; it’s going to be a truly memorable season, starting at Brands Hatch on 3 April.
Series Director Alan Gow is clearly very pleased of this fact and in front of a packed media room said, “I’m very, very proud about the way our 2011 season is taking shape. The fact our entry list includes ten different makes and 13 different models of cars – a record for the BTCC in the two-litre era – in what still remains a challenging financial period is, quite frankly, incredible. The BTCC is (by far) the most watched form of national motor racing in the UK – and for us to continue to reach new heights is terrific news for British motor sport as a whole. Full credit must go to all of our teams, drivers and sponsors for their incredible.”
The BTCC will also now benefit from unrivalled coverage from ITV4, which is available on HD as they cover the full day’s racing, including the support races from all 10-race weekends. On top of this for the first time the qualifying on the Saturday will be streamed live on ITV’s website. Gow is also quick to acknowledge the part ITV have played in the BTCC’s recent success along with official title sponsor and tyre supplier Dunlop and finished by saying, “Much of all this success is, of course, down to ITV’s and Dunlop’s continued support of and enthusiasm for the championship as well as the huge media exposure the championship receives elsewhere. Similarly, nor should the contribution of all our other partners be underestimated. ITV’s commitment in particular is extraordinary – having raised its levels of live coverage in recent years, we will now be joining other high-profile sports with coverage in High-Definition, which will only add even further to the spectacle. The BTCC continues to evolve, excite and deliver; it’s going to be a truly memorable season, starting at Brands Hatch on 3 April.”
There were no more shock announcements on the day, however it was at last confirmed that Andy Neate would partner Tom Chilton at Team Aon in their new ‘Global’ Ford Focus Touring. There is also an entry for a third Team Aon Focus to join in later through the with Team boss Mike Earle confirming that like already reported Phil Glew is a contender along with several other drivers.
Reigning Clio Champion Dave Newsham will be the only driver competing for Geoff Still Racing despite the team having bought at least 2 of last seasons Airwaves BMW While there is a similar story at Special Tuning Racing where despite having 4 Seat Leons at their disposal Tom Boardman will be their sole entry.
West Surrey Racing unveiled eBbay Motors as their main sponsor for the season after smaller sponsorship from them last year in the BTCC although they did sponsor Colin Turkington in last years WTCC. Sadly though there will only be two BMW teams on the grid with Forster Motorsport not appearing on the list. The other no show was from Bamboo Engineering in their Chevrolet Lacettis despite originally stating their intentions to run 2 cars one for Harry Vaulkhard. Vaulkhard posted on his Facebook page, “Sadly (for me at least) I won't be at BTCC media day tomorrow! I'm still working on sponsors but hope to be out shortly.”
This season will also be the first year where full NGTC cars are able to enter the series. GPR Motorsport over the winter have been busy building Toyota Avensis’ for Speedworks and Dynojet as well as building two Audi A4’s for Rob Austin Racing. Sadly the two Audi’s, one due to be driven by Dave Pinkney were not present today however Tony Hughes was able to give his Speedworks Avensis a first run albeit just a few shakedown laps while reigning Ginetta G50 champion Frank Wrathall was present with his completed Dynojet Avensis although it wasn’t able to run yet.
The media day was also the first opportunity to see all the cars in their full livery. Silverline Chevrolet, Go Mobile, Techspeed, WSR and Special Tuning were among those to reveal their new colour however as expected it was Tony Gilham’s Triple 8 Vectra that was the most striking.
Gilham, famous for his Pink and Green livery from his Porsche days has continued with his tradition and certainly won’t go unnoticed during his rookie year. And if you like the car uniquely Gilham has announced that this car could be yours after the season and you can go on his personal website where there will be a raffle with full details coming shortly.
After all the media activities were completed in the morning Silverstone then opened its gates for the public at 1pm for the annual media day event testing. For a report on the test please click here.