The 2018 BTCC season kicks off this weekend
The lights go green on the 2018 championship tomorrow at Brands Hatch
The 2018 British Touring Car Championship gets going tomorrow at Brands Hatch, where reigning champion Ashley Sutton will be out to defend his title.
Before the 32-car field bumper bangs its way into Paddock Hill Bend, we run through eight key things to look out for in what is almost certainly going to be another fantastic season of racing.
No more surprises from Ashley Sutton
Few predicted Sutton would storm to last year’s title in just his second season in the BTCC and his first in a Team BMR Subaru Levorg. This year, Sutton goes into the season as the driver to beat – a very different pressure. The BMR squad has slimmed down to three cars this year, with former champion Jason Plato returning. He’ll be aiming to bounce back after a tough season in which he scored just one race win.
The BMW squad
Sutton’s closest rival in 2017 was Colin Turkington, who headed the manufacturers’ title-winning line-up of WSR BMW. The double champion is back in an unchanged trio alongside 2012 champ Andrew Jordan and multiple race winner Rob Collard.
Tom Ingram was another 2017 surprise package, winning four races in his family-run Speedworks Toyota Avensis. While quick, he struggled with consistency; if the team can find it, he could be a dark horse.
The Porsche invasion
Double Porsche Carrera Cup champ Dan Cammish has landed a plum drive in a Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R (pictured) as Gordon Shedden’s replacement, and he isn’t the only 911 racer making the switch. Stephen Jelley, a double BTCC race winner, is back after two years in the Carrera Cup. He’ll drive a Team Parker Racing BMW.
New Focus for Ford
Having split with long-time driver Mat Jackson, the Motorbase Ford Focus squad will run proven race winners Tom Chilton, Sam Tordoff and James Cole this year, giving the Kent-based outfit three drivers capable of fighting at the front of the pack.
Double the drama
To mark the BTCC’s 60th season, the third race at Snetterton on 29 July will be a 60-mile ‘Diamond Double’. There will be no success ballast, it will have a stand-alone qualifying session and double points will be on offer.
The Alfa Romeo badge is back on the grid, with Rob Austin running a HMS Racing-prepared Giulietta. While it doesn’t have full works backing, the entry is being supported by the UK Alfa Romeo Dealer Network.
More role reversals
The partial reverse grid draws for the final race of each weekend has been extended, with positions sixth to 12th now in with a shout of drawing pole (previously it was sixth to 10th).
7/8 April: Brands Hatch Indy, Kent
28/29 April: Donington Park, Leicestershire
19/20 May: Thruxton, Hampshire
9/10 June: Oulton Park, Cheshire
23/24 June: Croft, Yorkshire
28/29 July: Snetterton, Norfolk
11/12 August: Rockingham, Northamptonshire
25/26 August: Knockhill, Fife
15/16 September: Silverstone, Northamptonshire
29/30 September: Brands Hatch GP, Kent