We joined the BTCC teams at Donington for the 2017 launch, a season which looks to be as competitive as ever.
A capacity 32 car grid will race, which sees BMW UK returning to the championship as a Manufacturer Team for the first time in 21 years. BMW continues its long alliance with West Surrey Racing. with whom they have raced successfully in the series for the last 10 years.
And with the recent return to WSR of two time champion Colin Turkington joining Rob Collard alongside other new signing, 2013 champ Andrew Jordan, it remains to be seen whether on track rivalries will cause fireworks in the WSR camp. BTCC fans couldn’t be in for more of a treat.
Among those liveries already launched was the unveiling of the new Power Maxed Vauxhall Astras to be driven by Senna Proctor and Tom Chilton.
The marque returns to the championship for the first time since Vauxhall withdrew in 2009. Tom Chilton also returns to the championship after 5 years in the World Touring Car’s series.
Meanwhile reigning champ Gordon Shedden aims for a 4th title in the striking Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R, which would equal former BSCC champion Andy Rouse’s record. Partnered with team mate Matt Neal the BTCC fan favourites are now in their eighth consecutive season together.
Unmissable out on track is previously named Motorbase Performance’s Team Shredded Wheat Ford Focus ST.
Long term Motorbase Performance driver Mat Jackson is joined at the squad by Martin Depper and Luke Davenport in his maiden season.
A very last minute addition to the grid is 18 year old Josh Price who graduates from the Renault Clio Cup series. Backed by the BMR Racing Academy, a last minute sponsor was found to enable Price to make the step up into the championship after he had previously announced his return to the Clio Cup with Team Pyro.
Price joins James Cole, Ashley Sutton and two time BTCC champion Jason Plato at Adrian Flux Subaru Racing.
Also back on the grid after a 3 year absence is BTC Racing, now named BTC Norlin Racing after their title sponsor. Running Chevrolet Cruzes with drivers Chris Smiley and 2014 Jack Sears trophy winner Dave Newsham behind the wheels, the squad should be formidable competition this season being the only team to have both cars in the top ten in the afternoons testing session at Donington
After 7 years away from the series Stephen Jelley returns to BTCC with Team Parker Racing.
Jelley was previously competing in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB but takes over the seat vacated by Alex Martin who now returns to the PCCGB also with Team Parker Racing.
Triple Eight backed team MG Racing RCIB Insurance bring together drivers Aron Taylor-Smith and Daniel Lloyd in a completely new line-up for 2017. Taylor-Smith moves from Team BKR with whom he took a race win and several podium places last year.
While Daniel Lloyd was a guest driver with Eurotech Racing in 2016, who race in 2017 with the partnership of Jack Goff and Jeff Smith in the Honda Civic Type R.
In the afternoons testing session Speedworks Motorsports Tom Ingrams took first place in the Toyota Avensis, just fractions of a second ahead of Handy Motorsports Rob Austin. With BTC Norlin Racings Chris Smiley just behind him.
Austin, also behind the wheel of a Toyota Avensis has been testing the car extensively over the last few weeks and is quietly confident that despite the competitive grid he has what it takes to give the top of the grid a run for their money.
BTCC season opens at Brands Hatch on April 1st/ 2nd.
Allison Remzi All images ©Andy Fitzpatrick