Record-breaking British Touring Car Championship launches season at Donington Park
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), one of Britain’s premier motorsport series, burst into life today at Donington Park today (22 March) with its traditional Season Launch day.
Over 200 members of the media from across the country were present as the series showed off its new cars and drivers for the year ahead, before the only official pre-season test session of the year took place in front of thousands of keen spectators in the afternoon.
Highlights included the first public sighting of the brand new and much talked about Team BMR Subaru Levorg cars that will be raced by series legends Jason Plato and Colin Turkington, and team mates Warren Scott and James Cole. The reigning champion Honda team also unveiled their spectacular-looking Civic Type-R machines in the distinctive orange livery of returning title sponsors Halfords and Yuasa.
The Donington BTCC Season Launch Day is always notable for surprise announcements, and Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher, who has raced in sports cars in recent years, was confirmed as a driver for the Power Maxed Racing team in the morning press conference, while a new team, BKR, was also revealed with a former series race winner Aron Scott being joined by BTCC newcomer, Mark Howard.
The BTCC confirmed that 32 drivers will race in this year’s championship, a record number for the series, with 11 different brands of car represented on the grid. The BTCC races at Donington are just four weeks away (16-17 April), and five champions will go wheel to wheel (Gordon Shedden, Matt Neal, Jason Plato, Andrew Jordan and Colin Turkington) with a number of rising stars and proven race winners snapping at their heels.
In today’s afternoon test session, Matt Neal’s late flier in his newly liveried Honda Civic saw him set the fastest lap, just fractions ahead of series newcomer Ashley Sutton in the MG. Rob Austin was third quickest in his Toyota Avensis ahead of the similar machine of Tom Ingram, with Josh Cook’s MG and Martin Depper’s Civic Type-R completing the top-six. Depper’s team mate Jeff Smith, Mercedes man Adam Morgan, Mat Jackson (Ford Focus) and Sam Torfoff (BMW) completed the top-10. Just over four tenths of a second covered the top-10, and 1.3 seconds covered the top-20 drivers, demonstrating the level of competition likely to be seen in the series this year.
Donington Park Managing Director Christopher Tate commented: “We were once again delighted to hold the BTCC Season Launch, the fourth year in a row we have had this privilege, and the championship is certainly in rude health. Today we have welcomed thousands of spectators and hundreds of media to our race track, on which we have once again invested heavily over the closed season. From the enthusiasm shown today by everyone involved, it would suggest the championship is set for a classic year, so fans really must ensure they are at Donington to see the action on 16-17 April.”
Tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park on 16-17 April are available in advance from £11.25, with free admission for children aged 13 and under. For more information and to book tickets, click here.