BTCC prepares for season opener at Brands Hatch
Huge grid to challenge for honours in Britain’s best motor racing series
The 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship kicks off at Brands Hatch next weekend (2/3 April) with a record 32-car full-season entry preparing to do battle.
An exciting line-up of five former champions, proven race winners and an ever-growing number of young chargers will take to the 1.2-mile Indy Circuit in front of what is expected to be a huge crowd at the famous Kent venue.
Honda driver Gordon Shedden clinched Britain’s most coveted motor sport crown in last year’s pulsating tussle that went down to the wire, but the Scotsman faces a monumental challenge if he’s to retain his title this time around.
Eleven marques are represented on this year’s grid with the legendary Japanese manufacturer Subaru joining the BTCC for the first time in its history.
The ten event, 30 race format will be played out in front of hundreds of thousands of fans trackside throughout the season and there will be millions more watching each and every race live on the ITV network.
While the likes of Formula One moves its attention towards subscription-based television channels over the coming years, the BTCC will continue to provide free-to-air coverage across the UK. ITV will broadcast each and every race live and exclusively on ITV4 until at least 2022, plus extensive highlights programmes over the same period.
Talking point: It’s anyone’s guess
Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Gordon Shedden will likely start the season as favourite, having clinched a second BTCC title in 2015, but he’ll face a growing threat from a dozen or so challengers.
The championship-winning Honda Civic Type R has been developed and tested extensively during the off-season, so both Shedden and his triple champion team-mate Matt Neal are well placed to contend.
Subaru’s entry means Jason Plato and Colin Turkington will be driving the newly-prepared Levorg, which turned heads during its unveil at Donington Park earlier this week. While the credentials of the Team BMR-run squad are not in question, the car itself is still yet to turn a wheel in anger – so it remains to be seen if the squad can hit the ground running next weekend.
One team that will be looking to pick up where it left off is local favourite Motorbase Performance. The Wrotham-based outfit won twice during the season finale at Brands Hatch in October and many are predicting that driver Mat Jackson is best placed to win a maiden title. Jackson will face a huge challenge, however, from within his own camp with 2013 champion Andrew Jordan joining Motorbase over the off-season.
MG Racing RCIB Insurance hit the track in some style during the only official BTCC test session at Donington, as its young duo wowed onlookers.
The MG6 is a proven race-winner and the squad has this year handed driving roles to two talents of the future rather than established stars. The pair immediately defied their rookie status at Donington Park when reigning UK Clio Cup champion Ashley Sutton set the second quickest time on his maiden outing in the car. Stablemate Josh Cook also featured, ending the session inside the top five.
West Surrey Racing boasts a trio of contenders in Sam Tordoff, Rob Collard and Jack Goff, whilst the best of the rest list includes the likes of Rob Austin, Adam Morgan, Aron Smith and Tom Ingram.
Local Heroes: Home advantage for Motorbase and Co…
A quartet of local teams, Motorbase Performance, Team HARD and AmD Tuning and West Surrey Racing will be hoping to impress at the season opener.
Absent from the grid over the first half of 2015, Motorbase returned with a bang last summer and was the team to beat over the final few meetings with its Ford Focus. Team HARD and AmD Tuning, meanwhile, both showed flashes of form last year and will be eager to shine on home turf.
RCIB Insurance Racing’s Jake Hill is Kent born-and-bred, and invariably produces his best performances in front of Brands Hatch’s capacity crowds. Ollie Jackson returns to Britain’s premier motor sport series in 2016 and in AmD’s Audi S3, the Surrey-based racer is behind the wheel of arguably one of the best-looking cars on the grid. West Drayton’s Matt Simpson bolsters Speedworks Motorsport’s ranks as the former European Hot Rod champion prepares to make his BTCC bow in a Honda Civic Type R.
Surrey squad WSR has three new-look BMW 125i M Sport machines in its arsenal for the 2016 campaign, as the outfit look for ‘home’ comforts at Brands Hatch to kick off their season in style.
Timetable and tickets
The opening race weekend of the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship takes place on Sunday 3 April, with the entire race day broadcast live and in high definition on ITV4 from 10:15am. Those in attendance at the circuit can stay in touch with the commentary and live timing from every session, available on the btcc.net Live Zone throughout the weekend.
In addition to the BTCC, the support series on the TOCA package are set to bring even more action to the fans at Brands Hatch. Sportscar racing fans will get their fix with races from the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Porsche Carrera Cup GB and Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship. The Renault UK Clio Cup – often seen as a stepping-stone to reaching the BTCC – will also feature on the huge bill of British racing, as will the MSA Formula.
Tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season-opener at Brands Hatch on 2/3 April are available from £27, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or visit www.brandshatch.co.uk. All admission includes access to Sunday’s autograph session with the BTCC drivers in the pit lane as well as free parking.
Click here for a full event timetable.