With the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and its band of support series starting their 2018 season this weekend at Brands Hatch (7/8 April), The Checkered Flag have picked out twenty-five drivers we feel you should be keeping an eye on in the support championships this year.
Before you find out who has made the top nine, you can read parts one and two of our countdown by clicking here.
For those looking for a quicker recap, here is the countdown so far:
25. James Taylor
24. Michael Crees
23. Bradley Burns
22. Jac Constable
21. Johnathan Hoggard
20. Ruben Del Sarte
19. Paul Rivett
18. Charlie Ladell
17. Lewis Plato
16. Hampus Ericsson
15. Michael Epps
14. George Gamble
13. Luke Browning
12. Harry King
11. Dennis Hauger
10. Tom Hibbert
So, on to number nine and a rising star in the Clio Cup:
9. James Dorlin (Westbourne Motorsport) – Renault UK Clio Cup
Dorlin entered the Clio Cup twelve months ago with strong pedigree as a former JSCC and Clio Series champion, and his reputation certainly grew last year with a fantastic debut campaign that featured two race victories, one of which came with a mesmerising drive in the wet at Silverstone.
The eighteen year old therefore returns this season as one of the most exciting young prospects on the grid, and if he can add some more consistency to his undoubted raw speed, then a title challenge is certainly within his reach.
8. Tio Ellinas (Slidesports) – Porsche Carrera Cup GB
After working his way up the single-seater ladder to Formula Renault 3.5 and a Marussia F1 test, Ellinas enjoyed a smooth transition to GT competition last season as he notched a top six championship finish and the Rookie class title during his maiden Carrera Cup GB campaign with JTR.
Following that success, the Cypriot has made a surprise switch away from JTR to the Slidesports outfit, who also made their debut last year. Together, the new partnership will be aiming to turn Ellinas’ podium pace from 2017 into a full championship challenge this time out.
7. Adam Smalley (Elite Motorsport) – Ginetta Junior Championship
Smalley entered 2017 as the latest recipient of the Ginetta Junior Scholarship, and while he couldn’t match the race-winning exploits of his predecessor Dan Harper, he would still piece together a strong maiden season in the championship.
After following up four Rookie class wins and a breakthrough outright podium finish with title success in the Winter Series, Smalley now heads into 2018 as the highest placed returnee from last year and one of the early favourites for a title challenge.
6. Kiern Jewiss (Double R Racing) – F4 British Championship
Jewiss burst onto the scene in the BTCC support paddock last season with a sublime first season of car-racing in the Ginetta Junior Championship, as he starred with no less than twelve outright podium finishes and a dominant title win in the Rookie Cup.
The fifteen year old will be determined to carry the momentum from those successes into his first single-seater campaign and if his timesheet-topping pace in pre-season testing is anything to go by, Jewiss is set to spring a few surprises at the front of the F4 grid this year.
5. Daniel Rowbottom (Team Pyro) – Renault UK Clio Cup
After making an immediate impact with a pole position on his debut in 2016, Rowbottom would show great progression last year during his first full season in the championship, becoming a nearly permanent resident in the top six with his own DRM squad.
With five podium finishes under his belt, Rowbottom now heads into 2018 with a new home at multiple champions Team Pyro, a move that could prove to be pivotal in helping him push forwards this season and become a contender for title success.
4. Daniel Harper (JTR) – Porsche Carrera Cup GB
Following two seasons in Ginetta Juniors, Harper makes the huge step up to the Carrera Cup GB in a prime position, having been chosen as the latest Porsche Junior driver following an eye-catching performance in the shootout in November.
With that reward comes plenty of expectation, particularly with his two predecessors both winning the title, however Harper will be confident that under the tutelage of Nick Tandy at JTR, he can show the same tremendous raw pace and racecraft that secured him plenty of silverware in the Ginetta’s.
3. Sebastian Priaulx (Arden Motorsport) – F4 British Championship
To say Priaulx endured a challenging 2017 season is an understatement as he battled with technical exclusions, team changes and more, so for him to emerge as Ginetta Junior vice-champion with seven victories to his name was a testament to his maturity, attitude and on-track talent.
Those attributes will serve him well as he embarks upon his first season in single-seaters, with hugely promising pace during pre-season testing putting him in the list of drivers that are likely to be in the battle for the race victories from the off this season.
2. Max Coates (Team Pyro) – Renault UK Clio Cup
With two seasons at the sharp end of the Clio Cup under his belt, in which he notched three race victories, ten other podium finishes and a pair of top four points finishes, Coates enters 2018 with the sole objective of challenging for championship honours.
After sitting on the periphery of the title picture in the last two years, a move to reigning champions Team Pyro could well be the final ingredient the Yorkshireman needs to turn his clear potential into a season of silverware against an ultra-competitive field.
1. Dino Zamparelli (Redline Racing) – Porsche Carrera Cup GB
After finishing runner-up in the last two seasons, Zamparelli won’t have a better chance to win the Carrera Cup GB title than this season, as he makes the switch to ten time champions Redline Racing as the only returnee from the top four in last year’s championship.
Missing out on the 2017 honours after finishing level on points with the champion will have been a tough pill to swallow, but it’s sure to have fired up Zamparelli for the season ahead and he’ll be eager to make sure he makes no mistake this year and walks away with the title come October.
What do you make of our countdown of the 25 BTCC support stars to watch in 2018? Do you agree with our #1? Is there someone you think deserves to be in the top 25?
Let us know, comment below or tweet us @TheCheckerFlag.