TOM CHILTON: “I’M STILL HOLDING OUT FOR THAT OUTRIGHT BTCC TITLE”
As Ciceley Motorsport’s pre-season testing schedule continues, we caught up with Tom Chilton to look ahead to the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship and look back over his BTCC career as he heads into his 15th campaign in the series.
We’ve seen that the team has been using a 1 Series for testing while the new cars are being completed, what are your expectations of going from this to the 3 Series?
It was fantastic of Ciceley Motorsport to invest in a rear-wheel-drive test car whilst waiting for our new BMW 330i M Sport to be built. I feel like we have really learnt a lot as a team and both Adam [Morgan] and I as drivers in the 1 Series. It should transfer nicely onto the 3 Series. Especially as it has a longer wheelbase it should really help the car balance! Both [Colin] Turkington and [Andrew] Jordan have said it is better to drive, which makes me even more excited.
What would you say are your main priorities and concerns during testing?
In my world testing is key to success so we’ll be leaving no stone unturned. I look into everything to create the best balance possible.
Your move to the BMW 330i M Sport marks your first foray into rear-wheel machinery in the championship, how are you finding the adjustment?
It’s nice after 19 years in touring cars to have a new goal and challenge. RWD is that, alongside a new team and car! To be honest I was like a duck to water straight out the box, with dry, damp and wet running. I really enjoyed it all over our three days of testing so far. My old engineer Nick Silvester, who was with me for six years through WTCC and the BTCC and helped us to finish third overall in both championships, always said to me I would be a better driver in rear-wheel-drive cars. Well, let’s wait and see what happens this year – ever the optimist!
Talk us through what it’s like to sign with a different team, the adjustments to different people and ways of doing things etc…
Changing race teams is part of motorsport, all depending on where the sponsorship is coming from, to the car potential and team credentials. Usually, all three go hand in hand.
I feel very lucky this year to have been approached by Morgan’s team, Ciceley Motorsport. They’re a great bunch of hard-working, professional guys with a fun, happy vibe to everything they do. Having to learn so many new names quickly is really the hardest part of it all… when you feel like part of the family. That’s the key to a great race team, which Ciceley has.
With 2021 marking your 15th BTCC campaign, what advice would you give to your younger self ahead of your debut in 2002?
Maybe: ‘don’t go out and fire off Tim Harvey and Anthony [Reid] in your first BTCC race because you’re upset…’
I still finished third on Brands Hatch’s GP circuit, which I’d never driven on before that weekend, but I only got away with that one because I was still in nappies!
Securing a podium finish in your first race in the series must have been quite a high, what would you say is personally your biggest achievement in the BTCC?
It’s really hard for me to work out if being 2010 Independent Drivers’ Champion was better than finishing third overall in 2018, as I had far more experience after being in the FIA WTCC! I think because I was that much younger, 2010 was my biggest achievement. But I’m still holding out for that outright BTCC title.
Last year you bagged three podium finishes, with a newer car and a different team behind you in 2021, what can we expect from you in this campaign?
I really cannot wait to get racing again and not feel held back. I’ve had two years out of the top six in the championship where we were just filling up the field to make the others look good. Hoping now I won’t be the filling but the topping of the cake, the cherry preferably.