The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship roars back into life this weekend (April 1/2) bigger and better than ever, with a capacity 32-car entry list ready to begin battle at Brands Hatch.
When the cars take to the track for the opening practice session at the Kent circuit this Saturday it will bring to an end a 181 day wait. In that time speculation, intrigue, announcements and testing reports have filled the internet, with the talking set to stop around the 1.2 mile Indy layout.
Of the 32 drivers set to compete for the biggest prize in British motorsport this season, a staggering 16 have won races in the BTCC and when they are totalled up, the current figure sits at 329 victories - a statistic that underline how competitive this year’s grid is.
Gordon Shedden enters the season looking to secure a fourth drivers’ crown to become the first man since Andy Rouse to win three titles on the bounce. The Scotsman will also look to tie Rouse for the all-time record of drivers' titles too. The challengers however for the Halfords Yuasa Racing driver come from all angles, starting alongside him with Matt Neal.
At West Surrey Racing, Colin Turkington returns to the BMW fold to partner Rob Collard and 2013 champion Andrew Jordan for a three-pronged attack whilst Jason Plato spearheads Subaru’s charge for glory. Joining the double champion and filling Turkington’s shoes at Team BMR is Ashley Sutton, the Jack Sears Trophy winner that impressed everybody last year.
The remaining two manufacturer entrants have brand new looks and line-ups for the forthcoming season too with Aron Taylor-Smith and Daniel Lloyd at MG. Vauxhall are back with Power Maxed Racing and with them is former Independents champion Tom Chilton, who teams up with rookie Senna Proctor.
Whilst the manufacturer/constructor line-up is a sight to behold, race winners will definitely come from the long list of Independent entrants too. Motorbase Performance have brand new colours virtue of Shredded Wheat and with Mat Jackson leading the line, the Ford Focus outfit will hope to go one step closer to title glory.
Tom Ingram is back with Speedworks Motorsport and keen to build on his two wins from last season. Rob Austin remains in a Toyota Avensis too and out to continue his rich vein of form that saw a podium finish at the series finale.
Other past race winners on the grid for 2017 includes Jack Goff, Dave Newsham, Adam Morgan and Stephen Jelley. Throw into the mix Aiden Moffat, Jake Hill, Josh Cook and Daniel Lloyd and you begin to understand how stacked this year’s line-up is.
Last year’s season-opener saw Ingram secure a breakthrough pole position and he then went on to take a maiden victory too. Shedden and Morgan took a win apiece also to kick-start what turned out to be an enthralling campaign.
With this weekend’s qualifying session the only one of the year with no success ballast, all eyes will be on Brands Hatch to see who grabs the upper hand before three blockbuster races take place around the famous venue.