Rowbottom relishing BTCC ‘clean slate’
Dan Rowbottom joins the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship this year with Ciceley Motorsport-backed Cataclean Racing, and the newcomer has been on quite the journey on his way to a dream seat in Britain’s top-tier.
The Midlander made his TOCA package debut in 2008, competing in the SEAT Cupra Cup. When the Spanish marque’s championship left the fold at the end of that year, Rowbottom was left in something of a black hole, with his focus having been placed on making the best of it in SEAT’s competition.
After that, Rowbottom endured seven years away from the grid while carefully plotting a ‘dream’ return to the sport at the opportune moment with a proposal he made to his title partner, Cataclean.
“My last full season before I restarted my career was in the 2008 SEAT Cupra Cup. We finished at the end of that year and the issue was the championship leaving the TOCA package.
“We’d put everything into that, and we had to recover and go back to the drawing board. I was 20, or 21-years-old back then and when you walk into boardrooms at that age as a racing driver the reaction can be quite glib.
“It took me a long time to grasp the business side of things, which we’ve managed to do. We got in touch with Cataclean at the end of 2016 and they were looking to make the brand a household name. I proposed this package, starting with the Renault UK Clio Cup and encompassing this move into the BTCC. It all happened very quickly, from doing no racing to being a BTCC driver over the course of three seasons really.
“It’s about having the support and the vision as well as picking your moment and having the timing on your side. Everything came together and our paths converged. First and foremost, the business side works. That’s the precursor to winning races.
“It’s a dream come true to be here but it does feel almost ten years too late. I’d promised myself in my teens that I’d be a BTCC driver before long but here we are!”
Unveiling a BTCC car with his name on it, emblazoned with Cataclean logos – the fruit of a carefully nurtured relationship that works all-round for driver and sponsor alike – was an emotional moment for the Kidderminster racer. This year’s competitive action will see the slate wiped clean, and a fresh crack at motorsport; this time, right at the pinnacle.
“It was surreal and emotional to see the car unveiled. You go through the the ringer trying to get everything together and make it all happen. I’m now more hungry than I was back in my early twenties. I’d like to think people will look at the story and see that someone with no family money can put the work and effort in and get to the pinnacle of British motorsport – it is possible.
“We’ve got to now prove we can do it now we’re here and everything starts again from zero now. We had a really hard year in 2018. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to from a driver’s perspective and probably from a personal perspective in the way the season panned out. We’re wiping the slate clean but continuing with Cataclean, our fantastic partners. They’re the stars and the people that have made all this come to fruition.”
On his prospects for 2019, he’s under no illusions as to the level of competition in the championship but in the early stages of his BTCC career, just getting behind the wheel of an NGTC car is the source of much excitement. Helpfully, in Adam Morgan, he has a perfect benchmark and somebody in the stable that will be invaluable as he cuts his teeth.
“You’re never going to have 30 good races in a touring car. On those days where you’re half-a-second or three-tenths off, you need someone reliable to bounce off. If Adam (Morgan) is also losing three-tenths then we know we’ve missed something in the car. It’s a psychological ‘pull your finger out’ or ‘don’t panic’.
“We’re off to Spain early in March at Circuit Calafat and from there it depends how far away from Adam as to how much more testing I do. I have tested already in the wet at Silverstone and it was just unbelievable. I can’t wait to get back in it. I just want to drive it!”