Joachim Winkelhock, Steve Soper, Roberto Ravaglia. Iconic names that make up the fabric of the British Touring Car Championship. They tasted ultimate glory and sour defeat during their time in the mid-nineties, but always entertained – Will BMW’s return after 21-years rekindle something special this season?
The line-up for the upcoming season is a strong looking one. Rear-wheel-drive specialist Colin Turkington will surely be a leading contender for this year’s title, and Rob Collard is well attuned to the 125i, having driven the hatch in the BTCC since 2013 under the wings of WSR. Andrew Jordan has won the championship, but is expected to be at a disadvantage to his teammates given his own BTCC history has been predominantly front-wheel-drive. But Jordan will adapt quickly, especially if he gets a whiff of the top step of the podium.
The return of BMW as a manufacturer not only highlights the strength of the championship, but brings with it an air of nostalgia. Colin Turkington said,
“It’s really special and it’s a great feeling to welcome BMW back. I can remember as a fan watching Jo Winkelhock and Steve Soper, it’s a huge honour to step into their shoes and carry these iconic BMW colours.”
– Colin Turkington
In 1993, Joachim Winkelhock and Steve Soper dominated the Championship, finishing the season 1st and 2nd respectively with eight wins between them. To collect eight wins this season would be a major result given the competitiveness of the field.
Last season’s champion Gordon Shedden and his teammate Matt Neal managed seven wins between them. Another key player in the fight for the title last year was Rob Collard, who sounds as ambitious as ever.
“It’s a fantastic year for WSR to have factory support from BMW and personally, to have two championship-winning teammates. The WSR BMW will be at the front of the grid this season, I’ll be gunning for the title this year.”
– Rob Collard
Andrew Jordan responded well to suggestions that he’d be playing catch-up early on because of his inexperience in rear-wheel-drive cars, the 2013 Champion revealed that handling the car itself won’t be the most difficult thing to overcome.
“Rear-Wheel Drive has taken some getting used to and I’m under no illusions about my teammates’ experience in this area. But it’s my 10th year in the Championship, most of that has been in Front-wheel-drive, but hopefully this year marks the start of a long career in Rear-Wheel-Drive. If anything, it feels a bit more refined, and the biggest factor will be dealing with the feisty nature of touring cars in Rear-wheel-drive.”
– Andrew Jordan
In other words, the bumper to bumper nature of the BTCC is something that Jordan can’t really prepare for until the racing gets underway. The way a RWD car responds during a coming together with a competitor will be different to how Jordan has handled himself on-track in a FWD car. In a series in which contact is imminent, it will be interesting to see how Jordan manages this area of his game. Ultimately, all three drivers have a real chance of winning the title this year, especially if they can rekindle the fortunes of BMW in that iconic season in 1993.