At the start of the season, The Checkered Flag picked our way through the entry lists for the British Touring Car Championship’s band of support championships to select our 25 drivers to watch for 2018.
From across the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Ginetta Junior Championship, Renault UK Clio Cup, Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup and F4 British Championship, we picked out a diverse range of drivers we felt were set to impress this season.
You can read our initial countdown here: https://thecheckeredflag.co.uk/tag/25-to-watch
With a memorable season now behind us, here’s a look at how each of our selections got on, and who we missed:
25. James Taylor – 6th, Ginetta Junior Championship
What we said: “Taylor will hope to follow in the footsteps of his scholarship predecessors and fight for both Rookie class and overall silverware in his debut car-racing season.”
Final report: It was mission accomplished for the Rotherham teenager as he got up to speed in his maiden car-racing campaign and made impressive progress through the year. Taylor took twelve Rookie class podiums in the final seventeen races of the campaign and made his mark with a trio of outright top three finishes.
24. Michael Crees – 1st (AM Class), Ginetta GT4 Supercup
What we said: “Despite a big change, Crees could certainly be a wildcard on the grid this year and he’s sure to climb towards the front of the grid as the season progresses.”
Final report: Crees was an absolute revelation in only his second season of car racing. Setting the pace in the AM Class from the opening weekend, the Kent racer took the title with a sensational run of eleven victories and eight other podiums, whilst he also regularly out qualified and battled on track with Pro Class contenders.
23. Bradley Burns – 5th, Renault UK Clio Cup
What we said: “Burns certainly made a huge impression in the final three rounds of 2017 and he should have the perfect platform to enjoy more standout results this year.”
Final report: The teenage talent confirmed himself as one of the most exciting tin-top talents in the country with some fantastic performances this season. Burns’ crowning glory came as he converted a double pole position into two victories at Silverstone, which he added to two more pole positions and three podium finishes.
22. Jac Constable – 6th, Ginetta GT4 Supercup
What we said: “The reigning AM class champion now steps up to the headline class looking to make an impact, with podium finishes certainly possible as the season progresses.”
Final report: Constable was able to build upon his title-winning campaign and become a consistent presence towards the front of the field, only failing to take a top six finish in one of the eight meetings this year. The Xentek Motorsport man got his podium breakthrough with second place finishes at Croft and Snetterton.
21. Johnathan Hoggard – 3rd, F4 British Championship
What we said: “With a strong winter testing programme complete, a breakthrough win is the first target in a season filled with much promise.”
Final report: Hoggard didn’t have to wait long for a maiden win, just four races in fact, and that success was followed by seven further victories as the Fortec Motorsport racer produced a sensational campaign. While early issues cost him a shot at the title, he showed his class by dominating the second half of the year.
20. Ruben Del Sarte – 5th, Ginetta Junior Championship
What we said: “Del Sarte gets set to tackle his second season in the series as one of the most promising returnees from 2017, leading the challenge for Total Control Racing.”
Final report: Whilst he showed flashes of front-running pace at points through the campaign, Del Sarte wasn’t able to become a permanent fixture towards the front of the pack. Three podiums in the opening five meetings proved to be his strongest run of results, before adding two more visits to the rostrum and a maiden pole position.
19. Paul Rivett – 1st, Renault UK Clio Cup
What we said: “The master of the Clios, Rivett continues to be a prominent force every season in which he competes, and he remains a clear title contender this year.”
Final report: Rivett confirmed his status as the King of the Clios once again as he secured an historic fourth championship title, an incredible sixteen years after his first. It was consistency that took him to the crown as he finished outside the top four only three times all season, with eleven podium finishes featuring only two race victories.
18. Charlie Ladell – 1st, Ginetta GT4 Supercup
What we said: “Ladell pieced together a consistent maiden campaign and he heads into his second season in the series with the clear potential to be a race win contender.”
Final report: Ladell took his first season promise and turned it into a superb charge to title glory. A double victory on the opening weekend confirmed him as the man to beat this year and eight further wins put him one shy of the series record, with his standout consistency seeing him finish off the podium only twice.
17. Lewis Plato – 4th, Porsche Carrera Cup GB
What we said: “A consistent presence in the top six over the course of the last two seasons, Plato hopes 2018 can be the year that he can step forward and make a first title challenge.”
Final report: Unfortunately Plato wasn’t able to establish himself as a championship contender, but he was able to progress into a regular podium finisher with top three results in six of the eight meetings. A breakthrough win came early on at Donington Park and he went on to end on a high with a second victory in the season finale.
16. Hampus Ericsson – 11th, F4 British Championship
What we said: “Ericsson showed huge potential last year with the inaugural Challenge Cup title; results sure to spur him on to becoming a regular front-runner this year.”
Final report: It wouldn’t go Ericsson’s way unfortunately as he struggled to make an impact at the front of the field. A pair of top five finishes in the opening five weekends was overshadowed by six non-finishes, resulting in the Swede leaving the series at the halfway mark before outings in BRDC F3 at the end of the year.
15. Michael Epps – 6th, Renault UK Clio Cup
What we said: “If new team Matrix can get up to speed quickly, then he could well get amongst the established Clio names at the front of the grid.”
Final report: It wasn’t an easy task for Epps and Matrix to get themselves to the front of the Clio Cup field, but hard work and progress through the year ensured the former BTCC ace got himself into the mix. Epps picked up a pair of podium finishes in the second half of the season and was in the battle for race victories late on.
14. George Gamble – 6th, Porsche Carrera Cup GB
What we said: “After coming up short in the scholarship, he is sure to enter his debut Porsche campaign determined to get himself in the mix at the front of the grid.”
Final report: A sensational victory on the opening weekend of the year ensured Gamble was one to watch from the off. He went on to become the king of the reverse grid, with three race victories coming from that format across the campaign alongside regular top six finishes that took him to a strong championship finish.
13. Luke Browning – 3rd, Ginetta Junior Championship
What we said: “Browning knows he has a great chance of turning the strong pace he showed at the end of 2017 into a real challenge for the top honours this time around.”
Final report: As anticipated Browning thrust himself into the title picture in his second Junior campaign. Three wins in the first four races kicked off a campaign that featured five more victories as he showcased his superb pace and exciting racecraft, though some troublesome races ultimately cost him the championship.
12. Harry King – 3rd, Ginetta GT4 Supercup
What we said: “King and Elite Motorsport will look to make a big impression on their Supercup debuts, with King certainly having the potential to progress into a race-winner.”
Final report: King didn’t waste any time in making an impression in the championship, with podiums from the off and a breakthrough win in only his sixth race. Some tough outings meant a title challenge didn’t come together, but a brilliant run of nine podiums in the final twelve races completed a superb maiden season.
11. Dennis Hauger – 4th, F4 British Championship
What we said: “Described as the ‘standout’ new addition to the Red Bull Junior driver programme for 2018, Hauger is one of the most exciting new prospects on the F4 grid this season.”
Final report: Hauger lived up to the pre-season excitement surrounding him with a brilliant maiden F4 campaign. A brilliant run of four wins in seven races in the middle of the year showed exactly what he can do, and he came away with the Rookie title following a thrilling duel with Red Bull team-mate Jack Doohan.
10. Tom Hibbert – 11th, Ginetta GT4 Supercup
What we said: “Hibbert will be determined to use all his experience to mount a first full title challenge in the championship.”
Final report: Sadly it would prove to be a very short-term tenure in the series for Hibbert, with a difficult season opener at Brands Hatch leading to him making the decision to end his season immediately, depriving the Supercup of a clear potential title contender.
9. James Dorlin – 2nd, Renault UK Clio Cup
What we said: “Dorlin returns as one of the most exciting young prospects on the grid, and if he can add some more consistency, a title challenge is certainly within his reach.”
Final report: Dorlin was champion, albeit for only 37 days before losing his crown in strange circumstances, but it should take nothing away from a sublime season. He wrote his name in the history books with five race wins in a row, a feat only achieved by two other drivers in series history, and added five other podium finishes.
8. Tio Ellinas – 1st, Porsche Carrera Cup GB
What we said: “A new partnership with Slidesports will be aiming to turn Ellinas’ podium pace from 2017 into a full championship challenge this time out.”
Final report: Not only did he mount a championship challenge, but he came away with the main trophy at the end of the year. Only one victory through the year meant that consistency was the key to his title success, with the Cypriot ending every single race inside the top six and finishing off the podium only three times all campaign.
7. Adam Smalley – 1st, Ginetta Junior Championship
What we said: “Smalley now heads into 2018 as the highest placed returnee from last year and one of the early favourites for a title challenge.”
Final report: Smalley would use all his experience from his maiden campaign to put together a title-winning campaign with Elite Motorsport. A great start with five wins over the first half of the season built him an advantage at the top, which meant that regular podium finishes from there were enough to secure him the honours.
6. Kiern Jewiss – 1st, F4 British Championship
What we said: “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.”
Final report: As the season developed it was certainly no surprise to see Jewiss at the head of the field, as the rookie sensation stormed to overall championship success. Stamping his authority with five wins in the first half of the season, he produced some thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing on his way to eighteen podiums and title glory.
5. Daniel Rowbottom – 4th, Renault UK Clio Cup
What we said: “With five podium finishes under his belt, Rowbottom now heads into 2018 with Team Pyro, a move that could prove to be pivotal in helping him push forwards this season.”
Final report: While the move to Pyro didn’t prove to be harmonious all year, Rowbottom was a regular podium finisher throughout the campaign. With qualifying his Achilles heel, the Cataclean racer was the lead overtaker on the grid as he stormed through the field to end in style with three wins in the final four meetings.
4. Daniel Harper – 5th, Porsche Carrera Cup GB
What we said: “Harper will be confident he can show the same tremendous raw pace and racecraft that secured him plenty of silverware in the Ginetta’s.”
Final report: Harper’s pace was clear to see as he ended the campaign with more fastest laps and pole positions than anyone else, while some thrilling overtaking moves made him arguably the most exciting driver on the grid. After some early misfortune, he enjoyed a great run of form and he heads into 2019 with plenty of momentum.
3. Sebastian Priaulx – 7th, F4 British Championship
What we said: “Hugely promising pace during pre-season testing puts him in the list of drivers that are likely to be in the battle for the race victories from the off this season.”
Final report: A race win in his debut weekend at Brands Hatch certainly proved Priaulx’s potential, however it would turn into a pretty challenging season from there. The Guernseyman didn’t give up though and overcame some car issues to record six further podium finishes, including a confidence boosting second win on finale weekend.
2. Max Coates – 3rd, Renault UK Clio Cup
What we said: “A move to Team Pyro could well be the final ingredient Coates needs to turn his clear potential into a season of silverware against an ultra-competitive field.”
Final report: Coates definitely needs a bigger trophy cabinet after a great 2018 season in which he visited the podium in exactly half of the races contested. Four wins in the opening half of the season put him right in title contention and he took the fight down to the wire, but a pair of retirements late in the campaign cost him dear.
1. Dino Zamparelli – 2nd, Porsche Carrera Cup GB
What we said: “Missing out on the 2017 honours will have been a tough pill to swallow; he’ll be eager to make sure he makes no mistakes this year and walks away with the title.”
Final report: It proved to be another heart-breaking conclusion for Zamparelli, who dramatically missed out on title glory on the finale weekend. Energized by a switch to Redline Racing, he was a pace-setter throughout with four wins and six other podium finishes on his way to becoming a three-time Carrera Cup GB vice-champion.
Who did we miss?
With only 25 slots, naturally we’d miss some drivers from the countdown who would go on and do great things over the season. Tom Wrigley developed into a title contender in the Carrera Cup GB and secured the joint-highest number of race victories with Zamparelli.
Louis Foster pieced together a remarkable debut Ginetta Junior campaign, romping away with the rookie title and forcing his way into the overall championship battle late on, while Carl Boardley and Tom Roche were the chief competition for Ladell in the GT4 Supercup.
Ayrton Simmons came home as F4 vice-champion with four wins, while Jack Doohan joined team-mate Hauger as a star rookie. In the Clio’s, we’re proud that the six drivers we chose filled the top six in the final standings – so at least we got something right.
*Banner image: Jakob Ebrey Photography & Dan Bathie/Porsche