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.