Alan Hyde is the trackside voice of the British Touring Car Championship and we caught up with him at Autosport International to find out why you should be excited for the 2017 season.
So last year there was a record number of winning drivers in the championship…
Yes! Over a third of the grid!
How excited are you for this year, especially with the new talent that is coming in to challenge the more established drivers?
Every year Sam, we talk at this time about the prospects for the forthcoming year and every year we talk about the various things, the various little changes that take place. So, so far the things that excite me tremendously – as you rightly say, new talent coming in and we’ve got some pretty amazing talent.
Ant Whorton-Eales, I challenge anyone to disagree with what I’m about to say, I think he’s one of the most exciting drivers in the country. He’s the Renault Clio Cup UK champion, it was a hard battle with former champion Mike Bushell last year but some of the moves that he pulled off, some of the racing he did was the best racing in the country. Phenomenal!
And one of the things you do need to be able to do in the BTCC is to make your way through a pack, particularly in race three where the grid is reversed so Ant I’m excited about.
Potentially a rookie BTCC champion?
Massive potential to be a rookie champion. He excites me because he does some quite interesting things away from the race circuit as well. He’s the kind of chap that will look at a lawnmower and think, ‘I wouldn’t mind putting a Cosworth engine in that,’ sticking the engine in and seeing if it works.
He’s just an interesting character, a great racer and an interesting prospect for this year so I’m keen to see how he gets on with AMD Tuning.
Who else are you looking forward to seeing in the coming season?
So, Andrew Jordan. Rear wheel drive, Pirtek Racing BMW. That excites me hugely. The prospect of that, Andrew Jordan obviously became a champion in front wheel drive [in 2013 driving the Honda Civic] but he knows about RWD cars.
He was in British Rally Cross, he knows what he’s doing. He’s driven all sorts of powerful machinery with RWD but it is his first RWD BTCC car. So the prospect of Andrew getting used to this and how quickly he – he’s a champion, a great driver so he’ll quickly get used to it but how quickly he’ll be able to start taking race wins like he did last year with Motorbase Performance, like he did in his championship year with the Honda, that’s one of the most interesting things for me.
Since winning the 2013 championship it’s not been easy for Jordan, especially in his season in the Triple888 MG, can he find his way again?
Let’s not forget that Andrew won the Independent’s championship last year so that’s pretty impressive in it’s own right. He did have a good year. He might not have won as many races as Matt Jackson did, his 2016 team-mate, but it was a very good year.
But you could tell that, when he got his trophy, that wasn’t really what he was looking for. It’s great to be a winner but he’s the sort of guy that want’s championship titles again and again and again. And signing up with WSR [West Surrey Racing] to run the BMW racing car that’s, on the strength of what happened last year, is one of the strongest drives in the field this year without a shadow of a doubt.
Will Colin Turkington be joining him back at WSR?
Where Turkington is going, we don’t know and that’s one of the interesting stories that’s broken here at Autosport – the fact that he’s not going to be with Subaru and Team BMR.
Obviously if we’re making the jigsaw puzzle of where he could potentially go after this week and all of the announcements we’ve had at the show, there are only a few options.
Turkington’s tested the Team HARD Toyota Avensis but can you see him going anywhere but back to WSR, back to a team that is almost a comfort zone for him, where he won his second championship title in 2014?
The comfortable team that have taken him to his championship titles. He knows the way they work, all about the team and, you know what? Colin, even when he went to BMR, made no cover up of the fact that he still had the most ultimate respect for WSR and I think, the year that he went to BMR, he’d tried everything he could to remain with WSR because that’s where he was comfortable. It’s what he knew, the car he knew, the team he knew. He’s got a huge respect for [team boss] Dick Bennetts, he just wasn’t able to get quite the budget that was required to do it.
So that would be where the smart money would go, that if he could get the correct budget together he’d be back with Dick Bennetts and WSR and WSR have got three cars but have only announced one driver so far.
Obviously you’ve got Rob Collard and Jack Goff, both of whom drove for WSR last season, without at drive at the moment.
Make no mistake, Rob Collard is almost as much a piece of the furniture at WSR as Colin Turkington is, so the only signed driver, the only announced driver at the moment is Andrew Jordan.
Jack Goff, we don’t know. He’s working on things at the moment and I think it’s fair to say, I spoke to him today, that he’s reasonably confident that he can put a deal together for something before the season gets underway.