There are a few changes to the championship this season with perhaps the main one being the NGTC cars now being given the edge on performance with the S2000 NGTC engined cars no longer being equalized to remain competitive. This means it’s now unlikely (although not entirely impossible) that an older S2000 car will win a race.
To make up for not being in the running for the overall championship anymore, the S2000 entries now have a trophy of their own to aim for with the addition of the Jack Sears Trophy.
This won’t be a championship but it will be awarded to the driver who wins the S2000 class the most over the season. Named after the BTCC’s first ever champion (and first ever double champion), the trophy will be awarded by the man himself!
There is also a new tyre compound provided by Dunlop for this season. At nine of the championship’s ten events (Except Thruxton), the drivers in the latest NGTC-specification cars (only) will have one set of a ‘soft compound’ Dunlop tyre which will offer increased performance when compared to the standard compound tyre.
These tyres must be used in one of the three races at each event and drivers must nominate, prior to Saturday's qualifying session, which one of the three races they will elect to use them in. They will not be permitted to use them in any other sessions.
Other teams and drivers won’t know in which race their competitors have chosen to use the soft compound tyres until the cars go to the grid; the tyres will have a special marking to make them easily identifiable for rivals as well as trackside spectators and TV audiences.
It’s hoped this will provide an extra strategy element to the BTCC and add to the interest and excitement on a race weekend. It’s also been announced that cars may no longer use a mix of wet and dry tyres on a damp track. All tyres on a car must now be of the same type.
The championship will once again be shown on itv4 with the channel extending their deal until 2017. David Addison joins the commentary team replacing Toby Moody.
Now we move to this season’s entries. There is a capacity 32 car grid entered for this year’s championship although some cars will be joining the championship in later rounds. It’s the biggest entry to the championship for over twenty years and is impressive given the current economic climate. There are 13 different models of car from 11 different manufacturers although only 2 of these (Honda and MG) are official manufacturer entries.
There are four former champions on the grid this season with 2012 Champion Gordon Shedden joined in the championship by team mate Matt Neal, Jason Plato and Colin Turkington.
We’ll now look in more detail at the teams entered for this year’s championship;
Honda Yuasa Racing
The 2012 champions return with the same line up of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal. The NGTC Honda Civic returns and with less boost adjustment promised during the season, it’s likely the car will be even quicker. Their rivals levels of development will determine where they end up in the field but it’d be a major shock if they aren’t front runners once again.
KX Momentum MG
Jason Plato returns to have another shot at the title in his MG 6 but this year he’s joined by Sam Tordoff from the Porsche Carrera cup. Tordoff has been quick in everything he’s raced so providing he can adjust quickly to the BTCC there’s no reason to think he won’t be successful. With two MG’s running at the front, they should also have a shot at the manufacturers and team’s titles.
Airwaves Racing (Motorbase)
This is the team known as Redstone racing last season but now renamed to Airwaves after their new title sponsor . Both Mat Jackson and Aron Smith return but this time both will be in new Motorbase built NGTC Ford Focus. This was immediately quick on t’s deebut prt way through last season and now more development work has been carried out on the cars they will be expecting to be championship contenders. Smith impressed almost everyone (except Plato!) on his debt last year and his target will be multiple wins at least.
Addison Lee Motorbase
This season Motorbase have split their squad into two teams. Initially running Liam Griffin in an S2000 Focus, he will be joined by Michael Caine in another NGTC Focus from Donington. Liam Griffin will be aiming to win the Jack Sears trophy. He got into a lot of shunts last year and he’ll need to stay out of trouble if he wants to win the S2000 prize. Michael Caine has for the team briefly in 2011 but now joins the championship on a more long term basis. Initially he is likely to nott be right at the front while he gets used to a new car but he could definitely move up with experience.
This is another team that goes into 2013 unchanged with the same NGTC Honda Civics as the official squad. Andrew Jordan, the 2012 independent champion will be hoping to add the overall title to his trophy cabinet as well as defending his own championship. Jeff Smith will be aiming to be closer to his team mate as well as to stay out of the wall. His heavy shunt last season at Rockingham was one of the biggest impacts of the year. This year he’ll want to make a different sort of impact!
Wix Racing (Rob Austin)
After running NGTC Audi’s for a couple of seasons on a low budget, Rob Austin has finally gained some backing enabling him to do a lot of development work on the already quick if erratic Audi’s. He is joined by occasional 2012 team mate, Will Bratt who is a former European F3000 champion. If the car is as quick as Rob hopes, this team should see the top step of the podium during the season.
eBay Motors (WSR)
For 2013 brand new BMW 1 series NGTC cars have been built by the experienced squad. Rob Collard and Nick Foster return to drive them but Tom Onslow Cole has left the team. His replacement is no stranger, either to fans or the team as 2009 BTCC champion Colin Turkington returns to the championship for his first full season since his win. The team should be right on the pace as soon as the car is sorted but a championship win in the cars first full season may be optimistic with the strength of the opposition this season.
RCIB Insurance Racing (Team Hard)
This team has come a long way from the beginning of last season. Starting last year with a single S2000 Honda Civic for Tony Gillham, this year they’re aiming to run two separate squads. This one will run Vauxhall Insignia’s bought from Thorney motorsport for Jack Goff and James Cole. Jack Goff is the 2012 Clio cup champion and so will be hoping to follow the success of previous champions who’ve moved to the BTCC such as Dave Newsham and Team hard team mate Tom Onslow-Cole. James Cole comes from a single seater background and was the 2009 British Formula Ford champion. If he is as quick in tourers as he was in single seaters he’ll be one to watch. The cars have been completely rebuilt from when Thorney Motorsport ran them and so should hopefully be considerably quicker. They could be a dark horse for the independents championship.
PPCGB.com /Kraftwerk Racing (Team Hard)
The second Team Hard run outfit is running two self-built (with some assistance from RML) VW Passat CC’s. Leading the team will be Tom Onslow Cole who has joined from WSR. The other car will be initially driven by Howard Fuller who drove a few races in the team’s Civic last season. There is a chance. Although the team certainly has a quick driver line up, it seems unlikely that they will be in the running for the title this season. Wins are certainly a possibility for Tom Onslow-Cole if they can get the car up to speed quickly.
The team return for their third season in the championship again running Toyota Avensis. BTCC race winner and 2010 Clio Cup champion Dave Newsham joins the team from ES racing, taking over the Avensis formerly raced by Tony Hughes who announced his retirement from the BTCC. His team mate will be Ollie jackson joining from AMD. Both drivers raced S2000 machinery last season (Vauxhall Vectra and VW Golf respectively.) Newsham of course managed to win races. It’ll be interesting to see their progress now they are in the latest NGTC spec cars. Newsham in particular will be aiming for multiple wins.
Adam Morgan’s family team which once ran him in the Ginetta GT Supercup will be running him this season in an ex Frank Wrathall Toyota Avensis. Updated to the lastest spec the car should be quick. Morgan showed flashes of speed in his debut year in 2012 but also had several offs. If he can match speed with consistency this year he could join the leading pack.
Frank Wrathall returns with his family team for his third season in the BTCC once again driving an NGTC Toyota Avensis. After taking his maiden victory at the Brands Hatch finale last year, Frank will be hoping to add several more and will be aiming to be an independent championship contender.
Team Club 44 (IP Tech Eng)
After several seasons in the BTCC driving for several different teams in a variety of cars, Andy Neate has set up his own BTCC team for 2013. He’ll be driving an NGTC Chevrolet Cruze, co developed and built with touring car experts RML. Neate has recruited a number of experts from all over the paddock for his new venture. Unfortunately the car won’t be finished in time for him to race in the opening rounds at Brands Hatch and so he will debut the car at Donington Park. Neate has not had much luck so far in the BTCC and has had several run ins with other drivers. This has gained him a poor reputation both with fans and some experts. Now, with his own team fully behind him, he’ll need to start to deliver if he is to change people’s minds about his abilities. There is a second car entered for the second half of the season From Snetterton) for a so far unnamed driver.
Welch Motorsport with Sopp + Sopp
This season, the Hampshire based team are running a mix of cars. Dan Welch returns in his self built NGTC Proton Gen-2 but he is now joined by experienced club racer David Nye in an Arena Motorsport built S2000 Ford Focus. Welch has shown a lot of potential in the car in previous seasons but things haven’t gone his way. The previous season and a half experience may enable him to gain an advantage over teams with newer NGTC machinery. He’ll be aiming to try and take a win (or several) in 2013 but the competition is tougher than ever. Nye will be looking to win the Jack Sears trophy, also against tough opposition.
The popular Essex based team run by Shaun Hollamby return once again with their S2000 spec VW golf. This season it’ll be driven by the experienced James Kaye, who is a former independent champion. Their aim will be to win the Jack Sears trophy and with Kaye behind the wheel this is a strong possibility. The team are aiming to also run a brand new self developed NGTC Vauxhall Astra later in the season.
This new team is actually the very experienced Tech Speed team who have combined with Finesse Motorsport (Clio Cup) to run Joe Girling in an S2000 spec Chevrolet Cruze. This is one of the cars run by Techspeed under the Go Mobile banner in 2011 but now with an NGTC spec engine. Joe Girling (who has previously run in the production touring car championship in a Vauxhall Astra.) will be the driver. Their aim will be the Jack Sears trophy but even this has some tough competition and as a driver new to the BTCC , Girling may find it takes him a while to get used to the extremely close racing the BTCC is famous for.
Team BMR Restart
Another driver making the rather large leap up from club racing, Warren Scott is another entry for the Jack sears trophy. He has very little experience on four wheels having raced last year in the Lotus Cup Uk. The name may be familiar however as he is a former superbike rider. He retired in 2004 due to injuries sustained during racing and has now decided that racing on four wheels is a safer option.With an S2000 Seat Leon at his disposal, Scott has a quick car but it remains to be seen how quick he’ll be. He says he is in the championship for the long term and aims to upgrade to an NGTC spec car sometime in the future.
Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing
Lea Wood returns with his family team in 2013 again running his S2000 Vauxhall Vectra. Despite strong rumours during the winter linking him to an NGTC team, he has opted to stay with S2000 although mainly for financial reasons. He got into the top ten several times during last season and so he will be aiming to win the Jack Sears trophy.
Returning to the BTCC in 2012 after several years away, Chris Stockton and his team are building up an NGTC spec Chevrolet Cruze hatchback which was bought from RML as an unfinished project. The team is low on funds and are not due to appear on the grid until mid-season at Snetterton. Currently the car is still being built up. It’s hard to gauge how successful they might be but they’ll be entering a competitive championship at a time in the season when other teams will have already got to grips with their cars. It certainly won’t be easy for them.
Alan Gow, the series director is understandably pleased with this year’s record entry;
“The record entry list that we've announced today is a great validation of NGTC technical regulations and real testament to the continued success, growth and stability of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
“The current health of the BTCC is absolutely fantastic and even more staggering, perhaps, with the challenging economic climate. Our teams have worked incredibly hard and have demonstrated real commitment to this championship – particularly as the majority have invested in the latest specification NGTC machinery. We continue to evolve this bright new era of the BTCC and all the teams have benefitted from the success of the championship.”
With the biggest ever grid of the modern era, four champions racing and a huge variety of cars, the 2013 looks set to be a memorable season of great racing for the countries most popular motorsport championship. By Marc Waller