Well it was a bumper week that was packed with lots of news and updates for BTCC fans ahead of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season. A lot of the updates also locked down who will be driving where, with who and in what...
So, here are the updates...
1. ebay/WSR confirmed that their 2013 lineup of Colin Turkington, Rob Collard & Nick Foster will return to drive the eBay sponsored NGTC BMW 1 series. The team will begin testing on Tuesday 18th at Thruxton, however Turkington is eyeing a title push with the little BMW this year...
2. Marc Hynes tested his 888 prepared MG6 at Oulton Park last week along with Sam Tordoff as both drivers gained more mileage in the MG. Rob Austin was also out testing his re-shelled Audi A4 at Oulton as well. Austin is reported to be very happy with the updates for Sherman.
3. Tom Ingram confirmed that he will drive for Speedworks, piloting one of their NGTC Toyota's this season. Ingram will be joined in the team by a 2nd entry to be announced before Media Day, whilst Speedworks is supporting Simon Belcher and Handy Motorsport with their Toyota Avensis.
4. Fabrizio Giovanardi tested his Airwaves Focus at Brands Hatch in a combined shakedown/test session for the Italian. Airwaves Boss Dave Bartrum reported that he was very happy with Gio's feedback and is still looking to finalise the teams lineup for Media Day.
5. Shaun Hollamby was on shakedown duty for his AmD team as he shook the Focus down at Brands as well with Dave Newsham taking over testing duties before Media Day. Meanwhile at Donington Park, Yuasa Honda were out testing both the Honda Civic Tourer and the Honda Civic Hatchback whilst Pirtek Honda had both Jordan and Depper out in their Civics. Rob Austin was also present at the Donington Park test where he completed 60 laps in "Sherman" his popular Audi A4. Austin is confident in being able to challenge the top teams this season.
6. Simon Belcher was out at Silverstone on Friday testing his Handy Motorsport NGTC Toyota Avensis at Silverstone. Tom Ingram was also at Silverstone out testing his Speedworks Toyota. Although conditions were not ideal, Ingram is confident he can score some top ten finishes in the first half of the season.
7. BTC Racing have confirmed that their title sponsor for the 2014 season will be Power Maxed with the team confirming it will be racing as "Power Maxed Racing" with the NGTC Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback. The car is due to be seen in its first test during Media Day on 18th March with Chris Stockton confirmed to drive the car.
8. Andy Neate has confirmed that he has mothballed his IP Tech Race Engineering team for now and will be making a return to the BTCC in 2015. He has made it cllear that his return will be a fresh approach using the lessons he has learned from setting up his own team last year. The NGTC Chevrolet Cruze Saloon Neate campaigned in 2013 has been sold to Aiden Moffat who will campaign the car this year in his family run team.
9. Finally, the test at Thruxton on 18th February has confirmed that the following teams will attend:
Yuasa Honda Racing
So as you can see, the jigsaw is almost complete. With the TBL licences in effect and the confirmation that 31 TBL's will be used, this now leaves 4 seats to be filled:
1 seat at Speedworks Motorsport
2 seats at Airwaves Racing
1 seat at RAR/Exocet Racing.
This also leaves one TBL held by series boss Alan Gow to hand out to whom he sees fit during the season. Lea Wood has confirmed that, all being well, he will release his "interesting" plans this week regarding his participation in the BTCC.
However the big news still surrounds the two vacant Airwaves seats. With Giovanardi making it clear that he is going for a third BTCC title, speculation still has a number of drivers vying for the other sests, one of which will operate as a satellite team. In an ideal world with budget no problem, you would expect Mat Jackson and Tom Onslow-Cole to join Giovanardi...
But both drivers have been quiet during the off season and names such as Steven Kane and Michael Caine have been mentioned. In fact, it might be possible this could be the first season in a while we may not see Jackson or TOC in a BTCC car. Jackson himself has been a stalwart Airwaves/Motorbase driver since 2010 and in 2011 was a title contender for both the outright drivers title and the Independent title...
But Airwaves/Motorbase has long been regarded as the team that should have won a BTCC title by now. With the team being restructured, a budget increase being applied and a former Double British Touring Car Championship signed on board, this year they may just make that step up to challenge the might of Team Dynamics and Triple Eight who have dominated the championship title fight in recent years...
Either way the next few weeks will be part of an amazing buildup to what is fast becoming the biggest, possibly most classic and titanic fight yet for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Personally I can't wait.