The 2015 BTCC kicks off on Easter weekend and with a huge amount of drivers changing teams as well as new cars and whole new teams there are a lot of changes to catch up on. We’ll go through the 2015 teams and drivers and rate their possible chances for the season
WSR (Team JCT600 with GardX and Team IHG Rewards Club)
WSR keep the BMW 1 series and Rob Collard but almost everything else changes. Gone is champion Colin Turkington and in is 3 times WTCC champion Andy Priaulx. Joining him and Collard in the team is Sam Tordoff from the works MG squad. The team will actually be run as two separate squads, Team JCT600 with GardX (Tordoff and Collard) and Team IHG Rewards Club with Priaulx.
Priaulx is expected to be quick but previous big name drivers have found the BTCC to be harder to adjust to than they were expecting. Priaulx did also take a while to adjust to his DTM BMw when he first moved there from the WTCC. This suggests that a title challenge is unlikely this season especially as Priaulx is missing Rockingham due to commitments in GT racing in Europe. Collard hasn’t been able to keep up with team mate Turkington in previous years so can he make a title challenge? If he can stay consistently at the front this should be his best chance for years and he may prove to be the quickest of the 3 team cars initially. Tordoff is very fast so expect him to be winning races sooner rather than later.
Honda Yuasa Racing (Team Dynamics)
Gone is the Civic Tourer as the team return to the 5 door hatch but this time in the guise of the new Type R. In reality due to the NGTC rules, there is very little of the road type R on the car although it does have a new NGTC spec engine based on the type R road car. This should mean that as long as the new engine is reliable, (Not usually a Honda issue) the team will be championship contenders. The team keep regulars Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden. Both will be aiming for the title
MG Triple Eight Racing All change on the driver front here with Andrew Jordan joining the team from his former family team, Eurotech. Andrew seems to have taken well to the MG6 and will be trying to regain the championship after winning it in 2013. His dad will be joining him at the team to assist with running the car. His team mate will be Jack Goff who has shown flashes of speed during his time in the BTCC so far but hasn’t been a regular front runner. Triple Eight believe they can turn him into a regular front runner and the duo should make a great partnership. There will be no third car this year, Marc Hynes has returned to work with the Manor f1 team and triple 8 have been unable to do a deal with another driver. The only downside in the package is the fact that they run the standard Swindon NGTC engine. If the new Honda engine proves to be very good, they may not have the horsepower to compete but don’t under estimate Triple Eight, they know how to get cars to the front.
Aron Smith and boss, Warren Scott remain from last season driving the VW CC’s but the biggest surprise of the off season was the signing of two BTCC champions, Jason Plato and the 2014 champion Colin Turkington. The team’s VW CC’s have won races before and have always been somewhere near the front but haven’t as yet become regular race winners. The signing of Plato and Turkington could be the boost they need to become championship contenders. Plato has a reputation for winning in whatever he drives and so it’ll be a big surprise if he’s not on it from the start. Turkington may have to adjust to front wheel drive after two seasons in the WSR BMW’s but he is always quick. The arrival of Plato and Turkington may also boost Smith into becoming a regular race winner. Warren improved all through last season and although he’s unlikely to get a win, top tens should be possible. Several staff changes should help things on the engineering side and overall this team looks set for a great season. The only things that are still a mystery are their sponsors and colour scheme which is still being kept under wraps for now
Support our Paras Racing (Infiniti)
This new team surprised everyone when they popped up during the winter. Out of seemingly nowhere we had a works Infiniti team. In reality, Richard Hawken and Derek Palmer jr were looking into forming a team and decided to approach Infiniti about using their cars. Infiniti were so impressed with the team and the concept of using injured former Paratroopers to work on the car that they agreed to back them as a fully works outfit. Rumours then went around fan forums that the drivers would be stepping aside for drivers such as Plato but this proved to be the usual internet “hot air” you get during silly season. Both drivers are new to the series and as such will be unlikely to be front runners as they learn both the new Q50 cars and the robust racing! Surprisingly the cars will only be finished in time for the first rounds despite the team being the first to announce their participation.
Excocet Alcosense (Rob Austin Racing)
One of the few teams from last season not to have any driver changes going into 2015. Rob Austin is again joined by Hunter Abbott. Sherman and Panzer are back although the team have done a lot of development work on them during the season. Austin won last year so will be hoping for more wins. Abbott was one of the stand out rookies of 2014 and made great progress during the season. He’ll be hoping for similar steps forward in 2015 to put him alongside Austin. This is definitely a team to watch out for in 2015.
Wix Racing (Ciceley Motorsport.)
Another team staying the same in 2015. Adam Morgan was always somewhere near the front last season in his Mercedes but it took until the final round for him to win. This season he’ll be hoping for more wins. Aiden Moffatt is running another Ciceley built Mercedes A class and the two teams are closely co-operating so the extra data from the two cars should be a big boost for development.
Laser Tools Racing
As mentioned above, Aiden switches to a Mercedes in 2015. After a solid if not amazing debut season, he’ll be looking to move up the grid and show the potential he’s shown in other championships.
Mike Bushell was announced last year and has been undergoing a winter testing program since then so he should certainly be well prepared. Dave Newsham got the car onto the podium last season so with the current Clio Cup champion now on board they’ll be hoping to continue the top ten finishes. Bushell is new to the championship and so may not be up the front straight away but it shouldn’t be long before he’s right up there. But AMD Tuning also announced another car at media day; The ex Rotek racing Audi A3. The driver was an even bigger surprise; Lewis Hamiltons brother Nicolas Hamilton. He’ll become the first ever disable driver in the BTCC when he joins the championship. He is entered as a guest driver and won’t be doing all the rounds or scoring any points. He joins at Croft and then does Snetterton, Rockingham, Silverstone and the Brands Finale. Having only limited racing experience and not having raced at all for a year and a half, expectations are low. Finishing in a points scoring position will be like a win. (He can’t score points as he is entered as a guest entry) The 22 year old, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy is excited about his debut;
“I am incredibly excited to be racing in the BTCC with AmD Tuning this year,” said Nicolas Hamilton. “The BTCC is the top national motorsport series here in the UK and having the opportunity to race at that level is the biggest challenge I’ve taken on in my career to date. I’m coming into the Championship with a lot to learn and my expectations are to develop as a driver as my programme across the season progresses. Whilst I’m aiming to improve as a driver, I’m also hoping to inspire others to strive for their own personal goals, whatever their situation in life. Anyone can ‘Exceed Expectations’ in one way or another and I hope to prove that when I race alongside, not just able-bodied drivers, but the best Touring Car drivers in the UK.”
Alex Martin’s Dextra Racing team was originally expected to be run as part of Motorbase but after their announcement of a sabbatical, Martin’s car will be run by the experienced Team Parker Racing. Martin is experienced in GT racing but this is his BTCC debut. If he can adjust to the different style of racing in the BTCC he should do well.
The team is listed on the entry list with Mat Jackson and James Cole as their drivers but a lack of sponsorship has forced them to miss the first half of the season. They are due to join in the second half if they can find funding and if they still have their TBL which could in theory be taken by another entrant.
The Jordan’s have sold the team to Jeff Smith who returns to drive one of the cars. Andrew Jordan’s 2014 team mate Martin Depper will drive the other. Although both drivers have strong records in club racing, they’ve both struggled in the BTCC up till now. Smith looks the stronger of the two and will be more likely to make the top ten. They could find the opposition tough. They have made the decision to fit the standard TOCA engine in their Honda Civic this year instead of the previous Honda based unit. The Honda engine was always strong in the past so it remains to be seen if this will be a positive move.
Tom Ingram returns for another season with the team he made his BTCC debut with. He showed flashes of speed last year but had some of the worst luck of any of the drivers. If he can match his speed with luck and reliability then he could score podiums and even wins. A newly rebuilt Toyota Avensis and new staff on the engineering side will help his efforts.
Simon Belcher returns in the sister team to speedworks. He had a tough learning year last season including a trip into the trees at Thruxton. He hopes to move up the field in 2015 but opposition is tougher than ever. Speedworks will certainly be a big help in improving performance as they work with Belcher’s team.
RCIB Insurance racing (Team Hard)
Tony Gillham’s outfit is back after the previous incarnation was absorbed by BMR. He’s put together a small but experienced team to run Kieran Gallagher in an ex United Autosports Toyota Avensis. Gallagher doesn’t have much experience but has plenty of enthusiasm. It’ll be a tough task to do well in 2015 but the team does have a history of giant killing performances.
Welch had a nightmare 2014 when they decided to develop their own engines. Not only did they have problems with the engines themselves but they fell foul of rules on engine usage that were actually designed to stop well funded teams from dominating smaller outfits. In this case they hurt the smaller team and Welch lost points. Ollie Jackson has left to race in the Ginettas and in his place comes Andy Wilmot, who is a rookie other than a single meeting for Team Hard in 2013. If the engines are now sorted then Dan Welch has the potential for at least top tens. Wilmot will be learning though and points would be a positive result for him.
Lea Wood has stepped back from racing this year to manage the team and in his place has come experienced club racer Stewart Lines. He has won in most things he’s raced in but the BTCC is tough and realistically to start with he’ll be near the back but if he can learn fast, he should have the talent to do better in the second half of the season.
Power Maxed Racing
Chris Stockton has sold his team to sponsor Power Maxed, who have invested a large amount of money in the team. They will be running two Chevrolet Cruze. One is the former Moffatt/Neate car and the other has been built up from a new shell and the parts from the old United Autosports Avensis. Joining the team is Dave Newsham and his team mate is 2014 Clio cup runner up Josh Cook. Newsham is already a BTCC winner and the team will be looking to him to help put them at the front. Cook is racing under the Racing for Heroes banner and this will be his debut season. His initial target will be to get close to Newsham.
The first rounds are at Brands Hatch on Easter weekend and you can still buy tickets. Visit www.brandshatch.co.uk for more details. As always, we’ll be reporting from every round.
Despite losing two former champions in Fabrizio Giovanardi and Alain Menu, the 2015 BTCC season looks set to be even more exciting. With more driver moves than we’ve had for a number of years resulting in some interesting line ups, plus the return of 3 times touring car world champion Andy Priaulx, we’re set for a great year. By Marc Waller