With the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and its band of support series’ starting their 2017 season next weekend at Brands Hatch (1/2 April), The Checkered Flag have picked out our top twenty five drivers in the support paddock we feel you should be keeping an eye on over the course of the upcoming campaign.
Part one of our countdown, published yesterday, covered places 25 to 19. If you missed it, you can read it by clicking here.
Today we’re counting you down from 18 to 10. First up, it’s a newcomer to the Clio Cup …..
18. Nathan Harrison (JamSport Racing) – Renault UK Clio Cup
Having won the Clio Cup crown for the first time last season with Ant Whorton-Eales, JamSport are aiming to defend their title with a whole new driving line-up, which includes the exciting addition to the series of reigning MINI Challenge vice-champion Harrison.
In his first season in the headline JCW class, Harrison starred with twelve podium finishes in seventeen races, and while similar success could be tricky in his first season in an ultra-competitive Clio field, the 20 year old could well make a huge impression over the course of the year.
17. Tom Hibbert (Privateer) – Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup
There’s only two drivers on this year’s Supercup grid with previous race-winning experience in the series, and one of those is Hibbert, who has impressively established himself as a series front-runner despite only being a small single-car privateer entrant.
Hibbert’s breakthrough success came in the 2016 season finale at Brands Hatch, but it was no flash in the pan result with eleven other top five finishes having preceded it, and it will be no surprise to see him being a regular contender for race wins this season.
16. James Colburn (PP Motorsport) – Renault UK Clio Cup
In a talent-laden Clio Cup field, experience could be key in this year’s title race, and few drivers ever have contested more UK Clio races than Colburn, who at the age of just 24 already has over 100 starts and a quartet of top five championship finishes under his belt.
While he hasn’t competed full-time in the series since 2014, a pair of top five finishes in a two weekend spell late last season showed he’s still a potent force with PP Motorsport, who he hopes to turn into title contenders in only their second Clio campaign.
15. Carl Boardley (CBM with Xentek) – Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup
Boardley’s raw pace has never been in doubt since he joined the Supercup grid back in 2013, but it was towards the end of last season that the former National Hot Rod World Champion really showed what he was made of, with two breakthrough wins in the last four races.
Those standout results has raised the expectation levels for Boardley as he enters the new season in partnership with Xentek – the masterminds of Tom Ingram’s 2013 title win – and he could well be pushing for regular race wins and ultimately a championship challenge this year.
14. Tom Oliphant (Redline Racing) – Porsche Carrera Cup GB
After a tougher than expected transition from the Ginetta GT4 Supercup to Porsche’s last season, Oliphant heads into the new season eager to push forwards and once again show all the attributes that took him to the 2015 Supercup crown.
Oliphant showed great front-running consistency in his maiden CCGB campaign, finishing outside the top six only once, as well as some stunning racecraft, and the goal now is to establish himself in the top three from the off this year and ensure his presence in the title picture come season’s end.
13. Logan Sargeant (Carlin) – F4 British Championship
After being voted by motorsport.com as the most exciting karting prospect in the world last season, there’s certainly a lot of people looking at world karting champion Sargeant as a potential star of the future as he gets set to enter British F4 with the reigning champions Carlin.
The 16 year old already has success in car-racing under his belt too, taking fifteen podium finishes and vice-champion honours in the F4 UAE series over the winter, and having posted top five times in almost all the official British F4 tests so far, he looks set to be a front-runner from the off this year.
12. Jack Mitchell (Laser Tools Racing) – Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup
A familiar name around Ginetta circles, 2014 Junior champion Mitchell will have high hopes for his return to the ‘family’ this year as he enters the Supercup with another exciting addition to the grid in BTCC outfit Laser Tools Racing.
A front-runner in the Renault UK Clio Cup and then British GT4 in recent years, Mitchell is sure to be a consistent front-runner in the Supercup this season if his brief foray last year is anything to go by, having notched an impressive podium finish during a two-event spell.
11. Harry King (Elite Motorsport) – Ginetta Junior Championship
While Daniel Harper and Seb Priaulx stole the headlines last year with their Rookie Cup and Winter Series successes respectively, King proved himself to be much their equal over the course of the 2016 campaign and he heads into the new season as one of the early title favourites.
After helping turn relative newcomers Elite into an established front-running Junior squad with a pair of outright wins and a trio of top three qualifying results in his debut campaign, the 16 year old is more than capable of raising his game and fighting for the title this season.
10. Billy Monger (JHR Developments) – F4 British Championship
Monger couldn’t have come closer to a maiden F4 win last season, with a technical glitch cruelly denying him victory after he had led from pole to the final lap at Rockingham – a heart-breaking moment that will be the driving force behind the 17 year old’s challenge for top honours this year.
That near-miss wasn’t a flash in the pan performance for the Ginetta Junior graduate though, who showed his potential with three podium finishes and a pole position in his first campaign, and the aim now will be to turn that into regular top three results and a title push.
Keep an eye on the site tomorrow to see who comes in the top nine in our 25 BTCC Support Stars to Watch in 2017 countdown.
Let us know what you think of the rundown so far by tweeting us @thecheckerflag or commenting below. Who do you think should be in the top nine?
*Banner image: Jakob Ebrey Photography (Ginettas, Clios, British F4), Dan Bathie (Porsche)