The 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Cars Championship is back underway following the recent launch event held at Hever Castle.
The drivers and teams have been revealed, the covers thrown off the cars and pre-season testing is well and truly under-way.
The season kicks off in earnest on 6th April at the fantastic Brands Hatch Indy circuit. Brands Hatch has been visited by BTCC since the series began in 1958 and, as well as hosting many tense finales, it well and truly delivers a great opener as all the teams and drivers look to get an early head start in the championship.
The Kwik Fit #BTCC kicked off its 2019 season in style today with a special evening event at the historic Hever Castle in Kent, where drivers, teams and sponsors were joined by some of the UK’s key media outlets ➡️ https://t.co/AZ65rx9Z5w pic.twitter.com/7tY4keD2lC
— BTCC (@BTCC) March 26, 2019
With Colin Turkington just pipping Tom Ingram to the title last season, we can look forward to fireworks as the pair go head to head once more.
Turkington will be looking to secure his fourth title, whilst Ingram will be keen to put last season’s disappointment to bed and launch another title challenge.
With 156 overtakes to his name last season, it’s safe to say he has a good chance, as long the new Toyota Corolla can live up to the brilliant performance and handling of the Avensis that powered him to wins at Brands Hatch, Donington Park and Silverstone.
Old faces shake things up
One of the main talking points this year has been the signing by TradePrice cars of ex-Formula 1 and CART driver Mark Blundell.
The 52-year-old will be looking to prove that he still has what it takes, despite a decline in his racing career after taking an impressive second place in the 2003 edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans.
However, he clearly isn’t worried about some of the negative responses to his signing: “I am not really worried what other people might think about me doing this – I know I will be driving around with a grin on my face, and that means a lot”.
Another major talking point was the news that Jason Plato will drive for Power Maxed Racing for the 2019 season.
After a disappointing 2018 campaign that saw him complete his first winless season since 1997, he will once again race a Vauxhall; the marque that saw him take his first Drivers’ championship in 2001.
With three race wins for Vauxhall in 2018, Plato and the team will be looking to build on those results and mount a title challenge.
📰 BREAKING NEWS
Jason Plato joins Power Maxed Racing ➡ https://t.co/Kubb1sHkla
— BTCC (@BTCC) February 20, 2019
On the eve of the launch event at Hever Castle, it was revealed that Jack Goff had been handed a last minute lifeline as he replaces Mike Bushell at Team Hard.
Mike Bushell will now race in the Renault Clio cup for the squad instead, whilst still having some input into the BTCC arm of the team.
Goff – who finished eighth in the standings in his 2018 campaign – announced in February that he had given up trying to get back on the grid for 2019 due to difficulties in securing financial backing, but will now return to the team he made his debut with in 2013.
“Tony gave me my first break in touring cars and it’s an amazing feeling to be back with the team, who have come on an awful lot,” Goff said after the official announcement.
“It’s been an incredible 24 hours and I have to say a massive thank you to Tony, the team and my current partners.
Goff added: “I drove the car in 2014 and have seen it’s up turn in form during the second half of 2018 with Mike Bushell and Bobby Thompson behind the wheel.”
As with any driver trying to secure his seat, Goff will be hoping for some impressive results to allow him to make his mark; the big question is whether the pressure will make or break him.
— Jack Goff (@jgmotorsport) March 25, 2019
Goodbye Clio cup
Outside of driver moves, one of the biggest pieces of news to break was the news that the Renault Clio Cup will fold after 2019.
The Clio Cup has been running as a support series for BTCC for the past 19 years and 2019 marks the twentieth consecutive year together. The series has been incredibly successful, producing 14 BTCC race winners and 3 world champions.
As we head to Brands Hatch, expect to see many hungry, young drivers looking for what could be their final year to prove themselves and secure their seat in the top tier. Who says that support series aren’t as exciting as the main event?
How do things look for 2019?
We could look at the testing results, but those are notoriously misleading and will not paint a true picture.
What we do know is that with no major rule changes this year, the running order doesn’t look set to introduce any huge surprises, but with such a close series, any marginal gain can tip the scales.
Last year’s championship demonstrated this, as it produced an incredible 17 different race winners over 30 races.
One thing is for sure, with new faces, new rivalries and new cars, the stage is set for a thrilling opening weekend of BTCC at Brands Hatch Indy.