Autosport International 2018 gets underway with a flurry of announcements

The 2017 Ferrari (Photo by Marc Waller)Autosport International 2018 got underway with the Wrodl Rally championship taking the headlines today.

The BTCC, which has been the star of the first day over the past few years also had several announcements and there was a launch from Ginetta too.

The World Rally championship launch at the show marks the first time ever that an FIA world championship has held a launch there in it’s entire twenty seven year history.

Four 2018 season cars were launched, the M-Sport Fiesta WRC, the Hyundai i20 coupe WRC, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris WRC (Whose looks are as extreme as the name!) and the Citroën Racing C3 WRC.

Marking the first time a top-tier FIA World Championship has launched at the show in its 27-year history, crowds were treated to unveils of four new 2018 season World Rally Cars: the M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris WRC and Citroën Racing C3 WRC.

Interviews took place with all four team principals from those that launched cars; Malcolm Wilson, Michel Nandan, Tommi Mäkinen and Yves Matton respectively.

The Reigning WRC champion and M-Sport Ford driver, Sébastien Ogier said: “It’s fantastic to launch the new WRC series at Autosport International in front of so many true motorsport enthusiasts. Myself and the rest of the M-Sport team are really looking forward to Rallye Monte-Carlo later this month.”

This season will have more live coverage than ever before with plans to show every special stage from each round as it happens on WRC+

The BTCC still had it’s share of launches, the most significant being the new HMS Racing Alfa Romeo Guillietta to be driven by Rob Austin.

“We are so proud to finally be unveiling the new Alfa,” said Austin. “Everyone in our team has put in an incredible amount of work to keep the project on schedule while maintaining an impressive attention to detail.”

He continued;

“We also have to give a huge amount of credit to our fantastic technical partners, this is a very unique BTCC car and both Willie Poole Motorsport Services and ABS Motorsport have really gone above and beyond, on the shell and bodywork respectively, to overcome the challenges involved in such a unique design and still meet their deadlines.”

“To see the Alfa here today is the result of the hard work and passion of so many people, and also the passion of our fantastic sponsors. We consistently work hard to provide them all with unquestionable value from their support year-on-year and, as such, our partnerships strengthen and grow. So, seven years into our partnership together with Duo, we are proud to be entering the 2018 British Touring Car Championship as Duo Motorsport with HMS.”

The Motorbase Focus RS makeover is unveiled (Photo by Marc Waller) James Calado was among many drivers to take to the Autosport stage (Photo by Marc Waller) Three of the newly launched WRC cars (Photo by Marc Waller) The new Ginetta LMP1 car (Photo by Marc Waller)

 

 

 

“Duo have been a huge credit, not just to us but to UK motorsport for many years, supporting drivers all the way up the ladder to their own BTCC team. The passion for motorsport and desire to win that the Alfa Romeo brand is so well known for is equally prevalent in Duo as well as every member of the HMS team, so we are excited to see the three brands coming together to create something special like this.

“We are also excited to announce that we retain the support of business vehicle hire market leader Northgate after a very successful 2017 programme, and we have a lot more activities planned for the 2018 season. Additionally, we have entered an exciting new multi-season partnership with Close Brothers Asset Finance who will be featuring much more prominently on the new HMS Alfa Romeo BTCC car.”

Motorbase announced that they will switch to a two car team for 2018 with Mat Jackson being joined by Tom Chilton. The cars will receive major updates and it will be known as the Focus RS. There are many cosmetic and aerodynamic updates but there are also improvements to the NGTC Engine by Mountune.

Josh Cook was announced as Power Maxed racings new driver (Photo by Marc Waller) The Skoda WRC team on the Autosport stage (Photo by Marc Waller) The new Invictus Jaguar (Photo by Marc Waller) The new Alfa from HMS Racing (Photo by Marc Waller)

 

 

 

“I’m delighted with the new look,” said Team Principal David Bartrum. “The cars have been upgraded to the RS over the winter which has rejuvenated the Focus. If it goes as well as it looks, then we’ll be very happy by the end of the season.”

It’s the first time the RS badge has been seen in the BTCC for twenty five years. Bartrum continues;

“I’m a Ford fan through and through,” added the Team Boss. “The RS in my DNA from when I raced RS Cosworth’s back in the day so I’m over the moon to bring them back to the BTCC as part of the Motorbase stable.vThe RS styling suits the BTCC bodywork so well, the styling is really aggressive and has given the Focus a whole new look. The team have done an excellent job over the winter, it’s not just been a case of updating a few bumpers, a lot of development work has gone into this car and we’re confident that the improvements will show on track. With the new car, and driver line-up we have in place for 2018, I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Mat Jackson is equally happy to be continuing with the team;

“It’s great to be back with Motorbase and Team Shredded Wheat with Gallagher for another crack at the Championship. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

“I know that the guys have been hard at work over the winter to improve the pace of the car and there’s been a huge amount of hard work that’s gone in from their side.

“We’ve got a whole new set up this year with the RS and a new team-mate in Tom on-board for the season. It’s going to be an exciting season, and we’re hopeful that the changes will put us in good stead to battle for the BTCC title this year.”

PowerMaxed Vauxhall announced a new driver with Tom Chilton, their 2017 driver departing to Motorbase they have signed Josh Cook. Powermaxed Racing was where Cook began his BTCC career and he is happy to be returning;
“I’m so happy to be returning home to PMR,” said Cook. “I always wanted to stay there after winning the Jack Sears Trophy with them in both of our first years in the championship, but things just didn’t quite line up for all parties to do that.

“They were fantastic in my first season and having watched them closely and visited the premises recently there’s no doubt they’ve managed to improve massively; investment has gone in to all areas and the Astra looks so well built. I’m so excited.”

Last but not least, AMD Tuning team principal, Shaun Hollamby announced that the team would be expanding to run four cars in 2018. In addition to the two Audi’s already announced, the team will now also run the former 888 Engineering MG6s.
You can read all about this in a separate story.

Another major highlight of this year’s show is Ferrari’s main feature, which was revealed for the first time today. Showing the range of cars that are available through Corse Clienti, Ferrari’s exclusive client racing programme with the star being the 2017 Ferrari F1 car, named SF70H to mark Scuderia Ferrari’s 70th anniversary.

The car collected five race wins, 20 podiums, five pole positions on its way to scoring a total of 522 points between World Champion drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen in the 2017 season.

The SF70H joins the 2004 championship-winning F2004, 2017 LMGTE Pro World Endurance Championship-winning AF Corse 488 GTE, FXX-K Evo and the 488 Challenge cars.

There were some famous Ferrari faces too, with 2017 World Endurance Championship GTE Pro champions James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi making an appearance on the Autosport Stage.

Ginetta had it’s own launch took the covers off its LMP1 challenger that will race in the World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours this year. Called the G60-LT-P1, it’s Ginetta’s most advanced car in it’s history, producing 650bhp from its 3.4-litre V6 Mecachrome engine with a maximum speed of 225mph.

Another sportscar racing launch took place with the debutof Invictus Games Racing. A collaboration between James Holder, Co-Founder of the successful clothing brand Superdry, and the Invictus Games Foundation, it will see a select group of wounded, injured and sick veterans of the British Armed Forces compete in the 2018 British GT Championship as part of a new motor racing team in specially-designed Jaguar F Type GT4s

Holder contracted Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division to develop and build the two bespoke F-TYPE SVR racing cars to GT4 specification for the Invictus Games Racing drivers to compete in. The cars which were launched today have been in secret development for a year.

There were lots of famous faces on the Autosport Stage, including former Williams Martini Racing F1 test driver Susie Wolff. “It’s been two years since we launched the Dare to Be Different campaign here at Autosport International,” she said on the stage. “We’re making a real impact inspiring more and more women to get into motorsport and driving equality on and off the track.”

Other star names on the Autosport Stage included former F1 driver Derek Warwick and DTM driver Gary Paffett.

Meanwhile, over in the Live Action Arena, Billy Monger is partnering Terry Grant and the Mission Motorsport team performing a series of nail-biting stunts across all four days at Autosport International. More about that in a future report.

And that’s just the start of the things. Over the weekend, visitors to the show will be able to see and hear from the star driver of this year’s show: 1992 F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell CBE who will be opening the show on Saturday and will appear on the Autosport Stage over the course of the weekend. By Marc Waller 

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