This year's British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) curtain will rise on one of the biggest and most diverse grids in several years at the opening round at Brands Hatch next month. The NGTC rules, and renewed interest in the series, have brought new drivers and teams into Britain’s premier tin-top series.
Among the first of the new entrants to put their metaphorical hat into the ring were Dynojet, with Frank Wrathall Jr. moving up from the Ginetta G50 Cup after a championship winning season, an achievement he defines as a “massive boost” and “a real achievement”.
However, in a Q&A with the driver the frustration was evident as he and the team have yet to receive the NGTC Toyota Avensis with less than a month before the first round and less than a fortnight before the series' media day.
“We are hoping that we will have it in time for the BTCC Media Day on 24 March,” Wrathall Jr. explained. “It's a frustrating wait because if we had the car now we'd be in pretty good shape. But I take the view that the first few rounds were always going to be challenging, no matter how long we had the car.”
“I'm still very busy, I have plenty to do getting everything ready equipment-wise, and being as organised as we can before the first race. I obviously have great help, especially with my sponsors Graphix sorting the team clothing and the new team truck, which we are getting painted and liveried.”
The lack of the Avensis has not kept Wrathall off the track in open pre-season testing as the 24-year-old works to adapt to front-wheel drive machinery after racing in the rear-wheel drive Ginettas. While other teams have been testing 2011 cars Wrathall has been running in a hired Clio Cup car, logging four days at the wheel at four different tracks the BTCC will visit over the course of the season.
“It is very different. It takes a little time to gel in any new car,” said Wrathall. “It took me a while to get to grips with it but by the time I had done a day I was quite comfortable. I have also been having a bit of tuition from Rob Huff to help speed up my learning process with a bit of coaching, which worked out great.”
With the orange Avensis due out in time for the media day, Wrathall and Dynojet have a tightly packed test schedule ahead of the opening round of the season at Brands Hatch on April 2-3.
“If all goes according to plan there's no reason why we shouldn't get out testing three times between the media day and the first rounds,” he said. “We will have to do the best we can when we get the car. When I was testing the Clio at Thruxton the Avensis test car was out: it looked great. They are getting through a lot of testing with it, and that's reassuring for us. I have also been to see it at GPR Motorsport's factory: the level of workmanship on the car is spot on. I was really impressed.”
“I'm expecting the first few meetings to be incredibly difficult.” Wrathall concedes of a season that will see as many as five other new teams on the grid, including another NGTC Toyota for Speedworks – another squad pushing up after Ginetta success. “If we can improve at every meeting and not stop improving that will be the sort of achievement I am after. If we were able to break into the top 10 that would be an incredible achievement for our first season. Eventually I want to win in touring cars and to make a name for myself.”