EXCELR8 TRADE PRICE CARS IN A ‘STRONG POSITION GOING INTO THE NEW SEASON’
The Official BTCC website caught up with EXCELR8 Motorsport Team Principal Justina Williams in an exclusive Q&A, to find out more about the team’s expectations for the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, what joining forces with Trade Price Cars Racing will mean for the squad and more…
How did you expect the new Hyundais to perform in 2020?
As a team, we are no strangers to building and developing cars as we’ve been doing it for a long time in the MINI CHALLENGE, and we gathered a lot of data and information whilst running the MGs in 2019 that we were able to take into the build of the new cars.
We spent time evaluating our options before choosing the Hyundai and then focused on strengthening our technical team to make sure that we were able to build a car that was capable of moving us forwards up the grid.
From the moment we made the decision to build the Hyundai, we were confident that it was going to be a big step forwards from the MG, although we didn’t know how big that step would be until we got out on track.
Being faced with a global pandemic meant we weren’t able to go out and test the car as much as we would have liked before the season started, but we knew that the car was good on paper and that in Chris Smiley and Senna Proctor, we had two drivers who were capable of getting results.
Did they meet your expectations?
Overall, I’d say they did for year one of the programme. Obviously, the results were a huge step forwards compared to the MG from the very start, and to get a podium finish at Donington Park in round one was a fantastic achievement for us.
At the same time though, when you get a podium finish so early, you want to try and get that win so it was a bit of a shame that we didn’t manage to get it!
However, I think we have to be pleased with how the season went when you take into account all the challenges that we faced. Developing a new car at this level against teams that have been racing in the BTCC for many, many years is never going to be easy, and the impact of the pandemic certainly made it tougher.
We were effectively developing the car at race weekends throughout the season and we were always learning, so to come away from the year having been competitive at every circuit, consistently in the points, and with our first BTCC silverware gives us a good basis to build on.
You must be thrilled with the improvement of the team in 2020 compared to the first year. What was different about the approach of the team last year?
I don’t think our approach was vastly different to the first year, but the big thing is that we had a year of experience behind us and were no longer the newcomers learning the ropes.
Although we have a lot of experience in running a race team, moving into touring cars took everything to the next level, and there was an element of needing to learn about all the processes that are involved in a race weekend that were different to what we had done before.
The switch to the new car obviously helped in making us more competitive, and we also benefitted from having two drivers with a bit more experience than Rob Smith and Sam Osborne, who did a brilliant job for us in year one but who were also learning alongside us.
It’s a combination of little things, but certainly that year of experience was an important factor.
Heading into your second year with the Hyundais, what are your expectations for 2021?
In the same way we benefitted in 2020 from the experience we gained in 2019, I think we should be looking to build on everything we learned about the Hyundai last season and continue to work our way forwards.
Not only do we have a year of experience under our belts with the car, we also now have all the data that we collected last year to work with, which is going to be hugely beneficial.
There is plenty of work being done to improve the car from where it was when we left Brands Hatch, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that translates into on-track performance when we go out testing and then head to Thruxton for round one.
We had two podium finishes last season, so clearly the goal for 2021 is to have many more and to take our first win!
Talk us through what teaming up with Trade Price Cars will mean for the squad…
It’s another step towards us establishing ourselves in the BTCC and is a good deal both in terms of the racing on track, but also commercially off it.
The fact that we are doubling our entry to four cars is a positive thing as we work towards our ultimate goal of fighting for championship titles, and Dan Kirby and Trade Price Cars share similar goals for the future.
As I said when we first announced the new partnership, Dan is someone who puts a lot of work into the commercial side of racing and knows how important it is to deliver value for the partners that allow us to go racing.
Pooling our knowledge and resources together can only be beneficial for us both going forwards.
Obviously up to this point you’ve confirmed three of your four drivers for 2021, what do you think the dynamic will be between the drivers?
I’m hugely excited about the driver line-up we have announced so far, and it puts us in a strong position going into the new season.
In Tom, we have a driver with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and who knows what it takes to win races and fight for championships. I think he is one of those drivers who every team would like to have in their car and bringing him onboard is an indication of where we aspire to be.
I’m also expecting big things from Chris this season and being able to re-sign him for a second year has been another important part of our plans. He did a great job in helping us to develop the car last year, and his ‘never say die’ attitude also pushes the team on.
I think he and Tom will work well together to help us get even more from the car, and they will also help Jack to raise his game and take the step up to the next level.
Although he doesn’t have their experience in touring car terms, he did a solid job last season considering his deal to join the grid was so last minute, and I see no reason why he can’t be regularly pushing for points.