With a little over two weeks remaining until the green flag finally flies on another year of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) several teams tested their new cars at Brands Hatch today (March 15).
After initial testing at Donington Park last month with a plain white car Honda Yuasa Racing's 2012 Civic made its first track appearance in racing colours with both Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal running during the course of the day.
Also in NGTC-spec Civics Andrew Jordan and Jeff Smith got their first meaningful running after a simple shakedown earlier in the week. Jordan's car was also making its first laps in livery, the Civic clad in the Staffordshire driver's now familiar Pirtek blue, red and yellow colours.
Completing a quintet of Hondas at the Kent track was Tony Gilham, though he completed only a shakedown in the S2000 Civic driven by Gordon Shedden last year.
“Just a brief shakedown today to familiarise myself with the car and controls,” Gilham told The Checkered Flag, “but enough laps to see the cars potential. Though I felt out of place driving a white car so an early end to the day for some much needed colour!”
Also in white were the newly turbocharged BMW's of the West Surrey Racing run eBay Motors squad, Rob Collard and new recruit Tom Onslow–Cole putting a lone car through its paces.
While those four teams completed trouble free days Chris James and Team ES Racing made the day's unwelcome headlines after crashing heavily at Paddock Hill Bend (see separate story here).
James was unhurt – reporting only slight leg pain on his Twitter account – but his Vauxhall Vectra was less fortunate being returned to the pits with heavy front damage that put James' participation in the media day test on Monday (March 19) in doubt.
To add insult to – slight – injury the accident reportedly occurred when he and new teammate Dave Newsham were circulating in formation as a photo opportunity before the start of the season. However, James and his team still took positives away from the day, Newsham lapping the Indy circuit in the low 49 second bracket – roughly a second off the pole position set by Matt Neal at the 2011 season opener.
Ollie Jackson continued his extensive testing with Shaun Hollamby's AmD Tuning.com team, continuing to make progress in set-up work on the team's VW Golf. However, they too hit problems, as Jackson told btcc.net “We've had better days, We had a brand new engine but it let go in quite a significant way and we're not really sure why.”
Another local team were also testing in the shape of Airwaves Racing, with all three Focus STs and all three drivers, Aron Smith joining 2011 pairing Mat Jackson and Liam Griffin, though they too had their testing curtailed by technical problems.
The testing continues at the series media day at Silverstone where the public will be admitted free of charge to watch proceedings from the BRDC grandstand. The first round of the championship takes place back at Brands Hatch on April 1.