As Murray Walker famously said during his times in the Formula 1 and BTCC commentary boxes, “the one thing that is predictable, is that it will be absolutely unpredictable”. Such will be the case in the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season, with record grids, new faces, and some old faces you will be damned not to recognise…
The hectic ‘silly season’ for BTCC 2014 has been in distinct overdrive on this occasion, with a record grid of 31 cars heading to Brands Hatch on 29/30 March under a single category, 13 of which will have former race winners sat in the driving seat.
It’s a scenario that almost represents a charity or testimonial football event, with famous names continuing to flock back to the country’s top motorsport spectacle for a year that has everybody buzzing with excitement and anticipation. – even the men involved behind the wheel…
AmD Tuning boss Shaun Hollamby says that there could potentially be 25 drivers capable of winning a race during the season, seven of those being former BTCC champions, lead by reigning champion Andrew Jordan.
Honda’s duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden add three further championship titles to the portfolio, while the Yuasa Racing squad bring an eye-catching new Honda Civic Tourer to the grid in place of the hatchback which served them so well in the previous two seasons.
Jason Plato and MG will look to finally get their revenge in 2014 following a third successive season in which he finished third in the championship behind a pair of Honda drivers, while former champion Colin Turkington‘s stimulating comeback season leads him into a new opportunity to return the crown to himself and WSR.
Six rookies join the grid including 1999 British F3 champion Marc Hynes, while runaway 2013 Ginetta GT Supercup champion Tom Ingram leads a talented youth assault on the series with Speedworks.
The biggest news however dervies from the shock return of two former double BTCC champions. Motorbase Performance bring back 2007-08 champion Fabrizio Giovanardi, where the venerable and popular Italian will trade paint with 1997 and 2000 title-winner, Alain Menu, returning for the first time since a one-off 2007 Thruxton appearance to drive for Warren Scott‘s BMR Racing squad.
Menu himself told us at The Checkered Flag during the BTCC’s Media Day test at Donington Park that a year away from racing proved too much, and sensed an excitement brewing similar to the years that the Swiss was so successful in – the 90s.
What this means however is that 2014 is a complete uncertainty when the teams flock to Brands Hatch this weekend, with the mixture of rookies and champions forming one of the most enviable grids seen in the past decade.
Eurotech (Pirtek Racing): #1 – Andrew Jordan #30 – Martin Depper
The team that stunned all before it in 2013 gave the Independents a breakthrough moment of emotional sunshine last year once again, with Andrew Jordan claiming his first BTCC title at the still tender age of 24 against the might of the works Honda and MG favourites.
Jordan had the pace throughout last season, and particularly shone when carrying the penalty ballast in his Honda Civic. It would take a fool not to believe the Red Bull Athlete can’t achieve back-to-back titles in 2014; his speed in testing already proving that the number one on his window is justified.
He will be joined this year by a new team-mate in former BTCC racer, Martin Depper, who last raced a Forster Motorsport BMW in 2010. Unsuccessful back then, Depper has shone in national championships since, and was a race winner in the competitive Volkswagen Racing Cup last season prior to his BTCC return in a stable team and strong car to offer Jordan the required support.
Honda Yuasa Racing: #4 – Matt Neal #52 – Gordon Shedden
Honda have gone radical in 2014 to change the form book, introducing the Civic Tourer model to replace the hatchback which Eurotech will continue to use. The extra rear-end block has drawn attention that the manufacturer would have dreamed of, compared rigorously to the 1994 Volvo 850 Estate.
The pace of the machine is already promising however, and both Neal and Shedden could be fighting to regain the championship for themselves and defend Honda’s Teams and Manufacturer’s crowns right from the word go.
The duo bring possibly one of the strongest pairings in the BTCC to grace the grid, with a total of 86 wins combined between the pair of them, Neal entering his 24th season in the sport as the most experienced driver on the grid.
Triple Eight: #88 – Sam Tordoff #99 – Jason Plato #888 – Marc Hynes
Despite their new name being a mouthful to get your tongue around, the MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save BTCC Team could potentially be mentioned more than many this season, with Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff retained for a season which the former states they enter better prepared than ever.
Tordoff outlined consistency as the main factor to put right for the MG squad this season, Plato having just come short of a sensational comeback in the championship on his way to finishing third overall for the third year in succession, Tordoff ending his rookie year in the top six after a maiden pole and race win at Snetterton.
Triple Eight also welcome Marc Hynes to the squad in a satellite third MG6 GT, Hynes having made his name in British Formula 3 when he beat a certain Jenson Button to the 1999 UK title, before spending the last decade making one-off racing appearances in between behind-the-scenes driver coaching and assistance at the Marussia F1 team.
Testing went strongly for Hynes in the striking Quantel/Bifold-liveried machine, comparing the handling of the cars to the Australian V8 Supercars as he continues his adaptation to the touring car scene.
WSR: #5 Colin Turkington #10 Rob Collard #18 Nick Foster
West Surrey Racing changed their trusty 320si last year for the BMW 1-Series to fully convert to the new rules, a decision which took them only six races to return to the top step of the podium as the comeback of Colin Turkington proved a spectacular one to say the least.
The car now carries the advantage of a year’s worth of development under its belt, and both Turkington and Rob Collard were particularly strong in the second half of the 2013 season to prove that they will be contenders throughout – Turkington rightly tipped as a favourite to spoil it for his Honda and MG rivals.
Nick Foster took time to get to grips with the car in a similar manner to Collard last season, but extended his contract with the BMW squad as he remains loyal to WSR for a fourth BTCC campaign.
Motorbase: #6 – Mat Jackson #7 – Fabrizio Giovanardi #44 – Jack Clarke
The Motorbase Performance squad have only retained one driver in Mat Jackson, who was only confirmed as driver of their third Ford Focus late on the morning of Media Day for his eighth season in BTCC – his fifth with the Kent squad who ended 2013 without a win following a tough season that thankfully ended strongly.
Jackson will be joined by former single seater racer Jack Clarke, the ex-Formula Two race winner switching to touring cars in a satellite Ford squad run under the Crabbie’s Racing banner, having impressed the team during a series of winter tests.
The final addition to the squad however is the one fans will relish most, David Bartrum bringing former double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi back for a UK comeback trail in the series which he conquered prolifically in 2007 and 2008.
WIX Racing: #33 – Adam Morgan
One of the hardest-working teams over the winter period has been Ciceley Racing, who have taken the base of their Toyota Avensis and added the beautiful shell of a Mercedes A-Class to bring the Silver Arrows manufacturer back to the BTCC for the first time since the 1980s.
The machine certainly goes as well as it looks based on the performances during pre-season testing, with star 2013 performer Adam Morgan already on the pace of the front-runners just as he was in the Toyotas Avensis last year.
The 24-year-old grabbed a maiden podium during a rough Oulton Park contest last year, and enters with the tools and the confidence for the job in 2014 as he aims to break his BTCC duck.
Team BMR Racing:
Volkswgen CC: #9 – Alain Menu #40 – Aron Smith
Team boss Warren Scott pulled a major coup during the winter season of bringing together an enviable squad for the new season, as BMR Racing take over the running of the four-car Team HARD operation for 2014.
The team now have the best chance of winning the first race for their pair of Volkswagen CC machines, as they combine youth with experience, firstly by bringing Irishman Aron Smith across from Motorbase, who will want to add to the single BTCC win from his 2012 rookie season.
The second Passat will have many BTCC fans’ eyes cast upon it in 2014, as behind the wheel will be former double champion, Alain Menu, the Swiss ace returning to the series he last claimed back in 2000 following a long spell in the World Touring Car Championship.
Vauxhall Insignia: #31 – Jack Goff #39 – Warren Scott
Leading the charge of their pair of Vauxhall Insignias, former Renault UK Clio Cup champion Jack Goff enters 2014 full of confidence after coming narrowly short of a maiden BTCC win to round off his rookie season, as he fought Gordon Shedden for round 30 honours at a sodden Brands Hatch all the way tot he flag. He now enters a second season with a year’s worth of experience, and further development under the Insignia’s belt to assist the raw speed he certainly owns.
Scott will again continue behind the wheel, this time racing the second Vauxhall alongside Goff as he build his team into contenders for race victories during an exciting season in store for the squad.
Rob Austin Racing: #54 – Hunter Abbott #101 – Rob Austin
Rob Austin and his squad added to their mantle as the fans’ favourite in 2013 by becoming a genuine front-runner throughout the previous 12 months, all of that culminating into a memorable maiden win at Rockingham to throw the monkey from his back at last.
A productive winter has seen the team hang onto their spot on the grid thanks to the addition of new sponsor partners and the assistance of the fans, while Austin will be joined by a man he once shared a car with in the 2008 British GT Championship, Hunter Abbott.
Austin showed in pre-season testing that the Audi A4 still has the pace to keep it at the front during what will be a mightily competitive year, and will hope to rekindle more race-winning magic with ‘Sherman’ in 2014.
Welch Motorsport: #12 – Dan Welch #48 – Ollie Jackson
Dan Welch has been another welcome addition to the BTCC since he first brought the Proton Gen-2 onto the scene in 2011, and the latest season for the former SEAT Cupra racer will now see him field a second machine for former Triple Eight, AmD and Speedworks youngster, Ollie Jackson.
Jackson will feel in a much happier environment this season at the friendly family-run team, while the rapid Welch undoubtedly ventures into his most eagerly-awaited campaign to date as he looks to build on several good results in the past two years, although hoping for luck to fall his way more often than it did in the previous 12 months.
United Autosports: #20 – James Cole #21 – Glynn Geddie
Well-known in the world of GT racing, United Autosports now take on the trail of a British Touring Car Championship assault in 2014 for the first time, fielding a pair of ex-Dynojet Toyota Avensis machines.
The cars still remain a solid contender for the podium on the right day, and that will be what the squad should aim to build up towards as James Cole and Glynn Geddie take the driving duties.
Cole endured a tough half-season at Team HARD last year and will certainly enjoy greater stability in the Avensis for 2014, while former British GT champion Geddie is an exciting prospect, the Scot having always looked rapid since his support package appearances in Porsches.
Speedworks: #80 – Tom Ingram
Speedworks will only field one Toyota Avensis in 2014, but behind the wheel of it is another exciting young prospect in Ginetta GT Supercup champion, Tom Ingram.
The 20-year-old’s domination in the BTCC-supporting Supercup warranted his place on the grid for the coming season in spades, and his early pace has shown signs that he could be a spoiler to the known names during this season, particularly as experience begins to rise onto his shoulders.
AmD Tuning: #17 – Dave Newsham
The BTCC no longer has a Volkswagen Golf gracing its grid in 2014, as Shaun Hollamby’s squad have undergone an extreme makeover that sees them entering with NGTC machinery for the first time under a former Motorbase Ford Focus.
Their winter networking also brought a driver capable of bringing them to the front, AmD acquiring former two-time BTCC race winner Dave Newsham across from Speedworks.
Both Newsham and his new team have smiled throughout the pre-season, and, despite some off-track excursions during the tests, have the opportunity to be an interloper in the fight for supremacy between works and independent teams across the record grid.
Handy Motorsport: #11 – Simon Belcher
The reigning two-time Renault UK Clio Cup Masters Cup winner, Belcher makes the big step-up to BTCC in 2014 with his own squad, Handy Motorsport.
Racing an ex-Speedworks Toyota Avensis, the team will work closely with their car suppliers to ease Belcher into a maiden season which he himself knows will be a learning process, but a one that his tireless pre-season testing outings indicate could eventually see him gain the experience that makes him one of the rookies to beat this year of the six which are present.
Aiden Moffat Racing: #16 – Aiden Moffat
The Scottish Mini racer made BTCC history last year at Knockhill as he beat Tom Chilton’s record for the youngest ever driver to start a race in the series at just 16 years of age.
After outings in a Chevrolet Cruze for Finesse Motorsport and a Volkswagen CC for Team HARD in his selected outings late in the 2013 season, Moffat will embark on a full-time assault on the series for this season with his family-run squad, racing the ex-Andy Neate Chevrolet Cruze which was adapted to match today’s successful regulations.
BTC Racing: #28 – Chris Stockton
BTC Racing return for the first time since 2008 under the Power Maxed banner, their loyal driver Stockton doing likewise as the team begin a new challenge for 2014, with a hatchback version of the Chevrolet Cruze being introduced for its maiden BTCC appearance following a tireless effort by Bert Taylor and, in particular his son, Ben.
The car, which will contain a trusty RML engine under the bonnet, will certainly embark on a learning process in its early life after over a year’s worth of work put into the development of the machine, as the team look to discover the workings of their car under limited testing before being cast into the BTCC arena once again for their new challenge.
JWT Performance: #43 – Lea Wood
The BTCC almost lost its Jack Sears Trophy champion of 2013 during the winter period, but a deal with Ciceley Racing ensured that Wood join the NGTC ranks in 2014 racing a Toyota Avensis shell previously run by their Mercedes-bound rivals.
Wood’s BTCC showings more than warrant a place on the grid for the season, and he will bring his independent JWT Performance squad into the mix on any good day for a top 10 spot having previously thrived in a Vauxhall Vectra.
Rotek Racing: #67 – Robb Holland
Another new car to join the BTCC grid for 2014 is Rotek Racing’s Audi S3 saloon, which has already attracted a following in the run-up to the maiden campaign in the series for the Rotek squad which has made its name with success in endurance racing.
Holland will become the first American driver to compete in a full BTCC season, having previously made one-off appearances for Team HARD in a Honda Civic and Vauxhall Insignia over the past two seasons.
Round one – Brands Hatch
The 1.22 mile Indy circuit in Kent is the destination for the latest British Touring Car Championship season, one which has often proved a happy hunting ground for Jason Plato, who leads the way in terms of wins at the shorter strip of tarmac with 24 to his name.
Jordan took pole position here last year in what would ultimately epitomise his season, Neal holding the fastest lap of 48.210s from 2011.
The scenario will be a complete unknown as to the pecking order, with many drivers answering the question of where they expect to be with simply ‘let’s wait and see’. It would take a daring gambler to pick a winner at this stage, giving the fans a mouth-watering level of unpredictability to add to the expectations.
Brands Hatch (29/30) entry list:
4 – Matt Neal – Honda Racing Team – Honda Civic Tourer – Neil Brown/Honda
52 – Gordon Shedden – Honda Racing Team – Honda Civic Tourer – Neil Brown/Honda
88 – Sam Tordoff – Triple Eight Race Engineering – MG6 GT – Swindon/GM
99 – Jason Plato – Triple Eight Race Engineering – MG6 GT – Swindon/GM
888 – Marc Hynes – Triple Eight Race Engineering – MG6 GT – Swindon/GM
1 – Andrew Jordan – Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic Hatchback – Neil Brown/Honda
30 – Martin Depper – Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic Hatchback – Neil Brown/Honda
5 – Colin Turkington – West Surrey Racing – BMW 125i M – Neil Brown/BMW
10 – Rob Collard – West Surrey Racing – BMW 125i M – Neil Brown/BMW
18 – Nick Foster – West Surrey Racing – BMW 125i M – Neil Brown/BMW
6 – Mat Jackson – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – Mountune/Ford
7 – Fabrizio Giovanardi – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – Mountune/Ford
44 – Jack Clarke – Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST – Mountune/Ford
33 – Adam Morgan – Ciceley Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class – Swindon/GM
80 – Tom Ingram – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis – Swindon/GM
11 – Simon Belcher – Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis – Swindon/GM
101 – Rob Austin – Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4 – Swindon/GM
54 – Hunter Abbott – Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4 – Swindon/GM
39 – Warren Scott – Team BMR – Vauxhall Insignia – Swindon/GM
31 – Jack Goff – Team BMR – Vauxhall Insignia – Swindon/GM
9 – Alain Menu – Team BMR – Volkswagen CC – Swindon/GM
40 – Aron Smith – Team BMR – Volkswagen CC – Swindon/GM
48 – Ollie Jackson – Welch Motorsport – Proton Gen-2 – Welch/Proton-M
12 – Daniel Welch – Welch Motorsport – Proton Gen-2 – Welch/Proton-M
43 – Lea Wood – JWT Performance – Toyota Avensis – Swindon/GM
17 – Dave Newsham – AmD Tuning – Ford Focus ST – Mountune/Ford
67 – Robb Holland – Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon – Swindon/GM
28 – Chris Stockton – BTC Racing – Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – RML/Chevrolet
16 – Aiden Moffat – Aiden Moffat Racing – Chevrolet Cruze Saloon – RML/Chevrolet
20 – James Cole – United Autosports – Toyota Avensis – Xctechr/Toyota
21 – Glynn Geddie – United Autosports – Toyota Avensis – Xctechr/Toyota