Handy Motorsport’s Simon Belcher is to pull out for three meetings from Snetterton onwards and he will be replaced by US driver Robb Holland. Belcher stopped for financial reasons and was on the lookout for a driver with funds to take over his car. Step forward Holland, who last year drove an Audi with his own team, Rotek Motorsport. He’d not returned this year for financial reasons but his main Sponsor Oakley have joined with the existing Handy Motorsport for the next nine races. It’s not clear at this stage if Holland will continue after this or if Belcher will return.
Exocet Alcosense racing are also looking for a replacement driver but this time for just the Knockhill round. Regular driver Hunter Abbott and his wife are expecting a baby and its due date falls right on the Knockhill race weekend. The team are looking for a driver with budget to take over his car for the single round in Scotland. Rob Austin, the team boss and driver of the team’s other car explains their position;
“This is a one-off for a driver of the right calibre and with budget to cover the race weekend and some testing prior to the event. We wanted to get this offer out there as soon as possible to give ourselves the best possible chance to find the right driver for the job. Ultimately it’s a fantastic opportunity for any driver – whether they have previous BTCC experience or are looking to contest the championship – to make some big headlines.”
Meanwhile Hunter Abbott and the team will be in action at the annual Bug Jam show at Santa Pod. This is Europe’s biggest event for VW and other VAG group vehicles with 30,000 plus people expected during the weekend. The team’s Audi A4 will be in action on the drag strip against various rivals. Hunter is looking forward to the event;
“This will be like nothing I’ve ever know before but a chance to put on a show with no pressures of a race weekend in front of 35,000 VW-Audi fans sounds awesome. I’m looking forward to my first go on a drag strip – just so long as they don’t put me up against the Jet Car that Santa Pod has!”
He continues; “It’s also a great event for the team to let their hair down and soak up the atmosphere as I hear they did to quite some effect in 2014, plus of course an event like this gives all the team’s partners terrific added exposure beyond that already achieved in the BTCC.”
Motorbase have now finally confirmed that they will be returning to the BTCC as planned when the championship resumes at Snetterton. The team had said at the start of the season that they hoped to re-join the championship at the mid-point but that it was subject to obtaining the funding to compete. They lost their former title sponsor Airwaves at the end of 2014 and ever since they have been on the hunt for new backers. They’ve not yet announced where their new funding is coming from but expect them to be revealed on the Snetterton weekend. Their drivers will be Mat Jackson and James Cole. Team boss Dave Bartrum is clearly excited to be back;
“We’re all really looking forward to coming back to the championship at Snetterton. It’s been a long winter for us but we’ve been far from resting on our laurels. The development work with the new mountune engine has gone really well and it’s exciting to be re-joining the BTCC and to see where we are compared to the rest of the grid.”“It will be an exciting challenge for Mat, James and the whole team;”
He continues; “A lot of hard work has gone into this project and l hope we can go out there and get some decent results as a reward. Obviously we can’t win the championship in the second half of the season, but we can go out there to win races and podiums and we’re up for the challenge.”
They joined most of the front running teams as 25 cars took to the track in the annual mid season tyre test at Snetterton last week. Mat Jackson grabbed the headlines taking fastest time on the team’s comeback although as always with testing times, it’s hard to gauge performance without knowing the various teams set ups and plans during the test.
The full top ten was as follows;
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship test
1, Mat Jackson, Motorbase Performance, Ford Focus, 66 laps, 1:57.216s
2, Colin Turkington, Team BMR, VV CC, 103 laps, +0.152s
3, Andrew Jordan, MG 888 Racing, MG 6GT, 120 laps, +0.173
4, Jason Plato, Team BMR, VW CC, 45 laps +0.365
5, Andy Priaulx, WSR, BMW 125i M Sport, 91 laps, +0.431
6, Aron Smith, Team BMR, VW CC, 63 laps, +0.513
7, Tom Ingram, Speedworks Motorsport, Toyota Avensis, 46 laps, +0.559s
8, Gordon Shedden, Honda Racing, Honda Civic Type R, 56 laps +0.591s
9, Matt Neal, Honda Racing, Honda Civic Type R, 65 laps, +0.811s
10, Sam Tordoff, WSR, BMW 125i M Sport, 76 laps +1.008s
In the week before the test, Championship organisers Toca, were confirmed by the MSA as the organiser and promoter of the BTCC for another five years once the current contract ends in 2017. Toca fought off rival bids from several other contenders including MSVR, the race organising division of Jonathon Palmer’s MSV company.
Toca Boss Alan Gow spoke about the decision;
“Naturally we are delighted with the decision and look forward to building on the BTCC’s continued success into the next decade and beyond. TOCA is solely committed to maintaining and improving the BTCC’s position as the best in British motor racing and one of the highest regarded championships in world motor sport. Since 2005 we have again built the championship back to its premier status and we are happy that our proven, professional and passionate organisation has been recognised by being awarded this new contract.”
Mike Bushell of AMD Tuning recently held the first of two #ihelpedmike track days with a Renault Clio he previously used in the Clio cup. The track days are to reward fans who recently backed him in a crowd funding initiative to get him back on track after his heavy shunt at Thruxton. He spent the day at a roasting hot Brands Hatch either giving fans tuition on driving the car or giving hot lap rides depending on what individual fans donated. A second day will be held at Rockingham in August.
There has also been sad news from one of the most popular female support race drivers, Sophia Floersch. Sophia has announced on twitter that she is pulling out of this year’s Ginetta Junior Championship and will not race again in the second half of the season. It’s unclear at this stage exactly what has prompted the pull out. Internet speculation has ranged from budget issues to alternative drives but nothing has been confirmed by Floersch herself. All she has announced beyond the pull out is that she will be testing an F4 car ready to make her single seater debut in 2015. This does not appear to be the reason for the withdrawal as she had previously announced this as part of her future plans. We’ll bring you further news as and when it’s announced.
The next rounds of the the BTCC and it’s support races will be at Snetterton in Norfolk on the 8th and 9th of August. Advance tickets are available from the Snetterton website (http://www.snetterton.co.uk/) up until the Wednesday in the week before the event. They offer a discount on the gate prices for the event. There are due to be a record thirty two cars on the grid for the first time. Will the order stay the same as the first half of the season or will the midseason break give other cars a chance to move up the order? Where will the two Motorbase cars end up? Is their rapid test pace a one off or will they be regular front runners? Hopefully all these questions will be answered at Snetterton in August. By Marc Waller