HARD work pays off
The 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is just around the corner, with the season-opener set to take place at Brands Hatch this weekend, and Team HARD is aiming high.
In November, Team Principal, Tony Gilham, announced that the outfit had re-purchased its trio of Volkswagen CCs – three race-winning machines that the Kent squad originally built, prepared and ran in the championship back in 2013. Gilham was delighted to be re-united with the cars, and believes they will be a force to be reckoned with in RML specification.
“Bringing the VWs to the BTCC was our brainchild back in 2011, so it feels like we have some unfinished business with them,” he said. “It was a good car out of the box then and was still winning races last season with the older kit onboard. With all three VWs updated to RML-spec over the winter and believe we have a really strong package.
“We’re coming off the back of a solid year with three older cars, but now we feel we’re ready to step up and become extremely competitive.”
TAG Racing’s Jake Hill returns and is looking to build on a string of positive performances at Team HARD last year – starting on home turf in Kent.
Six top ten, and a hatful of points finishes signalled what was certainly an impressive first full campaign in the championship for Hill and the 23-year-old is looking to strengthen his charge for 2017 as he looks to class wins and the podium.
“It was fantastic to complete my first season in BTCC, I learned so much and am hugely grateful to Tony (Gilham) and all the team’s and our partners for making it possible. I was often in the top-ten and battling with all of the championship contenders at some point, so with the Volkswagen CC as a much stronger package I aim to be in the top ten most of the time now, and want to secure podiums and Independents’ wins.”
Hill’s distinctive TAG Racing No.24 machine has shown strong pace in the limited testing so far, even running in the rain at Rockingham recently, and has given Hill and his team-mates Michael Epps and Will Burns confidence that the car will be competitive.
“This year everyone is running the same RML parts, we all have more power and wider tyres and most people feel it will be the most competitive year for a long time. There are 32 teams and drivers that are all capable of running at the front so it will be incredibly tough. But we have some great people in the team, I have a year’s experience now and the support of TAG Racing, RCIB Insurance and Auto Aid Breakdown on my car.”
BRDC ‘Rising Star’ Hill has to travel less than 20 miles from Goudhurst to get to Brands Hatch, and is one of the instructors at the famous Brands Hatch Racing School, so in every way this is very much home for him and his team.
“I know I will have some great support from friends and family – my grandad is flying down from Scotland! I know the place so well, but it will be crazily competitive – less than a second will cover the whole grid, so it will be pretty tough but I just can’t wait!”
Michael Epps, of Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing under the Team HARD banner, concurred with his team-mate and is also optimistic.
“I’m very excited about the new car,” said Epps. “It’s the first time I’ve been in a touring car with equipment that is on a par with those around me this year.
“Last year, the car I had was one of seven running GPRM-spec. Now we’ve got the same platform to work with, and we’ve quickly got up to speed with things, we’ve been out-of-the-box fast.
“It’s a great pairing between the VW CC with RML parts and the new TOCA engine. If we stay reliable, I’m sure we’ll have a good year.”
Rookie Will Burns joins the Team HARD stable for 2017 and was left impressed following an ‘enjoyable’ Season Launch test session.
“I was nervous at Season Launch with the media duties and such like in the morning but I quickly relaxed and embraced the whole day – I really enjoyed it,” Burns said.
“I couldn’t believe it really. When I used to race in British GT’s support classes there weren’t half as many people watching on a race day as there were at Donington Park for the BTCC test, so it was a bit mad. I’m just looking forward to new surroundings and hopefully I can do well.”