Autosport 2016 opens at the NEC with the BTCC dominating the news

Jason Plato on stage (Photo by Marc Waller)

Jason Plato on stage (Photo by Marc Waller)The 2016 Autosport international show has got underway in Birmingham with a day full of announcements launches and unveilings.

The BTCC grabbed attention first with a string of announcements and unveilings. First up were Speedworks who unveiled a new livery for Tom Ingram. Ingram had announced his return the day before but today unveiled a new colour scheme and new sponsor REIS for his Toyota Avensis.

Christian Dick was pleased to have Ingram on board for another season;

“It’s great to be able to confirm Tom and our new partner REIS so early in the year,” he said “We’ve said all along that Tom was our number one choice as a driver after what we achieved together in 2015, and putting a deal together so soon means we can get out and do some really productive testing before the season starts.

“With its expertise in the motor sport and automotive industry, REIS is a natural fit and a brand that shares our ethos and objectives from its professionalism to its attention to detail. We’re delighted to have them on-board.”

Speedworks also had the last BTCC unveiling of the day when Matt Simpson unveiled the colours for his Brand new Civic Type R to be run by Speedworks. Simpson is excited to be joining the BTCC;
“It’s exciting to be unveiling my first British Touring Car,” he said as he was interviewed by Alan Hyde, “and the sheer interest and buzz around the Dunlop stand at Autosport International blew me away – to be racing in such a popular and prestigious championship is a huge deal for me.”

He continued;
“I can’t wait to get started, but at the same time, I’m keeping my feet firmly on the ground. There are so many quick and ultra-experienced drivers out there on the grid, and I’m aware I have a lot to learn. If we can make consistent progress over the course of the season, then it will have been a good rookie year.”

Handy Motorsport, who work with Speedworks in the BTCC, had one of the biggest surprises when they announced that Rob Austin is joining the team in a second Toyota Avensis. Austin had been widely expected to build new cars for his Rob Austin Racing team but has opted to run with Handy Motorsport instead although some of his RAR mechanics will be joining him.

Rob is very happy with the deal;
“I’m really excited to be joining forces with Handy Motorsport”, said Austin, “The new car is a lot more suited to the regulations than my Audis were and through this deal we’re combining the best bits of both teams. I think we should be able to do a really good job with the new Toyota and spring some surprises.

“There will be some adapting back to front-wheel drive but, as Colin Turkington has proved, if you can drive you can drive. It’s bloody hard work organising the money, running a team, sorting the sponsorship and driving as well, so I’m looking forward to focusing on the thing I do best rather than spreading myself so thin. This really is a perfect opportunity.”

Simon Belcher is also understandably delighted to bring a race winning driver into his team;

“It goes without saying, we are absolutely ecstatic to announce Rob as our new driver for 2016”, said an elated Belcher, who is due to continue with his Avensis that he has raced for the past couple of seasons. “He’s a quality driver, a proven race winner in touring cars, and brings a huge amount of experience to the team.”

Austin’s team will run their Audi A4s in the new club level BTCC series that it due to start this season.

“We’ve been discussing the possibility of working together for a while and, thanks to a new sponsor package, we’ve been able to put this programme together. We’re at the start of a very exciting period in the team’s BTCC story and very much looking forward to making big strides this season.”

Matt Simpson with his car (Photo by Marc Waller)New Eurotech design (Photo by Marc Waller)AMDs new colours (Photo by Marc Waller)Tom Ingrams new livery (Photo by Marc Waller)Earlier WSR had announced that Jack Goff will race the IHG Rewards Club BMW vacated by Andy Priaulx who is off to race for Ford in the WEC.

Goff spoke about joining the successful team;

“I am extremely proud and honoured to have been selected to drive for Team IHG® Rewards Club.

“Representing such a well-known brand, with a clear history of supporting racing talent, is fantastic and I hope to ‘reward’ the faith shown in me. Similarly the prestige of driving a BMW for a legendary team like West Surrey Racing represents a real dream come true for me.

“I’ve experienced BTCC podiums and took my first victory last season, so now I am looking at stepping up another level. Ultimately I want to become BTCC champion and challenging for the title is my immediate goal – I can’t wait to get started with WSR and Team IHG® Rewards Club.”

Team boss Dick Bennetts is pleased to have Goff as Priaulx’s replacement;

“We are very excited with IHG Rewards Club’s decision to take Jack onboard, as we have watched him develop into a top BTCC driver over the last couple of years.

“The 2016 Dunlop MSA BTCC championship is shaping up to be another great season, so with Jack joining WSR it will further strengthen our already strong line-up in our BMW 125i M Sports, which are currently undergoing an extensive development programme.

“We have a lot of pre season testing planned, so that will be good for Jack to have time to adjust to our RWD BMW’s and study all the data we have from 2015.”

Rob Austins new car (Photo by Marc Waller)Matt Simpsons new Civic (Photo by Marc Waller)New Wix colours (Photo by Marc Waller)New Laser Tools racing Mercedes colours (Photo by Marc Waller)Eurotech unveiled their 2016 Honda Civic Type R with 2015 drivers Jeff Smith and Martin Depper confirmed so far with the possibility of a third driver to come;

“All of us at Eurotech are very excited about the forthcoming BTCC campaign. The expansion of the team to run three cars in 2016 has made for an extremely busy winter, and all the boys have worked their socks off to keep us on schedule. Martin and I are both massively hyped about doing battle in the awesome new Civic Type R! We think it looks great – and if it’s as quick as it looks, then we should be onto a winner.” Said boss and driver Jeff Smith

Wix racing’s Adam Morgan unveiled a new livery on his Mercedes. He too, is positive about the season ahead

“After such a strong year in 2015, I really can’t wait to go racing again!” Morgan enthused. “Our A-Class will be entering its third season in the BTCC and the development work we have carried out should make it a regular podium finisher and contender for race wins.

“Although WIX Racing is only a small, family-run team, we have consistently punched above our weight and hopefully David will continue to slay Goliath on a regular basis in 2016!”

AMD Tuning also unveiled an entirely new livery for their Audi S3. Having sold their Focus to Maximum Motorsport, they now just have a single car in the BTCC. So far they haven’t signed a driver for 2016;
“We’re pleased to take the covers off the new-look Audi and think the end result will stand out on-track during the season ahead,” said team boss Shaun Hollamby. “We were keen to go back to our traditional colours this year, and we saw the ideal opportunity to incorporate elements of the IMSA Audi livery to celebrate our first full season with the S3.”

This refers to the IMSA Audi 90 GTO that raced in the late 80’s. Hollamby continues;

“Audi has a huge amount of history and heritage in motor sport, and whilst we are an independent team, we are proud to celebrate part of that heritage in the livery we have chosen. The famous Audi stripes go well with our own red and black, and also with the colours of Cobra Exhausts who we are delighted to have on-board again this season.”

Last but definitely not least, Aiden Moffat’s team, lAser Tools Racing unveiled a new livery for his Mercedes A Class with a new sponsor; Butlers Vehicle solutions. Tim Butler commented on the new deal
It’s nice to return to the BTCC with such a promising young talent in Aiden, who has matured impressively during the past 2 years competing in the BTCC. The Mercedes A Class is a strong race package which was shown last season when Aiden achieved a podium result at his home round in Scotland. We can’t wait to see Aiden race with the Butlers Vehicle Solutions Ltd logo on his race car. It will also be great to work again with Laser Tools in a sponsorship capacity.”

He continued “Being a televised race series on ITV4, the BTCC is a great way to showcase our business to a nationwide audience. It also enables us also to engage with fans using our social media accounts during the race season.”

Jason Plato had an announcement of his own although after his team announced he would be driving a Subaru Levorg in the BTCC this year, this time it was non BTCC related as he revealed he will be part of a new ITV show called Driven. It’s aimed to be ITV’s rival to Top Gear.

The final BTCC news was that Cosworth have renewed their deal to be the exclusive electronics provider to the BTCC.

The BWRDC had their annual Gold Stars presentation today. The BWRDC GoldStars Award is an initiative conceived by the BWRDC to promote talented women in motorsport. Only two of the prestigious GoldStars Awards may be presented annually; one to a Club Member who aspires to a higher level and one to an Elite Member wishing to progress her motorsport career to a professional level. This year’s nominees were;

The Elite GoldStars nominees:

Rally driver Sara Williams
Kart racer Abbi Pulling
Racing driver Ashleigh Morris

The Club GoldStars nominees:

Sprint driver Elen Worthington
Racing driver Helen Allen.

Susie Wolff with the Nominees (Photo by Marc Waller)Susie Wolff announced the winners on the stand of her new project “Dare to be Different.” (More on that in a separate story. Sara Williams won the Elite award with Elen Worthington winning the Club award. As well as the Goldstar awards themselves, winners also get various products and services from a variety of sponsors.

Ginetta launched their new G57 today, more can be read about that in a separate story.

Tomorrow sees the second day and the last of the trade days. If you are involved in the Motorsport industry, tickets are available on the door with the show opening from 9am until 6pm. If you are a fan, the first public day in on Saturday with the same opening hours. Once again tickets will be available on the door. By Marc Waller

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