The 7th and 8th of July saw the first track running for the BTCC since the Covid affected media day at Silverstone on March 16th, yes it really has been that long. It was also the dawn of a new age in the BTCC, whilst much has been made of the upcoming hybrid regulations, the two day test was the first running of the new Toyota Corolla Hybrid. Whilst the car is at the beginning of a long and exhaustive development programme, it was a historic moment being the first time a hybrid car has run in the BTCC.
While the Corolla Hybrid sounded exactly like the other BTCC runners out on track, in the pit lane running on electric power, it sounded more akin to a tie fighter with its threatening electric screech. Aston Martin GT doyen Darren Turner took to the wheel for both days, but a third day of testing for the car on Thursday saw Andrew Jordan take the wheel. It’s early days, but make no mistake, this car represents the biggest transformation in regulations and technological advancement in the series history.
The hybrid regs will also be a real watershed moment for global motorsport as well, the aim being that these regs will be affordable and cost effective. So far, hybrid regulations in motorsport have been spectacular, anyone who has witnessed a fully lit Audi/Porsche/Toyota LMP1 car lunge out of a slowly corner and pull car lengths in seconds on a 500+bhp GT car will attest to that. Unfortunately, those regulations were terrifyingly expensive and the cars as complex as they were pricey. Thus far, no series has been able to implement cost effective hybrid regulations, if the BTCC succeeds, it will be a boon for the series and will light the way for other series.
Coming into the weekend, there was a vast noticeable difference on the grid. 2019 joint runner up Andrew Jordan, hotly tipped as a championship contender announced the week before the test that he would not be on the BTCC grid with the factory WSR BMW squad in 2020. Sponsorship issues due to Covid19 forcing a rethink of Jordan’s campaign, we hope that Jordan rejoins the BTCC field for 2021. Simply put, Jordan is one of BTCC’s brightest stars and the 2020 grid will be less because of Jordan’s absence.
Another absence for the 2020 grid will be Power Maxxed Racing. PMR announced they will run selected rounds of the 2020 BTCC season, but stated they are pretty much pausing their programme and starting back up in 2021. Jason Plato was confident coming into 2020 stating they had made strides with the Vauxhall Astra coming into 2020, the car showing well in the 2019 season.
The duration of the test would see mixed conditions, but it was the morning of the 7th where the fastest time of the weekend was set. Rory Butcher set a blistering time in the new Ford Focus ST run by Motorbase, Butcher was full of praise for the Focus ST. The rest of the test saw a mix of wet, damp and dry running, much of the UK being lashed with heavy rain in the mid week.
Tom Chilton snuck into second behind Butcher, Chilton making the switch from Motorbase to the BTC Racing Honda Civic Type R FK8. It was a strong showing for Chilton who is bullish about his chances of taking his first BTCC title having come close to the title in 2005.
Tom Ingram who paced the media test day at Silverstone in March placed in third, another good showing for the season ahead and the rebranded Speedworks team, now running as Toyota Gazoo Racing GB who will be likely championship challengers.
The wet conditions played into the hands of the rear wheel drive cars with their inherent traction advantage. Ash Sutton set the wet pace in the Infiniti Q50, a car which starred in the wet at Silverstone last year.
The other new kid on the block for 2020 is the Excelr8 Hyundai i30N Fastback, one of the best looking cars on the grid but one that is short on track time. Nonetheless, Excelr8’s Hyundai’s placed 14th and 19th respectively. Not the best showing, but encouraging given the lack of tracktime and development.
The BTCC season is slated to get under way on the weekend of August 1st & 2nd at Donington Park, until next time, stay safe.