Tom Chilton praised improvements made by Dunlop Tyres after a strong showing in Vauxhall’s new Astra in the official Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Media Day test at Donington Park.
The 12-time BTCC race winner embarks on a return to the British series in 2017, dovetailing his season with a World Touring Car Championship assault that covers 50 races and 20 weekends of racing.
While Chilton was left brimming by improvements made in the latest test on Thursday (16 March) with the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra, strides made by the series since his last visit back in 2011 had already made an impact on him ahead of the new season.
When questioned on the differences from the Vauxhall Vectra he last raced for the Manufacturer back in 2007, Chilton told The Checkered Flag “very different actually.
“The NGTC rules are very different to the S2000 regulations we had then. Myself and [Fabrizio] Giovanardi won the Manufacturers’ Championship together and I’d love to do that again with them. This is a lot heavier to drive, however I’m impressed with how far the tyres have come and the work that Dunlop has done to aid braking and traction.
“It feels a lot more consistent in race runs. It wasn’t working as well at Snetterton because it was very cold, then the team came up with changes that have really moved the car forward.”
Chilton – joining rookie Senna Proctor at Power Maxed Racing in 2017 – was consistently inside the top 10 during the Donington test, finishing eighth overall.
The 32-year-old reiterated that the test should not be seen as a performance benchmark, with teams and drivers differentiating their plans across the afternoon.
“It’s only Media Day – everybody is trying new things. I went to overtake Matt Neal at Redgate for a laugh to say ‘remember me?’ but he was on hard tyres and I was on mediums so I should have been able to do that anyway! You don’t know what everybody is doing yet, so you can’t take those times too seriously.”
Chilton’s last BTCC outing saw him victorious at Silverstone when driving for Team AON in a Ford Focus, although a win eluded him during his three seasons in Vauxhall machinery.
The Manufacturer now returns in 2017 with Power Maxed Racing, a partnership that Chilton was introduced to by the most senior figure in the BTCC paddock.
“I’d spoken to half the team bosses on the grid and said ‘do you have any deals?'”, Chilton told TCF. “There’s a lot of cars with huge sponsors now and they aren’t as expensive as they used to be.
“I thought there must be somebody that will want me. I rang Alan Gow and he suggested Adam Weaver at Power Maxed Racing. I called him, and commercially this was the best deal.
“It was perfect because it rekindled the Vauxhall relationship. It will be my fourth year in a Vauxhall, so it’s nice to come back and do it with a bang as well.”