BTCC battle heads to Donington Park

The latest exhilarating chapter of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will be played out this weekend (April 28/29), with Donington Park providing the backdrop for rounds four, five and six.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the series kicked into life at Brands Hatch in blockbuster fashion at the start of the month and that level of excitement is set to continue under the flightpath of East Midlands airport.

Three breathtaking races around the Kent venue brought three different winners as Jack Goff, Senna Proctor and Tom Ingram all topped the rostrum. Such is the competitive nature of this years grid, nobody visited the podium more than once – meaning a total of nine different drivers picked up silverware.

Further proof of how open the BTCC is this year is that the top ten in the championship standings sees ten different marques operated by ten different teams filling those spots. At the helm of the points arriving at the second event of the year is Speedworks Motorsport’s Ingram.

Adding a race win to a pair of solid points finishes at the curtain-raiser, the Toyota Avensis driver holds a slender three-point buffer over fellow Brands Hatch winner Goff and will carry 75kgs of success ballast into qualifying and race one.

Scoring a win at Donington Park last year, the Independent champion will be keen to further cement himself as the man to beat in the early stages; however challenges are set to come from all angles.

At the wheel of his Honda Civic Type R, Goff showcased that he isn’t a man to count out this year and he will be sighting further silverware for WIX Racing with Eurotech.

Adam Morgan and Rob Austin both scored podiums at Brands Hatch and the pair will be looking for more of the same in their respective machines. Despite expecting a tough time, reigning champion Ashley Sutton underlined his quality at the opening event to descend on Donington Park firmly in the mix in fifth.

Double champion Colin Turkington is another top name that will be eyeing victory to further ignite his title battle. Power Maxed Racing’s Proctor achieved that feat in a race that will live long in the memory for years to come having charged from P27 on slick tyres and a drying track.

Ollie Jackson, Rory Butcher and Mike Bushell round out the names that will carry success ballast into the weekend, virtue of their respective positions in the championship.

In total, 25 out of the 32 drivers competing this year having already scored points – once again echoing the level of competitiveness that the BTCC boasts this year.

Beyond the top ten, a host of names will be looking to strike at Donington Park and thrust themselves into contention. The likes of Andrew Jordan, Matt Neal, Sam Tordoff, Tom Chilton, Rob Collard, Josh Cook, Dan Cammish and Jason Plato, to name a few, will be notable drivers to look out for.

The introduction of the Dunlop hard option tyre will also no doubt play its part over the course of what is set to be a thrilling weekend of tin top action from Britain’s premier motor racing series.

TOCA test offers BTCC teaser as Thruxton prepares for top-line touring car action

Thruxton welcomed the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship to Hampshire yesterday as the majority of the grid took the opportunity to rack up the miles ahead of their competitive return to the UK’s fastest race circuit, 19-20 May.

The BTCC celebrates its 60th, Diamond Jubilee, anniversary this year and the country’s premier motor racing series has already shown signs that it will be another vintage, and fiercely competitive campaign after a storming opening race weekend at Brands Hatch – with nine different drivers making the podium, three different winners and 10 marques represented in the standings’ top ten.

Thruxton itself celebrates its 50thAnniversary, and the beloved circuit, affectionately referred to as the Hampshire Speedbowl, always yields an unparalleled weekend’s action. Its flat-out characteristics are so unique that TOCA runs an annual test-day for the BTCC and its support series – Renault UK Clio Cup, the Ginetta championships and the F4 British Championship – ensuring all involved are up to speed ahead of their return in five weeks’ time.

Twenty-five of the BTCC’s finest drivers jumped at the chance to rack up the laps (over 1,100 in all on the day), among those, incumbent champion Ashley Sutton (Adrian Flux Subaru Racing) and his team-mate – BTCC legend Jason Plato, Halfords Yuasa Racing’s triple title-winner Matt Neal and Dan Cammish, plus past champs Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan in the West Surrey Racing BMWs.

At the end of the day it was Sutton atop the timesheets, commenting later that evening that his heart rate had finally returned to normal levels after the high-speed Hampshire test!

“That was unexpected, I’ll be honest,” said Sutton. “It’s been a fast day in general and everyone’s been quick. We’ve come here looking for track time and I think we’ve found a few key things. It’s been a general test, not just a Thruxton test.

“We hadn’t done mileage prior to Season Launch at Donington Park, then Brands Hatch later that week but that was rained off. We’ve come to make up time on the others and we’ve achieved some key things and we hope some of those will carry over to Donington.”

Between the two sessions, eight drivers ran inside 2017’s BTCC qualifying lap record time set by the Honda Civic Type R of Matt Neal, so all signs are pointing to a fastest-ever race weekend come May.

Parts of Thruxton’s stunning new £2 million state-of-the-art hospitality facility, The Thruxton Centre, will be open for business by the time the BTCC makes its entry ahead of an official opening at 12:00 midday on Sunday 3 June amid a weekend of 50thAnniversary celebrations. Highlights there include 15 special races as well as high-speed demonstrations from Williams’ 1983 FW08C and other iconic racing cars and bikes. There will be appearances, too, from a number of high-profile guests including Murray Walker and Nigel Mansell.

“It’s always a delight to welcome Britain’s biggest championship on four wheels back to Thruxton,” said Thruxton Group Managing Director, Bill Coombs. “It’s a series that continually produces a fantastic weekend’s racing, with 32 cars and some of the best tin-top protagonists around throwing up a real treat. The test yesterday gave us a little glimpse of what’s to come – it’s going to be a quick one this year, that’s for sure.

“Having had a keen eye on its opening race weekend a fortnight ago, it looks like it’ll be an even more fascinating prospect around the quick stuff here come May. I wouldn’t dare try and pick a winner!

“The track itself is a favourite of many of the drivers, it’s a fast and flowing test of balance, bravery and poise plus a healthy dollop of slipstreaming!

“For 2018, in our 50thAnniversary year, we’re extremely proud to be able to open The Thruxton Centre – our brand-new, top-of-the-line facility comprises a restaurant and bar, exhibition spaces, function rooms, hosting and hospitality suites and a spectacular viewing terrace.

“Parts of the centre will be open for use at the BTCC race weekend but its official opening takes place over the weekend of 2/3 June – as part of a special meeting commemorating our golden anniversary.”

Advance tickets for the BTCC’s visit, 19-20 May, are available from £12, with weekend passes with paddock access running to just £40. Saturday grandstand seats are an additional £5. Accompanied children aged 15 and under will be admitted free of charge.

BTCC delivers memorable season-opener at Brands Hatch

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship kicked off the 2018 season with three high-octane, edge-of-the-seat races at Brands Hatch this past weekend (April 7/8).

Months of anticipation, hype and pre-season testing came to a head at the Kent circuit as the series’ 60th anniversary year roared into life.

Boasting a capacity entry list, the first qualifying session of the year brought with it its own drama as Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Dan Cammish dipped under the lap record to score provisional pole, before then losing his best time due to failing to stop for a red flag upon entering the pit lane.

That promoted Jack Goff to the top of the times and the WIX Racing with Eurotech driver was unchallenged at the summit, going on to record his third consecutive pole position.

Race day saw wet conditions greet teams and spectators alike, further adding to the opening round spectacle. Blasting off the line from the front row, Goff converted pole position into a lead that he would ultimately never lose in the tricky conditions.

Fellow front row start Sam Tordoff saw his return to the series cut short as he struggled with wheel spin off the line and was then caught up in a collision at the end of the lap, ending his charge.

At the front, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan settled into second and third, the latter dispatching Cammish early on. Turkington soon began to hunt down Goff’s Civic Type R but the Independent driver drove a near-perfect race, defending where he need to and ultimately going on to take victory.

With conditions becoming ever-more difficult to judge, race two turned out to be one of the classic BTCC races. A majority of the front runners elected to stick with the Dunlop wet tyres whilst several further back decided to gamble and run the Dunlop soft option compound.

Turkington’s chances of glory ended before the race even started as his BMW went into limp mode, forcing him to pit and dropping a lap down. Team-mate Jordan launched his 1-Series into the lead from third with Goff and Ingram following.

The trio enjoyed a stellar scrap with Ingram leapfrogging the 2013 champion; further back reigning champion Ashley Sutton slotted into fourth and soon began closing on the top three.

Whilst conditions continued to improve and lap times dropped, it became apparent that the race was only just beginning as those on slicks began to carve their way through. Senna Proctor and Aiden Moffat were the big movers, lapping more than three seconds quicker than everyone else at one stage.

On lap 22 of 27, Proctor and Moffat were on the back of the leaders and took no time in dispatching them. Jake Hill, Ollie Jackson and Tom Boardman pounced just a few corners later and it was soon a five-car battle for the lead.

For Moffat, his aspirations of topping the rostrum came to an end after contact with Proctor sent him into the barrier, however he was able to continue. Proctor meanwhile held his nerve to score his and Power Maxed Racing’s maiden victory in the BTCC, with Hill and Jackson scoring their first podiums too.

Race three didn’t hold the same drama but it did produce another three different podium finishers as Ingram continued his Brands Hatch love affair with a seventh career victory. Adam Morgan and Rob Austin rounded off the podium, scoring an emotional podium in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Following the opening weekend of the season, Ingram holds a slender three point championship lead heading to Donington Park with Goff and Morgan hot on his heels.

For the full classification of results, click here.

Rounds four, five and six of 2018 take place at the Leicestershire circuit on April 28/29.

Ultra-competitive BTCC set for Brands Hatch curtain-raiser

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns this weekend (April 7/8) at Brands Hatch with arguably one of the most competitive grids in the modern era set to do battle.

In what is a milestone year for the series as it celebrates its 60th anniversary, another capacity 32-car grid will duke it out for the most coveted prize in British motorsport, starting at the Kent venue where three races will be run.

An unparalleled five champions, four manufacturer entrants and 17 race winners make up the bumper line-up, which will hit the track in anger for the first time.

Heading up this year’s entry list is reigning champion Ashley Sutton, who will adorn the prestigious number one on the side of his Subaru Levorg. Remaining with Adrian Flux Subaru Racing for a second successive season, the 24-year-old will look to make it back-to-back triumphs with BMR Racing and is joined once again by double champion Jason Plato.

The manufacturer-backed team are down to three entrants this year with Josh Price filling the final seat, running under the Autoglym Racing Academy banner.

West Surrey Racing are back with the BMW 1-Series and a unchanged line-up with Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan flying the flag for the Sunbury-based squad.

Elsewhere it is all change at Halfords Yuasa Racing as the brand new Honda Civic Type R makes its debut in the BTCC. Triple champion Matt Neal remains at the helm of the championship-winning outfit but has a new team-mate in the shape of Daniel Cammish, who replaces three-time title winner Gordon Shedden.

The final Manufacturer/Constructor entrant for the forthcoming season is Power Maxed Racing, who once again fields a pair of Vauxhall Astra’s for reigning Jack Sears Trophy holder Senna Proctor and the returning Josh Cook.

A number of Independent entries will run Honda Civic Type R’s this year too with Jack Goff and Brett Smith locked in at Eurotech Racing, now with WIX sponsorship. Matt Simpson will join them both after switching from Team Dynamics.

BTC Norlin Racing have swapped their Chevrolet Cruze’s for Type R’s and have secured the services of the former Independents champion James Nash, who returns to the series for the first time since 2011. Northern Irishman Chris Smiley remains with the squad for a second full season.

Motorbase Performance will once again run three cars, albeit slightly different to last year. The iconic RS badge has returned to the BTCC on the Ford Focus’ with Tom Chilton and James Cole running under the Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher banner. After a one year sabbatical, 2016 runner-up Sam Tordoff is back and will pilot the third car for Team GardX Racing.

Finishing third overall and wrapping up both Independent titles for Speedworks Motorsport last year, Tom Ingram is set to be one to watch as he bids for outright glory in his Toyota Avensis. Ingram will be the only Toyota on the grid as Rob Austin and HMS Racing switch to the eagerly anticipated Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

AMD Tuning have expanded to four cars this year having acquired the two MG6 GT’s formerly run by Triple Eight Racing. Rory Butcher and the returning Tom Boardman will drive the race-winning machines whilst Ollie Jackson and rookie Sam Smelt will drive the teams Audi s3’s.

Another outfit that expands to four cars this year is Team HARD with their quartet of Volkswagen CC’s. Renault UK Clio Cup champion Mike Bushell, Jake Hill, Bobby Thompson and Michael Caine will spearhead Tony Gilham’s quest for silverware.

Podiums will be expected from Ciceley Motorsport this year too as Adam Morgan returns in his Mercedes Benz A-Class, and the former race winner has a team-mate in the shape of Tom Oliphant. Aiden Moffat will also be back in his Mercedes with Laser Tools Racing.

Rounding out the capacity entry list for this year is Stephen Jelley, who has remained with Team Parker Racing. Embarking on his second season with the Independent squad, Jelley will return to his BTCC roots and drive a BMW – a former West Surrey Racing 1-Series.

TOCA unveils state-of-the-art Safety Truck

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Series Organisers, TOCA, have revealed its all-new ‘TOCA Safety Truck’ that will be used during the 2018 season.

Imported from the USA solely for TOCA events, the state-of-the-art Ford F250 is the only one of its type in Europe and is equipped with the very latest and best in rescue and cutting equipment.

Undergoing a host of tests in recent weeks, the vehicle made its operational debut at the BTCC Season Launch at Donington Park on March 27 and will be a permanent fixture of the paddock and pit lane across all ten race weekends this year.

The truck will be deployed to any incident where needed, not only in the BTCC but also across all support championships that feature on the TOCA package.

Manning the truck will be a dedicated and fully trained TOCA safety team and paramedic, with Safety Team Crew Chief Martin Hunt and TOCA Medical Director Dr Paul Trafford overseeing all operations.

In a ground-breaking deal with TOCA, Holmatro is supplying their latest state-of-the-art rescue set, including the Inclined Cutter, which is a unique design to Holmatro. The set will be continually updated as further new tool innovations and technologies are developed.

Holmatro is the world leader in producing advanced rescue equipment, including the hydraulic Cutters and other tools in widespread use across top-level motorsport including the INDYCAR Series in the United States.

Elsewhere, MacTools and its sister company DeWalt, global leaders in their own fields, are also providing a full range of battery-powered equipment and other essential tools.

BTCC Series Director, Alan Gow, said: “I’m incredibly proud of the new ‘TOCA Safety Team’ truck. It represents an investment of nearly £200,000 by TOCA and its partners, underlining our real and ongoing commitment to the very highest level of safety, rescue and UK motorsport.

“This state-of-the-art rescue vehicle carries the very latest in cutting and rescue equipment and, most importantly, will be manned by the same dedicated crew at all events. Our team have worked with the BTCC for many years and I consider them to be the ‘best of the best’.

“This introduction provides the BTCC and its supporting series’ with the very latest equipment and expertise available anywhere in the world for when dealing with serious incidents.”

TOCA Medical Director, Dr Paul Trafford, added: “TOCA has always supported the safety initiatives we have made over the years and the ‘TOCA Safety Team’ rescue truck is going to make a huge difference to our ability to respond to any serious incidents in the British Touring Car Championship and its support series’.

“It really is state-of-the-art equipment from Holmatro, MacTools and DeWalt. This will be complimented by the latest medical monitoring equipment supplied by Remote Diagnostic Technologies (RDT), operated by a dedicated crew, making the vehicle very special indeed.”

BTCC launches for 60th anniversary season

Following months of anticipation and pre-season testing, the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has officially launched for 2018.

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of one of the most much-loved and prolific touring car categories in the world, the forthcoming campaign is set to be another blockbuster affair.

Four manufacturer-backed teams are joined by a host of Independent-run squads, further cementing the strength in depth of the series.

Ashley Sutton enters the year as the man to beat, donning the mantel of defending champion after producing a stunning campaign in 2017 to lift the title in just his second season. Running the famed number one on the side of his Subaru Levorg, Sutton will seek to become a double champion, but will have a whole host of competitors to take on.

Former champions Jason Plato, Matt Neal, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan will all be keen to add to their impressive CV’s. Elsehwere, the likes of Tom Ingram, Jack Goff, Sam Tordoff, Tom Chilton and Rob Austin lead the long list of former race winners (17 in total) that will all be looking to be amongst the championship fight.

In addition to the 30 races that will take place across ten weekend’s at some of the countries top circuits, a special 60-mile race will take place in the third encounter at Snetterton in late July.

Titled the ‘Diamond Double’ race, all cars will run on a base weight and double points will be on offer, further adding to the drama of the 2018 championship battle.

Alan Gow, BTCC Series Director, said: “Our capacity line-up for the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, with a remarkable record 17 race-winners, yet again underlines the championship’s strength and depth.

“Last year saw the incredible rise-and-rise of eventual champion Ash Sutton, and he is just one of an ever-growing number of emerging talents in the BTCC. The mix of young guns taking on the established stars has been one of the fascinating stories in recent years, and that looks set to continue in 2018.

“Once again, we expect to see battles throughout the field with the Manufacturers’, Independents’ and Jack Sears Trophy providing as much entertainment as the fight for the overall Drivers’ title.

“Whilst firmly focussing on the future we are also immensely proud of the BTCC’s illustrious 60-year history, which we will be celebrating throughout 2018. We are delighted to have confirmed the ‘Diamond Double’ race at Snetterton as part of these diamond jubilee celebrations, and look forward to a number of other 60th anniversary activities during the year.

“This is a truly phenomenal period for the BTCC. The continued and unrivalled support from Dunlop, ITV, IHG and our host of loyal partners remains the envy of comparable motor sport series’ around the world.

“Add to this our incredible fanbase, the media interest that you see here today and of course the unparalleled excitement provided on-track… the BTCC remains the greatest show in British motorsport.”

The opening rounds of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship take place on April 7/8 at Brands Hatch