After an exciting 2012 season, ESM’s BTCC Correspondent brings you a round-up of all the news, rumours and seat-swapping that has happened so far. So, what does he have to offer you? Read on:
It’s been a few months since the end of another dramatic season in the BTCC, which culminated in Gordon Shedden winning his first BTCC drivers’ crown. The teams, and TOCA, have naturally been busy in preparing for the season ahead; starting at Brands Hatch on the weekend of March 30th/31st.
Some of the most exciting close season news comes from Team HARD, who had been running Honda Civics throughout 2012. However, in quite a change of tact, the team will be fielding not only two Vauxhall Insignias next season but also two VW Passat CCs! Quite exciting, I’m sure you’ll agree. Team HARD have also secured the services of Tom Onslow-Cole from WSR in a shock three-year deal, which is quite some statement of intent. Onslow-Cole has proved himself to be an excellent driver in recent seasons and I’m sure Team HARD will be hoping his progress continues over the next three years. This will be one to one watch in the 2013 season.
Team HARD have also decided to give a BTCC chance to Renault Clio Cup champion Jack Goff, who had been testing with the team over the winter. All the best to Jack for the forthcoming season. I assume Tony Gilham will be taking one of the other remaining seats with the team leaving one spot still to be filled. Last season, the team chopped and changed their second driver so it remains to be seen who will complete their 2013 driver line-up.
One man, who will not be in the Team HARD seat next season, will be Dave Newsham who has completed a surprising move from ES Racing to Speedworks. There is little doubt that Newsham extracted the best from the trusty old Vectra and I thought he would have stayed there to give it another go next season, but he has opted join the NGTC Speedworks team to race a Toyota Avensis. Tony Hughes has certainly struggled to get the best out of the car, something highlighted by Paul O’Neill’s efforts at Knockhill in particular, when he was a guest driver. With Speedworks signing up Newsham, I expect to see the Avensis in the top 10 on a regular basis next season and possibly pushing for a win, especially in the reverse grid race.
Speedworks seem to be intent on running 2 cars next season, but who will join Newsham currently seems to be a mystery. The team have had Lea Wood, Sam Tordoff and Carl Boardley all testing the Avensis in the close season so one of these chaps could yet pop up in the second car.
Newsham’s departure from ES Racing obviously leaves a seat to be filled alongside Chris James for next season. The team have had Chris Knox testing last season’s car over the winter, but it remains to be seen whether he gets the nod for the season ahead.
Another man looking for a drive in the 2013 is Andy Neate following his early departure from Triple Eight/MG. Neate rarely impressed in the MG alongside Jason Plato last season; in-fact Neate has rarely impressed in any BTCC car in three years!
Three men who have been confirmed for next season are this year’s champion, Gordon Shedden at Honda Yuasa Racing alongside Matt Neal, and Adam Morgan who will continue in his Toyota Avensis, albeit now run by his own team, Cicley Racing.
Some interesting team news sees WSR eBay Motors remaining in BTCC with their BMWs, except they are changing to a 1-Series M-Sport version after 6 seasons with the successful BMW 320si models. The highlight of this car clearly came in 2009 when Colin Turkington won the BTCC drivers’ title. It’s a real shame we’ve never seen him since, apart from the occasional drive in the WTCC. It would be great to welcome him back in 2013. This could be a possibility following some hints during interviews last season and there is obviously a seat to be filled at WSR following Onslow-Cole’s departure.
A car that could be making a welcome return next season is the Chevrolet Cruze in NGTC specification with Tech-Speed Motorsport. The team have been testing the Cruze over the winter with the hope of it being ready for the new season.
TOCA have decided to spice things up next season before the race action has even begun on each race weekend, with Thruxton being the only exception. Drivers will be allowed to choose one set of special extra soft tyres allowing more grip throughout the race before qualifying has started on a Saturday. The drivers will be allowed to use the tyres in race 1, 2 or 3 on a Sunday but will have to nominate the race they have chosen pre-qualifying. Exciting times!
Finally, TOCA have also decided to employ a ‘three strikes’ strategy next season. Any driver who receives three warnings throughout the season will automatically have a 6-place grid penalty for the next available race plus any other penalty that is imposed. This news will certainly have grabbed the attention of some drivers more than others!
We continue to look forward to the start of the new BTCC season here at ESM; more news will follow in due course.From ESM's BTCC Correspondent
EngageSportMode is committed to bringing you more regular BTCC news and updates throughout the close season, in the run up to the first 2013 round in March. ESM will also be attending various rounds to bring you photos and reports from the frontline, along with the learned opinion of our own correspondent.