If you watched BTCC in 2018, you probably won’t need many reasons to watch again in 2019.
An incredible title fight between Colin Turkington and Tom Ingram, as well as a record amount of race winners with 18 in total, means it’s likely you’ll want to tune in once again this year.
Even so, 2019 has already given us multiple reasons to get even more excited about the new season, with driver movements, new cars and some famous names coming into the sport.
The first thing to be excited about is the possibility of another intense title fight like we had back in 2018, where the momentum between BMW’s Colin Turkington and Speedworks Toyota’s Tom Ingram seemed to swing every other race weekend, and led to an incredible championship decider in the penultimate race of the season at Brands Hatch.
It is expected that once again, WSR, running the BMW 125i, should have some involvement in the championship, as the car seems to work at every circuit it goes to. But the question is, who will be Turkington’s main challenger as he goes for a 4th career BTCC title?
His main challenger last season, Tom Ingram, has a new set of wheels this season, as Speedworks move away from the Avensis, which has served them well since their BTCC debut in 2011, to the new, more hatchback looking Toyota Corolla. The team hope the new car will be that final step to the BTCC title after back-to-back Independent titles in 2017 and 2018 with Ingram, who will also be hungry to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the title last season.
There is also the mighty Honda Team Dynamics, who now in their second season with the Civic Tourer FK8, will not be turning up to races not knowing how the car will respond and therefore cannot be overlooked in the title fight, especially with BTCC legend Matt Neal and double race winner from last season Dan Cammish behind the wheel.
Another factor in the championship battle is, what has been, the rather slow starting BMR Subaru Team and 2017 BTCC champion Ash Sutton, who just recently signed a contract extension with BMR. The team running the Subaru Levorg Tourer for the past 2 seasons has had, in simple terms, slow starts to the season, taking until Croft in 2018 to find the speed in the car, after issues with levels of boost allowed and a change of engine supplier to Swindon. However from Croft onwards, the Subaru in the hands of Ash Sutton started to worm its way back into the championship fight, his hopes eventually being dashed by a disqualification at Knockhill and grid penalties at Silverstone. If BMR can get over their slow starts to the season they should also be a force in the championship.
They will however field a change of lineup in 2019, as double BTCC champion Jason Plato leaves the team for Power Maxed Racing after a very frustrating 2018. Plato hopes a move back to a Vauxhall can revitalise his career, as it was in a Vauxhall that he won his first BTCC title back in 2001. Taking his place is former Power Maxed Racing driver Senna Proctor, the 2017 Jack Sears trophy winner in his debut season, as well as a race winner in 2018 giving BMR a very young and exciting lineup in 2019.
Other movers for 2019 include Plato’s new Power Maxed Racing teammate, long standing WSR driver Rob Collard, who makes the move to Power Maxed after almost 10 years behind the wheel of a BMW, creating maybe the most experienced lineup on the grid for 2019.
Another mover is 2018 Power Maxed Racing driver Josh Cook. The multiple BTCC race winner goes to BTC Racing to team up with Rockingham 2018 race winner Chris Smiley in the previous spec Honda Civic Type R creating another exciting lineup for the season ahead.
Also making a move toward a Honda are 2016 title runner up Sam Tordoff and the impressive Scotsman Rory Butcher, ditching their Ford Focus and MG6 respectively for what they have quoted as “the best chassis on the grid” as the FK2 Civic, being ran by Cobra Sport AmD in 2019 has one of the best records in BTCC and always seems to be competitive wherever the grid goes.
There are also some new and returning faces coming to the grid in 2019. Jake Hill, who drifted away from the series at the end of 2018 returns to the grid with new outfit Trade Price Cars Racing.In the Audi S3 saloon, Hill hopes a new team will provide a “fresh start” for his BTCC career, with the young Brit alongside Sam Tordoff and Rory Butcher in the AmD family.
Also making a return to the series is Nicolas Hamilton, younger brother of five-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. The 26 year old, who has previously competed in 12 rounds of BTCC behind the wheel of an Audi in 2015, is going for a full assault on the series in 2019 with the ROKiT sponsored Motorbase Ford Focus RS, which will be modified as Hamilton suffers from cerebral palsy. Hamilton will join Tom Chilton and Ollie Jackson at Motorbase Performance, with Team Principal David Bartrum commenting on Hamilton’s signing as “a different type of journey for us”.
Although, Hamilton is not the only name joining the grid in 2019 with F1 connections, as former F1 driver with McLaren, Tyrrell, Brabham and Ligier as well as a Le Mans and IndyCar winner, Mark Blundell, joins the BTCC grid in the 32nd year of his motorsport career, the 52 year old will join Jake Hill at Trade Price Cars Racing in the Audi S3 Saloon. BTCC has been a target of Blundell’s for many years, commenting “Once the opportunity arose to get back behind the wheel, I was very keen to make it happen. The British Touring Car Championship is a fantastic series that I have always wanted to race in, but it has never been possible until now”.
As well as the new talent on the grid, you can never rule out some of the old guard of BTCC, drivers like Andrew Jordan, Adam Morgan, and Rob Austin, as well as the raft of other promising young drivers across the grid, like Aiden Moffat, Mike Bushell and Tom Oliphant, all with the opportunity to grab the headlines and some silverware in 2019.
But it’s not just about the drivers, BTCC races are some of the most unpredictable races in motorsport, with amazing levels of wheel-to-wheel action, and with random draw reverse grid races at every round, there is every opportunity for all drivers to have their shot at victory. THis is one of the reasons BTCC has been breaking records for number of race winners in a season for the last few years, and is a great way of throwing a spanner in the works in the championship order as well as keeping you on the edge on your seat for as long as possible.
So with a star studded line up of drivers, and a set of 30 unpredictable and usually crazy races spread across 10 rounds and 8 different style circuits over the whole of the UK, when the paddock returns to Brands Hatch on the 6th and 7th of April, we’re set for another season of gripping wheel-to-wheel action.
Will Turkington reach 4? Can Ingram claim his maiden title? Is Plato’s move back to Vauxhall an inspired choice? How will Blundell and Hamilton perform? Only time will tell, but whatever the season brings, we’re sure to be in for another spectacular season of BTCC action.