This season youngsters Aron Smith, Adam Morgan, Howard Fuller and Aaron Williamson make their BTCC debuts, each impressing in their own way. Much is made of money in motorsport but talent talks too, and here, theCheckeredFlag.co.uk reporters Scott Mitchell and Simon Paice have spoken to five drivers we believe could cut the mustard in Britain’s premier motor racing championship. At number one, it’s Jack Goff…
What do Mat Jackson, Dave Newsham and Aron Smith have in common? Yes, they have all won British Touring Car Championship races. But, beyond that, they’re also race winners in the Renault Clio Cup. And one man eager to join that list is the reigning Clio champion, Jack Goff.
It’s little secret the 21-year-old intends to be on the touring car grid next season, so it makes sense he is our first driver we tip for BTCC stardom. But there’s more to it than just the likelihood – this season, before testing with Team-HARD., before it looked concrete, before talks took place on a serious level, Goff has demonstrated exactly why he is being tipped as a future front-runner in one of the world’s premier tin-top championships.
The Clio Cup connection extends beyond the list of three above. Jeff Smith and Alex MacDowall, to name just two, are other drivers who use it as a stepping stone, Tom Onslow-Cole another.
Last week’s feature subject Phil Glew, who dominated the championship in 2009, still harbours a desire to prove himself in the BTCC. Goff aims to become the latest graduate, but that alone will hardly come close to satisfying the ambitious youngster.
“It doesn’t really faze me at all,” he said. “I look at drivers I was racing the last few years and they’ve graduated to touring cars and they’ve proved themselves. I know I’m as quick as those guys so if they are able to win races so am I at the end of the day.
“Obviously there’s a learning curve, I’m not going to go in and expect to win races straight away. I know I’m good enough and with time in the car and with the team I know that we could be a winning package in the future.”
Goff’s first taste of touring car action came in the aforementioned test with Tony Gilham’s Team-HARD., at Silverstone. Sampling their NGTC Vauxhall Insignia, even for just a handful of laps in less-than-ideal conditions, simply reaffirmed to him it was what he needed to be doing next season.
“The conditions weren’t perfect but that little taster, I just wanna get out there again,” he says. “I’m absolutely buzzing from the day still.”
It was an impressive test – in just a few laps, he’d done enough to warrant rave reviews from team boss Gilham [see the foot of this piece] and was satisfied with the job he had done.
Despite stepping up to the Insignia, a much bigger, more powerful car than the Clio he powered to the title in, he found it easy to adapt.
“To be honest I didn’t really struggle that much with it, it all clicked quite nicely. The biggest difference is it’s so much bigger. The power wasn’t so much a problem. You’ve better brakes and better tyres so there’s more power but the overall package is better.
“It’s not a shock, it’s all in balance. It’s probably different with 30 cars around you.”
That’s a scenario Goff wants to face sooner rather than later, even if the likelihood of him racing an NGTC is anybody’s guess.
With the S2000 cars still a competitive if not championship-challenging option, the route to touring cars is very much open, but as Goff admits, which way he goes is up in the air.
“It’s all down to budget,” he concedes. “It’s good to go out in the NGTC but if we can’t afford to do that and we have to go out in the S2000 then all well and good.
“To be on the touring car grid is a thing I need to be doing for my sponsors and for myself, being on tv. Whether it’s the S2000 or the NGTC I’ll be well happy, but it’s full steam ahead to try and get the full budget for NGTC.”
Whichever way he goes, Goff says as long as he’s racing, he’s happy. Sampling the touring car for the first time has left a firm imprint on the young racer, who is more determined than ever to secure a place on the grid next season.
It’s something which he believes is well within reach.
“It’s obviously nice to get out in a touring car, to witness it and have my sponsors there. They loved today. It’s got the excitement going again. Getting the sponsors happy and focussed is the job but getting that first experience in the car makes you hungry to go out there and make sure it happens for next year.
“I think we’re going in the right direction and we’ve got to put all the pieces together for next year.”
Expert View, Tony Gilham: Jack has shown this year that he has got what it takes to be competitive, consistent and win a championship. We have been watching Jack for a while and our interest in him increased the more we spoke over the course of the season.
We wanted to get a closer look at him, so we let him get behind the wheel a few weeks ago, again he showed he has the ability to step into any car and do competitive times. The lad has got a lot of talent and can bring so much to the championship; I would be very surprised if he didn’t make the step up to touring cars.
We are keen to see Jack in a Team-HARD. BTCC car. He has proved that he can cut it with the best of them, he kept a cool head when things were not going his way, and this is the sign of someone who can go far. I think with the right guidance the sky is the limit for young Jack. We hope to be the team that can give that guidance next season.