Motorbase Performance have announced that they will be taking a sabbatical from the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship for at least the first half of 2015, although they pledge an intended return with drivers Mat Jackson and James Cole by as early as Snetterton in August.
The shock decision by the Kent-based squad comes despite the fact that the team developed the new EcoBoost engine for its pair of Ford Focus ST machines in time for the coming BTCC season, team principal David Bartrum saying that talks with potential new title sponsors recently took a knock too significant to ensure their place on the grid.
“It is with regret that I have to announce that Motorbase will not be competing in the BTCC for the first half of this season;” said team boss Bartrum. “I and the rest of the team are obviously very disappointed.”
The change in circumstances mean that Bartrum’s squad will miss the first half of the 2015 season, with intention of returning for the second half of the campaign from the Snetterton round (8/9 August) onwards.
Motorbase parted with previous title sponsors, Airwaves, at the end of 2014, but have re-signed regular driver Jackson for a sixth season alongside new recruit Cole, who has raced for Team HARD and United Autosports in previous BTCC seasons.
Bartrum continued: “The EcoBoost engine has shown great promise during testing and we have a great driver line up in place with Mat Jackson back for his sixth season with us joined by James Cole, who is a really good addition to the team.
“We genuinely believe that we have a strong package that could challenge for the title this season; but this is not a championship that can be committed to half-hearted and unfortunately our hand has been forced. We have been in lengthy talks with two potential title sponsors since November and all seemed like it was going to plan, however things have conspired against us in recent weeks and due to a change in circumstance with those parties we find ourselves in the position we’re in.”
The team must also negotiate with series boss Alan Gow to address the pair of TBL licenses they hold for the season, although Bartrum assures that the problem can be resolved.
“This does not mean the end for Motorbase in the BTCC”, continued Bartrum. “Both Mat and James are still on board and we remain committed to the BTCC. We will continue our search for new partners and our aim is to be back on the grid at Snetterton. We will of course work with Alan Gow and TOCA to find the best way forward to be back competing for the second half of the season with a two car team. Obviously that will include finding a way to address the TBL (BTCC licensing) issues that our short-term withdrawal raises. But hopefully we can find a way through this, with Alan.
“At the end of the day we’re a business as well as a racing team and this is a purely commercial decision. In the meantime, we’ll press on and strive to be back on the grid for the second half of the season. I would like to thank all of those involved in our BTCC program over the last nine years, especially Dunlop and TOCA and those who are standing by us to help us come back stronger later in the year.”
Motorbase finished the 2014 campaign fourth in the Teams’ Championship, Jackson netting two victories on his way to fourth place overall for the Ford squad.
The team have competed in the series since 2006, winning 12 races since then in BTCC.
Parker Racing To Run Alex Martin
Bartrum also confirmed that Team Parker Racing will run the Dextra Racing Focus of Alex Martin in 2015, the team prolific winners on the TOCA support package down the years.
The team shall be supported by Motorbase, who will also continue their technical partnership with fellow Ford squad AmD throughout the season.
“I’m pleased to announce that Team Parker racing will take over the operation of Alex Martin in the Dextra Racing effort, which will be supported by Motorbase Performance. Our decision to withdraw from the start of this season has had no bearing on this situation”, Bartrum concluded.
“Stuart [Parker] has been involved with the Alex Martin entry since Alex joined us last year. Team Parker Racing has had strong links with us for many years and we’re delighted to be working with Stuart and his team whilst continuing to support AMD in their efforts in the BTCC this year.”