The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship had its official “Media Day” at Donington Park yesterday with car unveilings and photo opportunities in the morning and then an important 4-hour test session in the afternoon. The BTCC goes from strength to strength this year as it again holds a capacity 32-car grid with 16 race winners,5 former champions and a whole host of young and thirsty challengers to take the fight to them.
Two manufacturers are returning in 2017 as Vauxhall make their eagerly anticipated return, along with BMW who are back in the series for the first time as a manufacturer in 21 years. They both join the likes of Honda, Subaru and MG all fighting for manufacturers glory. The 2017 season also sees the second phase of the current NGTC rules as all cars will now be fitted with the new RML components, brand new TOCA engine and newly developed Dunlop tyres.
The Honda boys of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden will both be looking to draw level with Andy Rouse on 4 BTCC titles, as Neal now enters his 27th BTCC season. West Surrey Racing have a similarly strong line up, as Colin Turkington returns alongside Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan, who will be competing under the BMW Pirtek Racing banner. Team BMR look a lot stronger this year in terms of development and will be at the sharp end in the hands of Jason Plato,James Cole,Ash Sutton and series debutant Josh Price, who makes the jump from the Clio Cup and will be competing under the BMR Racing Academy banner.
Last years Independants Champions ‘Motorbase have undergone a makeover, bringing three yellow Shredded Wheat backed Ford Focus’ to the grid in the hands of Mat Jackson,Martin Depper and new boy Luke Davenport.MG field an all new lineup with Dan Lloyd,who impressed on his brief spell in the championship last year and Aron Taylor-Smith. Adam Morgan’s Mercedes A-class will carry a new livery in 2017 having made a deal with MAC Tools and fellow Mercedes driver Aiden Moffat returns with Laser Racing. The two Toyota’s of Rob Austin and Tom Ingram will be looking to continue from some strong performances last season, with the latter piloting the new facelifted Avensis.
Team HARD have acquired 3 VW Passat’s for 2017 and will be piloted by Jake Hill, Mike Epps and Will Burns, who makes his series debut. Eurotech return with Jeff Smith and Jack Goff,who makes the jump from BMW to Honda, meanwhile Mat Simpson has backing from Team Dynamics in his new Honda Civic Type R. Stephen Jelley returns to the series with Team Parker Racing and Josh Cook with Maximum Motorsport. Dave Newsham and Chris Smiley return to the championship in a pair of Chevrolet Cruze’s ran by BTC Norlin and Power Maxed Racing bring Vauxhall back to the championship with debutant Senna Proctor and popular returnee,Tom Chilton.
The banks of the Donington Park circuit were filling nicely as the cars took to the track for the 4 hour test session. Times tumbled and positions changed as teams were trying different setups with their cars. There were a few stoppages throughout the day as, Davenport, Taylor-Smith and Will Burns all had incidents. But it was the Toyota of Tom Ingram who took the early bragging rights for 2017 as he posted a 1.09.995 to finish top of the pile. It was double joy for Toyota, as Rob Austin backed up the pace of the Avensis by posting the second fastest time. Chris Smiley had impressive pace in third, while Morgan, Goff, Moffat, Epps, Chilton,Newsham and Ollie Jackson rounded out the top ten. The best of the former champions was Shedden in 11th, with Tarkington,Neal,Plato and Jordan 13th,14th,17th and 21st respectively.
So now the talking stops and the business starts for the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car season. Who is your pick for the title?
(Photo from BTCC.net)