James Nash will race in the World Touring Car Championship this year for Team Aon alongside Tom Chilton, the team has announced today.
The Arena Motorsport-run squad will make the switch from the British championship to the World series this year, and will bring two British drivers with them. The team will use a new revised version of the Global Ford Focus they raced in the BTCC last year, powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine built by Mountune.
Chilton had already been expected to race for the team, for whom his father Grahame is a major partner. 26-year-old Chilton had raced Fords in the BTCC with Team Aon for three years, winning races at Knockhill and Silverstone in 2011 with the new-style Focus.
Also aged 26, Nash joins Chilton at the team after winning the BTCC Independents' title last year, taking the title away from 2010 winner Chilton in the process. After racing on the WTCC support bill in the SEAT Leon Eurocup, Nash made his BTCC debut in 2009 in an RML-run Chevrolet, before spending the following two years racing a Vauxhall Vectra for Triple 8.
Chilton and Nash both drove the car at Valencia last week, and the team will move onto test at Guadix and Estoril later this month before the season begins at Monza on 11th March.
“It's great to know that we have the two most recent BTCC Independent champions in our team,” said team boss Mike Earle. “To have that kind of experience and ability holds us in good stead for our first season in the World Touring Car Championship. We've spent a great deal of time and effort in designing and building this car for the upcoming season and can't wait for it to start.”
Chilton said: “I'm incredibly excited about the WTCC. It's a new challenge for me and the team, but I know we've got the experience and the tools to do a good job at that level. It's going to be a different season, not knowing the tracks or the competition like we did in the BTCC, but that's part of the appeal – new challenges and new targets.
“The initial time I've had with the new WTCC version of the car has given me a lot of optimism. The team has a tremendous amount of experience with the older versions of the car and it has just been a logical development with a lot of the new parts. I'm confident we can take the fight to the established teams even in our first year.”
Nash added: “I'm really excited and pleased to be moving on to the next step of touring cars. I've had a great time in the BTCC, however everyone has aspirations and this was ultimately the next step in my career. I believe that I'm in the best position to have a successful 2012 season with Team Aon and I'm looking forward to my first season in the WTCC.”