After a long six winter months, the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and its band of support series finally return to action next weekend (1/2 April), with the 2017 season bursting into life around the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit.
Following a vintage year for all the championships in 2016, with nail-biting title battles and some memorable performances through the year, the cast of 2017 will aiming to push the boundaries further through the ten weekend calendar.
For the fourth year running, The Checkered Flag have picked out the top twenty five drivers from across the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Porsche Carrera Cup GB, F4 British Championship, Renault UK Clio Cup and Ginetta Junior Championship we feel you should be keeping an eye on over the course of the season.
The first part of our countdown takes you from 25 to 19:
25. Adam Smalley (JHR Developments) – Ginetta Junior Championship
After Daniel Harper produced the most successful maiden campaign ever for a Ginetta Junior Scholarship winner last season, all eyes will be on his successor to the crown Smalley this year as he aims to enjoy similar success in his debut car-racing season.
Smalley will mount his challenge with former series champions JHR, who previously housed the Scholars in 2013 and 2014, and he’ll hope an extensive pre-season testing programme will stand him in good stead as he looks to fight for both Rookie class and overall silverware.
24. Callum Pointon (HHC Motorsport) – Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup
A stalwart of the ‘Ginetta family’ for a number of seasons, Pointon made a full-time switch to the Supercup last year with TCR and while the headline results didn’t go his way – bar a breakthrough podium at Silverstone – it was an impressively consistent campaign for the 23 year old.
Pointon will enter his second season in a new home at the returning HHC, who have brought together the engineering team that masterminded their 2014 title success to provide the best platform possible for Pointon to mount a sustained championship challenge.
23. Euan McKay (Redline Racing) – Porsche Carrera Cup GB
It cannot be understated how impressive McKay’s first season in the Carrera Cup GB was last year, as he instantly gelled with his In2 Racing Porsche and posted nine class wins and five other podiums on his way to a superb Pro-Am1 title victory.
McKay now makes the step up to the Pro class for the first time in one of the most talented entries in series history, but he will hope a move to multiple series champions Redline can help him knock on the door of the podium positions, and more, as the season develops.
22. James Dorlin (Westbourne Motorsport) – Renault UK Clio Cup
Whilst most fans of the TOCA package might not be too familiar with Dorlin, the pace and progression he’s shown so far in his career means he could well spring a few surprises this year as he makes his Clio Cup debut.
Dorlin is continuing a partnership with Westbourne that has produced two titles in three years for the Yorkshireman; a Junior Saloon Car success in 2014 being followed by a Michelin Clio Cup Series victory last year that has firmly placed him as one of the brightest young talents in UK tin-top racing.
21. Tom Wood (HHC Motorsport) – Ginetta Junior Championship
While it was his team-mate Harry King who was taking most the headlines in the Elite Motorsport camp last season, Wood was putting together an understated but still notable maiden Ginetta Junior campaign with no less than ten Rookie class podiums.
The standout results would be outright rostrum finishes at Knockhill and Rockingham though, which proved the 15 year old can produce the goods at the front of the grid, something he’ll be determined to do more this season as he heads into battle with the reigning champions.
20. Ben Green (Century Motorsport) – Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup
Green’s accomplishments across the 2016 campaign shouldn’t be underestimated. With just one season in Juniors under his belt, he stepped up to the more powerful Ginetta G55, with his small family team, and impressively notched four podium finishes over the season.
For 2017 the teenager makes the move to former champions Century Motorsport, a partnership that has already produced podium finishes in Prototype and 24 Hour race debuts for Green, and their expertise should help push him right to the front of the Supercup grid.
19. Linus Lundqvist (Double R Racing) – F4 British Championship
The British F4 series has built a reputation for bringing in talented racers from across the globe, and this year is no exception, with Swedish racer Lundqvist amongst the new recruits as he joins the grid as the reigning Formula STCC (Formula Renault 1.6) Nordic champion.
Lundqvist took that title with a dominant ten victories in fourteen races, and he appears to have carried that pace over to Formula 4 machinery, setting top three pace during official testing at Brands Hatch and Donington Park so far to indicate he’s a potential front-runner this year.
Keep an eye on the site tomorrow to see who comes in 18th to 10th in our 25 BTCC Support Stars to Watch in 2017 countdown.
Let us know what you think of the rundown so far by tweeting us @thecheckerflag.
*Banner image: Jakob Ebrey Photography (Ginettas, Clios, British F4), Dan Bathie (Porsche)