Unfinished Business: Phil Glew’s BTCC Ambitions

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It’s 2010. April, to be precise, and the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship. Defending Renault Clio Cup champion Phil Glew has graduated to Britain’s premier tin-top series, racing a now-independently run Vauxhall Vectra, with two-time champion Fabrizio Giovanardi his team-mate.

At the fastest track in the country, in a new car, alongside the man who had won two of the last three titles, Glew acquits himself well. Better than that. He opens his account with a sixth, and follows it up with a seventh. Retirement in race three stops him from adding to his haul, but he outscores the likes of Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden, and Tom Onslow-Cole.

Forward to 2012 and the nine points he collected at Thruxton two and a half years ago remain his BTCC record. In the aftermath of Thruxton, the team’s main sponsor Uniq withdrew, leaving Glew and Giovanardi – who had won two of the three races at the opener – without a drive. Glew was, understandably, reluctant to “screw” his sponsor, WD-40, by handing them the burden of full financial responsibility.

The Italian’s season ended there, while Glew made one more appearance at Silverstone, backed by WD-40, at Silverstone, in a Seat Léon run by Special Tuning UK, under the banner. No more points, but he finishes just behind his Vauxhall replacement James Nash.

Since then, the now-29-year-old Glew has forged the beginning of a successful career in GT Racing, which he had sampled back in 2006, winning at Brands Hatch. 2011 saw him take three class wins, one at Spa-Franchoramps, Donington Park and Silverstone. He he took another class win at the Nurburgring this season, en route to joint-fifth in the GT4 standings, despite completing just four of the ten races.

Glew’s stint in the Vauxhall – and the BTCC – was short-lived

Despite plans to go on to achieve success on the grander European GT stage, Glew harbours a desire to prove himself in the BTCC. “I’ve got unfinished business,” he says, “and that is our number one aim: to get in there and have a good season in that.”

And it’s easy to see why. He went into the 2010 championship off the back of what can only be described as utter domination of the 2009 Renault Clio Cup – where he beat the likes of Alex MacDowall, Aron Smith and Dave Newsham. He won an astonishing 11 of the 20 races, including the first five on the trot. It was a commanding victory, one which resulted in high expectations for his graduation.

However, circumstances conspired against him to ensure he never got the real crack at the series he deserved. The Leon, in comparison to the Vectra he’d driven at Vauxhall, was not the competitive package a driver like Glew required and even at the opener – his debut – it was a case of easing into it – he was not to know it would be his only outing in the team. Had he known that, would it would have been a completely different story?

“Absolutely,” he believes. “I went into that first round expecting to do the rest of the season, or at least more rounds than one! They were a brilliant team with a lot of history. So that was a big deal. So I was sort of a rabbit in headlights, and just doing what I was told.

“Obviously the Vauxhall deal had ended the year before so those cars were the older ex-manufacturer cars, they were good cars but with no spares. It was drilled into me I couldn’t do any damage. So there was that, and also the team was drilling into me ‘you’ve got to do a good job in your first round’.

“But if I could go back now, knowing I would only do that round, I would do so much more to get a good result. Sixth was not a bad result but I know could have done a lot better. When you’re told let it come to you, you can build on it, you kind of do as you’re told.”

Glew made a one-off appearance in a SEAT – his last BTCC race. Photo: Chris Gurton

So, is a return to the series likely? While Glew is not a huge fan of the “artificial racing” produced by boost equalisation, such are the current regulations for the BTCC, he concedes there is a real drive for him to enter the championship in a competitive car. He tested for AmD Tuning over the summer as the team turned to him for help in curing handling and engine problems with their S2000 Golf, and results certainly hit an upward curve thereafter. Whether the team would be a likely destination for Glew is another matter – the deal has to be right for him.

“It needs to be a good deal to go with a team that are’t proven and need development,” he muses. “If I’m going to find some money, say £300k, that’s what it will be wherever you go, if you’re gonna do it properly. So I may as well do it with a team that’s proven where I can do a good job straight away. So it’ll really depend to see what offers we get. If it’s there, I’d look at it.”

Ultimately, Glew sees his future in GT Racing, making himself out as a genuine front-runner. But there are times when his mind drifts back to that weekend in April, 2010, and the events that followed. What Glew wants is a chance to set the record straight – and it’s no less than he deserves.

Looking back, he says: “It’s frustrating because there are so many times I looked back on those races and think I would have done so much different. Saying that, sixth was great. Nobody will ever take that away from me. But there was more on from the day if I could have pushed harder. But that’s hindsight – you can’t look at it like that. It is what it is.   

“I’ve never stopped looking, It’ll always be a lucky break, as it is for everyone. It’s never going to be easy. So for someone like myself, one day something will give. I can’t say when that’ll be and whether it’ll be for next year but I’ve never given up. If over a year I talk to 100 companies, there might be a very small chance one of them might come off. But I’m still trying hard, so hopefully something comes off.”

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