Snetterton will see Andy Neate finally return to the British Touring Car Championship grid this weekend, marking the first appearance of the year for the Club 44 team and their NGTC Chevrolet Cruze.
Neate, who has raced in the championship for BMW, Ford and MG in his past three seasons of BTCC, will compete in the rest of the 2013 championship in his own IP Tech Race/Club 44 squad, driving a Chevrolet Cruze built to the championship’s budget-friendly NGTC regulations that have now spread to the majority of the current field.
After being forced to postpone the car’s debut at both the previous events held at Oulton Park and Croft due to mechanical dramas halting their progress in the late hours, Neate is excited to finally be able to put his project to the biggest test of all this weekend after a successful pair of tests in recent weeks.
“I am clearly delighted to get the car finished and finally get to drive it – it really is a huge achievement and I’m grateful to everyone involved,” said Neate. “I have driven many cars for a number of teams down the years but I must admit it was a surreal feeling to be sitting in my own car – built by our team.
Neate has partaken in shakedowns at both Snetterton and recently at a wet Mallory Park without any further major issues, and admitted that – a minor electrical gremlin aside – the tests proved endearing for the new squad.
“We probably completed ten timed laps with two or three of the runs being fairly clear. To be honest I was delighted with the car straight out of
the box, and even with the small glitches, we immediately went faster than some of the teams did at the recent Dunlop tyre test. Us drivers always say it’s not about times during testing but at least it shows the potential in the car for the future.”
Besides the anticipation, Neate’s prospects for the weekend at Snetterton remain cautious as he beds into his new environment for the first time, admitting that this weekend will be seen as a test as he looks towards the future long-term performance and prospects of the team.
“We will have to treat Snetterton as a test weekend to be honest. We just won’t have had enough running beforehand, particularly when you consider how much time our competitors have had on track. We’ll be looking for three solid finishes and good reliability, and then we’ll go from there.
“The NGTC rules mean this is an investment for the next two or three years – it’s not just about now. I am committed to the BTCC and I want to be here for many years to come, with the plan being to also run a second car next year and beyond.
“The remainder of this season will hopefully be a good shop window for other drivers to see what we can do, and that we’re seen as a competitive option for 2014. The great news is that we’re here now and I am really looking forward to racing!”