British Touring Car Championship 2019 season preview.

Credit: BTCC

Welcome, to the 2019 British Touring Car Championship season preview. 2019 is set to be another stellar year for the evergreen BTCC with revisions to the championship calendar, new teams, drivers and cars. We’ll start with changed to the championship & calendar and move on to the teams, drivers and cars following that.

The Championship.

For 2019 there are changes abound. The closure of Rockingham at the end of 2018 left a gap on the calendar, which has been replaced by a second outing at Thruxton which means the fastest track in the UK will see double the BTCC action this year. Kwik Fit is now the BTCC’s title sponsor for 2019, replacing Dunlop.

On the subject of Dunlop, they will continue to be the BTCC’s tyre supplier for 2019. Dunlop has also released the option tyre compounds for 2019 and they are as follows:

Soft Option Tyres

  • Brands Hatch Indy
  • Brands Hatch Grand Prix
  • Silverstone
  • Oulton Park

Medium Option Tyres

  • Knockhill

Hard Option Tyres

  • Donington Park
  • Croft

Dunlop has also heavily revised their wet tyres for the 2019 season as well, which will see an increase in performance.

Success Ballast, something which is maligned by some and praised by others has been amended for 2019. The maximum success ballast that can be applied to a car has been reduced from 75kg to 54kg, a drop of 21kg which will see less of an impact on a cars performance.

An additional change is to qualifying, if a driver brings out a red flag, the driver who caused the red flag will have their fastest lap eliminated from the session.

The Teams, Cars & Drivers.

For 2019 there are a number of changes through the field, and those changes are significant with a number of new cars & drivers in the championship.

Credit: BTCC

The Factory Teams.

Team BMW will field a pair of brand new BMW 3 series. 2018 champion Colin Turkington continues his long standing relationship with the team and will be looking to win his 4th championship in 2019. He is joined by Porsche Carrera Cup specialist Tom Oliphant. The third BMW 3 series is fielded by sister team BMW Pirtek Racing with Andrew Jordan fulfilling driving duties. Jordan will be looking to win his second championship in 2019. The factory supported trio of BMW 3 Series look set to mount a strong championship bid, especially with the talents of West Surrey Racing running all 3 cars.

Halfords Yuasa Racing, the factory Honda team had a mixed 2018 season. It was the first year for the FK8 Generation Honda Civic Type R and also the first year without ‘Flash’ Gordon Shedden following his departure to Audi in the WTCR. It was also the first year for Dan Cammish in the BTCC after dominating Porsche Carrera Cup GB for a number of years. 2019 should see Honda performing more consistently following a year of development on the car and Cammish gaining valuable seat time in his Honda. The evergreen Matt Neal, a staple of the championship continues in 2019. With a strong car and a team with impeccable pedigree, Neal and Cammish stand as title contenders, but much of it will hinge on the FK8 Civic’s ability to perform more consistently throughout 2019.

Toyota returns to the championship as a full factory effort for the first time since 1996, and brings the Toyota Corolla back to the championship after a 32 year hiatus. The last time the Corolla competed in the BTCC, it was the legendary AE86(Hachiroku) which scored back to back championship titles. The 2019 Corolla is a rather different beast, Front Wheel Drive and a 5 door hatchback. Tom Ingram, 2018 championship runner-up will fulfil the driving duties. With the talent of Speedworks, supplemented by the factory clout of Toyota, Ingram comes into 2019 as one of the hot favourites for the championship title.

Adrian Flux Subaru Racing continues to field 2017 champion Ashley Sutton with hot shoe Senna Proctor as their second driver. The Subaru Levorg estate with its raucous sounding Flat 4 turbo engine will be in its fourth season of racing, although long in the tooth, the big rear wheel drive estate is a consummate package that’s quick, well developed & reliable. Ash Sutton will be hungry for another bite at the championship cherry in 2019, his 2018 season was good but it didn’t quite furnish him with a proper shot at the championship. 2019 sees Senna Proctor swapping seats with Jason Plato, Proctor taking pride of place at Subaru whilst Plato returns to the Vauxhall factory fold. Proctor certainly looks to have a stronger car beneath him in the form of the Subaru Levorg, which will see Proctor as the new boy eager to prove himself in a top car. Sutton stands a good chance at clinching a second championship in 2019, the dearth of new machinery from BMW & Toyota means the consistent, reliable Levorg could stand to have a major advantage if BMW & Toyota run into teething problems with their new cars and especially if Honda have not resolved the Civic’s issues. It’s too early to say if Proctor will challenge for the title, but many eyes will be on him as one of the new rising stars of the BTCC, a future champion? Watch this space.

The final factory squad is Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing representing Vauxhall. The team has undergone a paradigm shift over the winter. The team has signed Jason Plato, one of the elder statesmen of the BTCC and Rob Collard. The team has a wealth of experience in its two new signings which should see the team ascend to being one of the front running teams; the signing of two of the most experienced drivers will be invaluable in developing the car. The Vauxhall Astra has had mixed fortunes, at times demonstrating great pace but at other times lacking pace compared to the factory opposition. 2019 will show if Power Maxed’s significant re-shuffle will elevate them into a position to challenge for the championship.

Credit: BTCC

The Independents(Non-Jack Sears Trophy entrants.)

In this section, we will split the independents into two, those who are competing in the Jack Sears Trophy and those who are not.

Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher. It may surprise you that they are an independent, especially considering their significant presence in the paddock & fan engagement as well as the driver talent they boast. Tom Chilton might only be in his mid-thirties, but he is one of the fastest, most experience and consistent drivers on the grid. Chilton’s CV is chocked full of BTCC victories, WTCC success and even success in LMP1 with victories during his tenure as a Zytek Motorsport factory driver in 2005. Chilton had a very good 2018, he finished Third in the championship and challenged for the title all year, so to discount him as a title challenger is very foolish. He is joined in 2019 by Ollie Jackson who has moved over from AMD Racing to the Motorbase run squad, it presents a great opportunity for Jackson to showcase his talents with one of the best teams on the grid. The team will continue to campaign its pair of Ford Focus RS’s and what could likely be the last year we see the team run this car, since Ford unleashed the newest generation Ford Focus road car at the tail end of 2018. As a car, the Focus is the oldest car on the grid, but it has been continuously developed and through 2 different evolutions in its time. It might be an old dog, but it knows all the tricks and is a very strong, well rounded package. Expect big things in 2019, Chilton will be one of the top picks for the 2019 title.

Team Parker Racing will field Stephen Jelley in a BMW 125 as they did in 2018. Jelley has plenty of experience and nouse when it comes to the BTCC; the BMW 1 series is a beautifully judged package. After all, it took the 2019 championship title in the hands of Colin Turkington. Jelley also has the experience of Team Parker Racing on his side, expect a strong run at the top of the mid-field for Team Parker Racing & Jelley.

Laser Tools Racing with Aiden Moffat and their Mercedes A-Class have steadily progressed themselves each season for the past few years now. Moffat is developing into a strong midfield driver, that may not sound like much, but remember the BTCC has some pretty robust driving taking place and nowhere is more brutal than the mid-field. The Mercedes as a car is good, showing flashes of brilliance on occasion but not producing that consistently. Moffat finished well in the independent standings in 2018 and will no doubt be hoping for another strong run in 2019.

BTC Racing comes into 2019 with new recruit Josh Cook and a returning Chris Smiley. There are further changes as the team have also acquired a pair of shiny new FK8 Honda Civic Type-R’s. BTC Racing had a strong 2018 season, their switch to previous gen Honda Civic’s aided that point significantly. Smiley finished sixth in the independent standings in 2018 and new recruit Josh Cook is a previous race winner and Jack Sears Trophy victor. At face value, BTC Racing look like contenders for best of the rest in the independents cup, strong drivers, an experienced and growing team with a pair of quick cars.

RCIB Insurance enters 2019 as one of the teams to watch out for. Whilst the team fields a pair of the ageing Volkswagen CC’s, which dwarf most of the other cars on the grid with their size, the cars were developed by a dream team of drivers which means this is not a package to be laughed out of the room. Why are they ones to watch? 2 names, Jack Goff & Carl Boardley. Goff is brutally quick and spectacular (this journo won’t forget Goff hurtling through Paddock Hill at Brands Hatch, on full opposite lock, 90 degrees to the track and recovering with ease.) Goff is a savvy racer and knows his way round the sharp end of a BTCC grid. Carl Boardley is new to the BTCC, but he has been a guru in Ginetta Supercup for a while now, racking up many wins and podiums, so Boardley will probably give more experienced drivers a big fright on track for all the right reasons. As far as the Independents go, RCIB look set for a very good year.

Mac Tools with Ciceley have been on the grid for a while now, their red Mercedes A class has also executed some brilliant giant slaying performances with Adam Morgan at the helm over the years. The Ciceley team is at the sharp end of things in the Independent ranks, and Adam Morgan is a driver who on his day can mix it with the very best. 2018 saw a 4th place finish in the independents championship for Morgan, expect more giant slaying to be done by Morgan and the Mac Tools squad in 2019 and a serious run on the Independents championship as well.

The last of the Independents is the family run Simpson Racing squad. Matt Simpson had a break out season in 2018 clinching a race win in his FK2 generation Honda Civic Type R. Simpson will continue with the venerable FK2 Civic in 2019, the old phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” applied here. The car is also run by Team Dynamics, so you could think of this as a de-facto factory Honda if you stretch that definition. Simpson will be looking to push himself up out of the Independent mid-pack on a consistent basis in 2019 and start challenging the top Indie runners.

Credit: BTCC

The Jack Sears Trophy (JST.)

The biggest news in the Jack Sears Trophy comes courtesy of Trade Price Cars. They field a pair of Audi S3’s which isn’t that notable, but what is notable is that a certain Mark Blundell will be driving for the team in 2019. Yes, that Mark Blundell, the one that wrestled an un-hinged 1200+bhp Nissan group C car at Le Mans in 1990 to Pole Position in that race. Blundell has been out of racing for a while, so he is now eligible for the JST. He will partner with Jake Hill who finished mid-pack in the JST in 2018.

Cobra Sport AMD will enter Rory Butcher in the JST for 2019. Some of you may know Butcher from previous BTCC exploits but also for his GT racing credentials, where he has had a good level of success. The Cobra team switches to a pair of FK2 generation Honda Civic Type R’s for 2019 after campaigning Audi S3’s for the past couple of years. Butcher has all the tools he needs to mount a strong offence in the 2019 JST. Whilst he will not compete in the JST, Sam Tordoff joins the squad in 2019, furnishing the Cobra AMD squad with a strong driving line up, mixing speed and experience.

GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct enter a Volkswagen CC for series returnee Bobby Thompson, who finished 10th in the JST in 2018 with Team HARD, he will be looking to climb further up the order in 2019 and prove his skills.

Cataclean Racing with Ciceley will field one of their Mercedes A class’s for Daniel Rowbottom, the car is run out of the same stable as Adam Morgan’s car so there is no doubt that he Rowbottom will have a well sorted car beneath him.2019 will be Rowbottoms first year in the championship, his progression also shows that the well-trodden path from the Renault Clio Cup into the BTCC still works. His first season will present a steep, but interesting learning curve.

Rokit Racing with Motorbase will enter one of its Ford Focus RS’s for Nicolas Hamilton, Lewis Hamilton’s brother in the BTCC in 2019. Hamilton has raced previously in BTCC at the wheel of the Inifiniti G50 chassis that ran in 2015 and has continued to race in the Renault Clio Cup as a consistent and solid performer. Hamilton has the strongest car in the JST and one of the very best teams in the championship behind him; as a result, it stands him in good stead for 2019.

The final team on the grid is Excelr8 Motorsport. The new team is also the last bastion of the MG6 chassis, a car which has been in the BTCC since 2012 but the team has re-worked for 2019 in a bid to keep the car competitive. Rob Smith & Sam Osborne are both newcomers to the BTCC, Smith an alumni from Mini Challenge having won multiple races and Osborne bringing his know-how from Renault Clio Cup. The team is new in every way, so it’s hard to gauge how they will perform, but with no pressure to do so, they could spring a surprise or two.

The Calendar.

Before we wrap up our season preview, the calendar for the 2019 British Touring Car Championship will see the opening round of the championship start this weekend April 6th-7th at the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit. The rest of the calendar will pan out like this:

ROUND 1: 6th-7th April, Brands Hatch Indy

ROUND 2: 27th-28th April, Donington Park

ROUND 3: 18th-19th May, Thruxton 1

ROUND 4: 15th-16th June, Croft

ROUND 5: 29th-30th June, Oulton Park

ROUND 6: 3rd-4th August, Snetterton

ROUND 7: 17th-18th August, Thruxton 2

ROUND 8: 14th-15th September, Knockhill

ROUND 9: 28th-29th September, Silverstone National

ROUND 10: 12th-13th October, Brands Hatch Grand Prix

Racing 24-7 will be providing Race by Race coverage of the full 2019 BTCC season.

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