Plenty of launches as Autosport 2017 gets underway in Birmingham

Lots of interesting cars on show in the Perform (Photo by Marc Waller)

Lots of interesting cars on show in the Perform (Photo by Marc Waller)Day one of the 2017 Autosport International show took place on Thursday and once again, BTCC launches dominated the days news.

First launch of the day was AMD tuning who unveiled their 2017 Spec Audi. While the car may appear to have not changed much on the surface, underneath it now has all the new RML built NGTC spec parts. This should bring a bit of a performance boost for the team. But perhaps more important was their announcement that 2016 Clio Cup Champion Ant Whorton-Eales will be driving the teams second Audi alongside Ollie Jackson.

Boss Shaun Hollamby spoke about the deal;

From the moment we confirmed that we would have a second car on the grid, we’ve spoken to a number of drivers who were keen to join us for 2017, and we’re delighted to have been able to do a deal with Ant to fill the seat,” he said. “Even before winning the Clio title last year, he had shown his potential on track and we’re confident that he will be a strong addition to the grid this year.

“Having already won the Jack Sears Trophy once a few years ago, it would be great if we could secure it again this year and there is no doubt we have a fantastic chance with Ant.

“Alongside Ollie Jackson, he gives us a strong partnership for our first full season as a two-car BTCC team and we go into 2017 with our focus firmly on fighting for regular points and on pushing towards the top ten.

“With everything now in place for the new season, we also want to thank Cobra Sport Performance Exhausts for their continued support, as without that help, we wouldn’t have been able to expand to a two car BTCC team.”

Ant is just as happy to make his BTCC debut;

“I’m delighted to be able to confirm my place on the touring car grid, and I think that I’ve made a good choice in for my first season. The team has plenty of experience and there is a lot of potential in the Audi that I aim to benefit from.

“As a rookie driver, the main target has to be the Jack Sears Trophy and it would be nice if we could be pushing towards the top ten in the championship by the end of the year.

“Of course that won’t be easy and I’m aware that I have a lot to learn, but I also want to aim high and make the most of the opportunity I now have.”

Next up was Handy Motorsport who had already confirmed the return of Rob Austin to drive their Toyota Avenis. They unveiled a new sponsor, Northgate vehicle rentals as well as the return of 2016 sponsor Duo. Handy have also announced that they will now be running the whole team in house. They used to run in conjunction with Speedworks.

The day before the show Speedworks announced that Tom Ingram is returning to drive their Toyota Avensis and Ingram’s aim is wins.

Simpson Motorsport unveiled the 2017 livery for their Civic. The team is another to switch from working with Speedworks as they will now work in conjunction with Team Dynamics, who run the works Honda team.

The Honda team themselves unveiled their 2017 colours with Neal and Shedden doing the unveiling.

Motorbases new Shredded Wheat Sponsored Ford Focus has already been unveiled but they announced the other two drivers who will be joining Mat Jackson in the three car team. Martin Depper joins the Kent Squad after several seasons with Eurotech and Luke Davenport joins from the Ginetta GT4 Supercup support race plus more recently, British GT.

The new Pirtek livery (Photo by Marc Waller) Jeff Smith is interviewed (Photo by Marc Waller) Brakes are among many components on display and on sale in the Engineering exhibition (Photo by Marc Waller) the new Fiesta WRC making its UK public debut (Photo by Marc Waller) The AMD BTCC team for 2017 (Photo by Marc Waller) Rob Austin and boss Simon Belcher with the Handy Motorsport Toyota (Photo by Marc Waller) Motorbase 2017 drivers with team boss Dave Bartrum (Photo by Marc Waller)




Boss Dave Bartrum is pleased with his new signings;

“Martin has been in the championship for a while now, so he knows exactly what to expect. He tested the Focus at the end of last season and quickly got up to a strong pace in the car. We were equally reassured with his pace and ability both driving, and tuning the car to his liking. I’m sure we’ll see him fulfilling his potential as a BTCC driver this year and providing a few surprises along the way.”

He continued;

“Luke is a really exciting young driver who is ready to rise to the new challenge, His pace is without question and I’m sure he will be making waves as soon as the flag drops at Brands Hatch. His approach during his initial test impressed us from the start and his driving ability and detail both in and out of the car was the best we’ve seen for a long time, so we’re really looking forward to his showing.”

Depper seems happy with his move;

“I’m over the moon to be joining the Motorbase team for the 2017 campaign,” said Depper. “When I tested the Focus back in November, I quickly found pace in tricky conditions, so I’m really looking forward to carrying that forward and making my fourth season in the BTCC my best yet. I’m also really excited to be partnering Mat and Luke as I’m sure we will work well together and show real strength in our team work.”

Davenport is looking forward to his season;

“It’s great to be back on the TOCA package after racing GTs for the past couple of seasons. I have fond memories from racing in the Ginetta Supercup in 2014 when we won the Teams’ Championship with United Autosports and there’s really nothing quite like the buzz of the BTCC. If you’re involved in British Motorsport you can’t help but keep an eye on the BTCC and the incredible reach and impact it has. I feel incredibly privileged to get the opportunity not only to race in the UK’s leading series but to also be joining a front-running team in my rookie year. There’s a great atmosphere within the Motorbase team and their results speak for themselves.

“I have to say a big thank you to Alex at DUO for helping to put this deal together;” he continued. “DUO has supported me since 2014 and they’ve been essential to my development as a driver and helped me to reach the stomping ground of the BTCC. I hope to repay that support with some great results this year.”

WSR and Andrew Jordan unveiled the Pirtek Racing sponsored BMW but the team gave no clues about the identity of their other 2017 drivers.

Jordan is very positive about the car and his chances

“I don’t think there is any doubt that the Pirtek Racing BMW will be the best looking car on the BTCC grid this season, The chrome blue really stood out on track last year, but I think it looks even better on the 1 Series. The Pirtek Racing colours and the BMW are just a great fit; they complement each other perfectly.

“Since the testing we did prior to Christmas, the team has been hard at work on making improvements to what was already an extremely good car and I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel when we return to the track next month.

“We want to make sure that when we get to Brands Hatch for the season opener, we are challenging for pole position and race wins. If the Pirtek Racing BMW goes even half as well as it looks, then we’ll certainly be firmly in the mix at the front of the pack.”

There were plenty of other BTCC drivers around the show with Jeff Smith, Jake Hill and Aron Taylor Smith among those not already mentioned. Plus many of the BTCC stars are in action in the live action arena. More on that in a future report.

Another big story to break today was the news that MSV, the Uk’s biggest circuit operator has agreed a 21 year lease on Donington Park from the current owners, the Wheatcroft family. This will leave MSV with 5 major circuits (Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Oulton Park, Cadwell Park and now Donington Park.) but the deal has to go through various regulatory processes before it’s approved and can go ahead.

MSV boss Jonathan Palmer spoke about the deal;

“Donington has incredible history, being the first permanent road circuit in the country and the only circuit upon which the mighty pre-war Auto Unions and Mercedes Grand Prix cars raced in the 1930s.

Its modern day existence is purely down to the vision and energy of Tom Wheatcroft, whom I admired enormously. I can still remember the excitement of racing at the new Donington in my Marcos, the year it opened in 1977. However my Donington highlight was taking pole position and winning the FIA Formula 2 Championship round in 1983, and being presented with my trophy by Tom Wheatcroft on the podium. I was later privileged to be commentating for BBC TV when Ayrton Senna took his stunning F1 win at Donington in 1993.

Like many circuits in the UK, Donington has had a turbulent time over the last ten years, though thankfully Kevin Wheatcroft and his team have now recovered the damage done by the previous owner of the business. Donington is a good British circuit that deserves further investment, energy and expertise in order to make it truly outstanding, and MSV will provide this. We plan a great new era for Donington, with some exciting new events and much enhanced quality of experience for all of its customers, whether spectators, competitors and track day participants, together with even better value.”

There were plenty of other famous faces around the show today including Former F1 turned Sky commentator Martin Brundle, M Sport boss and former Rally driver Malcolm Wilson and Darren Turner from the WEC.

The show has one further trade day on Friday before it opens to the public on Saturday. Tickets are still available, either in advance with collection on the day or in person at the show.

The performance car show runs at the same time show casing various performance cars and various retailers selling items for them. Autosport engineering runs for the first two trade days before it’s replaced by the Short track and oval racing show on the public days.

We’ll bring you further reports on the attractions and the news at the show. By Marc Waller

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