The BTCC grid has never looked more competitive in the NGTC era. The last time five manufacturer teams were involved, it was in the infamous Super Touring days. The Championship is definitely experiencing a golden renaissance.
Joining Honda, Subaru and MG this season are Vauxhall and BMW – Two manufacturers with a rich history in the BTCC already. Vauxhall’s anticipated return to the championship has been realised by Power Maxed Racing. Their driver line-up looks good too, with Tom Chilton making a return and 2015 Ginetta Junior runner-up Senna Proctor one of the promising rookies to make his debut this season.
BMW are giving their full support to the WSR team this season and Colin Turkington, Andrew Jordan and Rob Collard make up a fierce line-up, all of which should be contenders for the title this season. BMW were last involved in the BTCC as a manufacturer back in 1996, the same year that WSR first joined the championship. Partnered together, they will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
The manufacturers that haven’t returned won’t be making up the numbers and doing Vauxhall or BMW any favours though. The Subaru’s of the BMR team were very strong after the opening six rounds of the 2016 season and as well as looking the part, the Levorg’s will be competitive from the first round this season. Jason Plato goes into his nineteenth BTCC campaign and as always, is a likely contender to play a protagonist’s role in the fights at the sharp end of the grid. The Jack Sears trophy winner of 2016 Ash Sutton joins the team. The silverware from last season fulfilled the ambitions of any BTCC rookie, but Sutton highlighted that whilst it was a notable achievement, his goals for 2017 are all that he is focused on from now on. James Cole also goes into the new season hungry for better results, and a new name to the grid fills the fourth seat at BMR in Josh Price. The teenager picked up six podiums and a win last season in the Clio Cup, and Warren Scott’s late decision to race in the British Rallycross Championship gave Price the opportunity to step-up into the BTCC. He was only told the day before the season launch that he would be driving a Subaru Levorg GT this season – Not a bad seat to be starting your BTCC campaign in.
Honda Yuasa Racing will again contend for wins, having scooped up the 2016 title at the dramatic season finale cemented a third title for Gordon Shedden, who now matches Matt Neal’s title tally. The Honda’s have always worked well together on-track, but there’s an added sense of competitiveness between the drivers this season as both go chasing their fourth title.
MG RCIB Insurance Racing heads into 2017 with a brand new driver line-up. Aron Taylor-Smith moves to the team after an impressive season with Team BKR in which he won at Rockingham and finished 3rd place twice. Daniel Lloyd will have his first full BTCC campaign this season, and deservedly so after stunning in a mid-season nine-round stint during the 2016 campaign in which he showed a competitive edge that saw him fighting within the top ten from the off.
The BTCC Series Director Alan Gow emphasised the strength of the championship for the upcoming season, he said,
“We are delighted to have officially launched the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship here at Donington Park.
We believe this season will set the bar even higher, with 16 race-winners highlighting the strength in depth throughout the field. Furthermore, attracting two new manufacturers to the grid demonstrates the ever-growing appeal of the BTCC both on and off track.
As I noted last season, this truly is a golden era for the BTCC and again proves it is the only show in town in British motor sport. With so much quality amongst drivers and teams alike, unpredictability is very much the name of the game and that is what keeps the fans coming back for more – in increasingly greater numbers.
With the unstinting support of our title sponsor and loyal broadcaster, tyre and technical partners, the BTCC is set to deliver in spades once again and judging by today’s attendance, the level of interest is sky-high and everybody is excited to see how things shake out in the opening round at Brands Hatch. It’s going to be an absolutely stellar season.”
– Alan Gow
The impressiveness of the manufacturer teams discounts the strength of the eleven independent teams that will also be fighting for wins throughout the season too. It’s a strong field of 32 drivers and with 30 rounds in the series, it wouldn’t be out of the question to expect 30 different race winners.