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BTCC outfits back on track

Winter is coming, and there’s a chill in there air but there’s little sign of a drop-off in Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship activity, as teams racked up the miles in testing this past week.

Sam Tordoff made his return to BTCC machinery for the first time since finishing runner-up to Gordon Shedden in a nailbiting 2016 finale, as he looks to evaluate his 2018 options.

Shaun Hollamby’s AmDTuning.com with Cobra Exhausts offered the Yorkshireman a session at Snetterton, with Sam Smelt and Aaron Mason also driving the Audi S3 Saloon over the two-day programme.

“We’ve made no secret of the fact that we want to take steps forwards with our BTCC programme so the opportunity to run a race-winning driver in the car is one we couldn’t turn down,” said AmD Team Principal Hollamby.

“Although the conditions were far from ideal, it was interesting to get Sam’s feedback on the car and of course we’d be more than open to the possibility of working with him in 2018 if he decided he wanted to make a return to touring cars.

“In terms of Aaron and Sam Smelt, Aaron wanted to sample an NGTC car and I value his technical feedback, whilst Sam is evaluating his options for next year and is a young driver who we feel has a lot of potential if he were to decide to follow the touring car route.”

Power Maxed Racing were on track at the back end of the week at Donington Park with Martin Plowman behind the wheel of one of its Vauxhall Astras as the team continue development after an encouraging 2017.

Plowman counts IndyCar experience and a Le Mans class win to his name but it was his maiden outing in a front wheel drive car and was eager for the chance to compare the differences between front and rear wheel drive and the Astra’s nuances despite cold, damp conditions.

“I want to give big thanks to Martin Broadhurst, and the team at Power Maxed Racing for helping me adapt – after my first session I felt at home in the PMR Vauxhall Astra,” said Plowman.

“The main difference between the Astra and what I’ve been used to is the amount of rotation needed into the corner – I had to rotate the touring car more and square the corner off, and then be more patient on the power to prevent understeer. What I really noticed is how well the BTCC car can take kerbs, it’s like they don’t exist.” 

Tordoff rounded off a busy week with an afternoon in PMR’s Vauxhall, following Plowman’s morning session in the car.

“I was impressed with the Power Maxed Racing team and the car – it is a hungry up-and-coming team and there is a desire to perform there,” said Tordoff.

“I know a lot of the team because they are ex-Triple Eight, the team I drove with in the works MG in 2013 and 2014.

“I have nothing signed for next year, and I wanted to get back into the groove with front-wheel drive to see if I still had it.

“The AmD Audi test and the run in the Vauxhall have helped me with that, and I will see where this leads.”

Ricky Collard then made his BTCC test debut with double series champions West Surrey Racing on Friday at Silverstone.

The 21-year-old from Eversley, Hampshire, completed 122 laps on the National Circuit at the Home of British Motorsport alongside two-time BTCC champion Colin Turkington, who completed 92 laps.

Ricky, an official BMW Motorsport Junior Driver, is the second member of the Collard family to drive the WSR-run BMW 125i M Sport as his father Rob was part of the Team BMW line-up that won the BTCC Teams’ title in 2017 and helped BMW to secure the Manufacturers’ crown.

“We were delighted to give Ricky a run in the BMW today and he performed well for a driver with no experience of a BTCC car,” said Team Principal Dick Bennetts. 

“His technical feedback was extremely impressive, his lap times were very competitive and he clearly has a bright future. We’re yet to announce our full driver line-up for our BTCC title defence in 2018, so days like this help us with our evaluation process.”

“I’ve been around the BTCC paddock for a long time through my Dad’s racing and always wanted to drive one, so I’m extremely grateful to have been given the chance to do this by WSR today,” said Collard.

“The car is quite a bit different to the GT3 and DTM BMWs I’ve driven this year, but the handling is fantastic and I can see why it’s won so many races and championships in the BTCC. It’s been an enjoyable day, but we’ll have to see if it leads to anything.” 

Earlier in the week, Team HARD’s new charge, and the first driver signing of 2018, Bobby Thompson took to the Brands Hatch in one of its Volkswagen CCs.

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