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MOONLIGHTING 2021: EPISODE 2

A BTCC season without Matt Neal on the grid is a strange thing. He has been an almost, almost, permanent fixture since he debuted in the championship, but another aspect of the commercial pressures at Team Dynamics is that Matt vacates the race seat. It’s sad. I know nothing last forever, but you could never discount him and he remains a popular figure and a great ambassador for the BTCC.

And, as Matt exits stage left, back on stage right comes Jason Plato, ready to continue his pantomime villain role in the championship and to perhaps continue where he left off at the end of 2019 by winning at Brands Hatch for Power Maxed Racing. This really will be fascinating: has a year off – Goodwood races aside – blunted his speed or competitive drive? Nah, this is Plato we’re talking about, still as keen as mustard to reach 100 BTCC victories and to show these young upstarts that he is still a race winner. With the team running Dan Lloyd as his team-mate, he will be kept on his toes, but the pair of PMR Vauxhall Astras should be up at the front.

What else has happened in a busy close season? Well, new liveries have broken cover, testing is underway and the calendar has been revised to try to allow fans in from event two onwards. Hurray – we’ve missed you and the atmosphere that a vocal crowd brings.

The new Cupras, built by Team HARD look good, the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Corollas look very corporate and perhaps more menacing in the Japanese giant’s colours, and BMW has shown its latest artwork as well, for its rejigged, three-strong WSR campaign. There are plenty of teams yet to show their colours, so to speak, and the season launch day on 22 April should be a busy day indeed.

So, what are we looking forward to the most? Resumption of racing? Return of fans trackside? Gordon Shedden back on the grid? The return of Jason Plato? A full season for Jade Edwards to show her ability? An even more determined Colin Turkington after championship number five? Yep. All of that. And more. We’re ready for a season with more new cars, driver and team shuffles, new sponsors and investors than we’ve had for a while, and perhaps more than could have been expected early in last year’s lockdown.

Maybe the best news of all is that, in spite of everything that has been thrown at the BTCC, its teams, drivers and sponsors during 2020, we have a 29-strong entry, and that is indicative of the pulling power of the championship. Is it 9 May yet…?

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