As we’ve become used to over the past few seasons, a capacity thirty two car grid will contest the season with an incredible 17 race winning drivers
This year, four of the teams are manufacturer backed entries Honda (Team Dynamics), Subaru (BMR), BMW, (WSR) and Vauxhall (Powermaxed TAG Racing) BMW will be looking to defend their title but will face stiff opposition from the other three with Honda using the all new Civic Type R.
Subaru’s Ashley Sutton, the 2017 Champion will be defending his crown with Subaru and he is joined once again at the team by Jason Plato, who is looking to come back from his worst ever season in the championship. Josh Price drives a third, Autoglym backed machine.
In the independents, Tom Ingram returns with Speedworks to defend his title in the Toyota Avensis and he’ll be hoping to go for the overall title too.
The Jack Sears trophy this year will be contested by drivers who have yet to score a podium, leaving thirteen drivers in contention for that title in 2018.
The same ten circuits will be used again this season with some minor changes to the calendar. ITV4 will again show every round live in HD making this the uk championship with the best TV coverage.
Dunlop continue as sponsor and tyre supplier and will be making the markings on the different types of tyre much more clear to let fans trackside see the teams tyre choices during races.
This could be more important than ever at the Snetterton weekend. One of the three races will be a 60 mile race to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the BTCC. Dunlop intend to make an announcement during the season about the race and the tyres that will be used.
There are plenty of other 60th anniversary celebrations going on during the year with some still to be announced. A special logo has been designed along with some artwork showing various cars from the championships history.
Back to the teams and drivers and BMW go into 2018 with an unchanged car and driver line up with Colin Turkington driving for the main BMW team and Andrew Jordan driving for the Pirtek sister team. (Although all are run as one team by WSR.)
Matt Neal has a new team mate to get used to at Honda as Gordon Shedden heads to the WTCR. In his place comes the very highly rated multiple Porsche champion Dan Cammish. Cammish had been looking for a Sportscar career but when the opportunity of a Honda Manufacturer drive came up he couldn’t turn it down. The new Civic Type R may need some work before it’s a race winner although Team Dynamics have a history of making cars quick from the start.
Powermaxed TAG (As they’re now known) continue as the manufacturer backed Vauxhall team and Senna Proctor starts his second season. He will be Joined by Josh Cook, who started his BTCC career with the team. Wins have to be the target this year.
Eurotech had a mixed season last year with Jack Goff winning but with Team Boss Jeff Smith having a season ending crash at Croft. His son Brett who replaced him last year continues for his first full season as Jeff is still not well enough to drive with some nerve damage in his shoulder proving slow to heal. Jack Goff continues in the second car and with a switch to Honda engines, he will be hoping for a title challenge. They also are joined by Matt Simpson who brings his car from Team Dynamics. Smith and Goff run as Wix Racing with a new title sponsor and Simpson runs under his own name.
Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher (Motorbase) have already had a driver change before the season has started. In January they announced that Tom Chilton would be joining Mat Jackson in the two Shredded Wheat backed cars but a few weeks ago it was announced that Jackson had left the team due to undisclosed issues. Internet rumours suggest it was linked to Jackson pursuing a Honda drive but nothing has been confirmed. In his place come James Cole from BMR, fresh from scoring his first win last season. Motorbase will run a third Focus under the Team GardX banner for Sam Tordoff, returning from GT’s. The cars have had a significant upgrade and will now run as the RS model with changes to bodywork and engines. (They do not run the RS engine however as it does not comply with the rules.)
HMS Racing (Formerly known as Handy Motorsport) have one of the most exciting cars for Rob Austin, the all new Alfa Romeo Guilietta. He was fastest in the official test day which accompanied the launch and the team say they’re only just getting started with the car.
Cicely Motorsport have become a three car team this year with three Mercedes A-Class. Adam Morgan stays with his Mac Tools car with Aiden Moffat bringing his Laser Tools racing car over to be fully part of the team. They’re joined by Tom Oliphant.
AMD Tuning have doubled in size over the winter. Their two Cobra Exhausts Audis return with Ollie Jackson being joined by championship newcomer Sam Smelt. Ant Whorton Eales has left the championship for a season in the Mini Challenge JCW cars.
The team will now also run the two former Triple Eight MGs with Rory Butcher and Tom Boardman behind the wheel.
MG machinery changed hands over the winter months, with the Essex-based AmD now running the popular models – the capable pairing of Rory Butcher and Tom Boardman will be carrying out driving duties in the MG6s. AmD will also continue to run its two Audi S3 Saloons, with Ollie Jackson and debutant Sam Smelt behind the wheel.
BTC Norlin continue with Chris Smiley but they have new cars and a new team mate for Smiley. James Nash joins the team and they take over the Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R’s. The team performed well with their Chevrolet Cruze cars and hopes are high for the Civic. The Cruze will now not run in the championship this season and it may be the last time it’s seen racing in the BTCC.
Team Hard increase their squad to four VW CCs. Jake Hill continues but he has new team mates with double Clio champion Mike Bushell, Former British GT champion Michael Caine and Bobby Thompson joining the team. They have looked strong in testing and with some new engineering staff they hope to move up the grid.
Team Parker Racing become a one car outfit for Stephen Jelley this year but he swaps his Ford Focus for a former WSR BMW 1 series. Jelly hopes the switch will move him up the grid.
Sadly there are still no female drivers competing this year and we’ve not seen a female driver racing in the BTCC itself for over ten years now with Fiona Leggate being the last in 2007.
There are several rule changes being introduced for 2018. An Increase in driving standards penalties was already announced. The race three partial reverse grid draw will now extend to 12 cars instead of the previous ten. This will mean any drivers finishing race two between sixth and twelfth can claim pole for race three.
Lastly on the rule changes, the teams are now permitted a maximum of two driver changes per season instead of the previous single change. This may be relaxed in the case of Force Majeure which includes things like drivers getting injured.
Alan Gow spoke about his hopes for 2018
“Our capacity line-up for the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, with a remarkable record 17 race-winners, yet again underlines the championship’s strength and depth.
“Last year saw the incredible rise-and-rise of eventual champion Ash Sutton, and he is just one of an ever-growing number of emerging talents in the BTCC. The mix of young guns taking on the established stars has been one of the fascinating stories in recent years, and that looks set to continue in 2018.
“Once again, we expect to see battles throughout the field with the Manufacturers’, Independents’ and Jack Sears Trophy providing as much entertainment as the fight for the overall Drivers’ title.
“Whilst firmly focussing on the future we are also immensely proud of the BTCC’s illustrious 60-year history, which we will be celebrating throughout 2018. We are delighted to have confirmed the ‘Diamond Double’ race at Snetterton as part of these diamond jubilee celebrations, and look forward to a number of other 60th anniversary activities during the year.
“This is a truly phenomenal period for the BTCC. The continued and unrivalled support from Dunlop, ITV, IHG and our host of loyal partners remains the envy of comparable motor sport series’ around the world. Add to this our incredible fanbase, the media interest that you see here today and of course the unparalleled excitement provided on-track… the BTCC remains the greatest show in British motorsport.” By Marc Waller