Any fan who’s ever been to a racing event live, will know that behind the hype of the main event often lies a just as exciting support series that gets little attention.
The VW Racing Cup has become one of the hidden gems of the British GT package and will be in for another spectacular with 27 drivers so far announced going into the opening round at Oulton Park on the 15-17 April.
Despite the departure of Simon Rudd, all but one of the top eight, have returned for a second shot at the title. Each of them though will have a tough time knocking down Phil House, the now-Three time champion.
Stakes will be high this year though as the top three will be rewarded with a test drive in Maximum Motorsports‘ Ford Focus ST as part of an experience in BTCC machinery, potentially opening the door for a progression up the motorsport ladder.
Talking of House, he’ll be joined by a few other names this year, with seven drivers filling out the JW Bird Motorsport line-up in total. The most prominent of these will be Kieran Gordon, who achieved fourth place in his debut campaign last year.
House achieved a total of seven victories over the 16 races, while Gordon retired on just two occasions, making him one of the most consistent front-runners all season.
Elsewhere, championship regulars Paul Ivens and Phil Morris make the jump over to the JWB team, with Paul Dehadray also returning the outfit that hosted him for three rounds last season.
Completing the impressive team will be Mark Clynes, Matt Evans and the returning face of Mason Lennick who made his debut last season.
Three outfits dominate the VW Cup, and the second; Team HARD, will be re-energising their title prowess after picking up two victories in 2016.
HARD spent the year with a pool of rookie drivers, surprising many during the opening and closing weekends of the season. Toby Davis, who collected a win for them at the first round and Jamie Bond in the final, both return to lead the 2017 crew and aim for a true title fight.
They won’t be the only front-running drivers returning as Kenan Dole and Benjamin Wallace also come back to the team, Dole meanwhile will be one to watch after picking up third place in last years standings.
Two new talents have also joined them though. Bobby Thompson, who led the charge for the first half of last year, moves over after a year in the VW Polo, ensuring the team should be genuine front-runners throughout the season. While Harry McQuillan makes his racing debut after finishing fourth in the Super 1 Junior X30 Karting Series.
Completing the big three teams will be Maximum Motorsport, very much the championship’s surrogate outfit.
After a strong 2016 though, the team has reduced its efforts for the coming season, fielding just three cars. Staying with the team will be vice-champion Tom Witts, who collected six wins over the course of last year.
Witts made his racing debut in 2015 and has been quickly scything his way up the ladder. Now in his second full VW season, the Brit will surely be favourite to challenge House and claim the title.
He’ll be joined by returning compatriots, Cameron Thompson and Tim Docker, who only ran partial campaigns last season.
These three won’t be the only representatives though as the field prepares for the introduction of a new car, the Audi TT Mk3 2.0TFSI.
An Audi … in the VW series?
So it seems. As part of the VAG Group, the car has been permitted to race, with the Slide Sports / Swanflight team at the hands of former quad racing British Champion Simon Walton and Owen Walton who raced in the MINI CHALLENGE prior to this.
Also entering the championship will be Allumy Motorsport. After its debut last season, the VW Polo R will expand to the team, signing championship veteran Simon Tomlinson and Tom Walker.
Elsewhere, Darelle Wilson and Stephan Johansen both return with one-driver line-ups, while Johansen’s old team, Power Maxed Racing have retained just one driver.
PMR will be led by John Robins, while karting graduate Sam Smelt and businessman Russell Joyce, whose Joyce Design will provide the decals for the series, complete the list of drivers announced for the season.
Similar to last season, all the rounds will not be part of the British GT calendar, though won’t travel overseas to once again race in Spa. It will follow the calendar for the Oulton Park, Rockingham and Snetterton rounds, before a two and a half month gap before they reconvene in Brands Hatch.
From there a second Brands Hatch round on the Indy circuit follows suit, with a trip to new Thruxton round added as part of the BARC package. The season ends, along with the rest of the GT package, at Donington Park in September.
With 36 drivers competing over the course of last season, the current 27 announced could soon out-number the variety of 2016’s spectacular grid.