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Category: British Touring Car Championship

Simon Belcher - BTCC Toyota AvensisDunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship newcomer Simon Belcher, who will make his race debut in the UK’s biggest motor racing category next year, made his first track appearance at the wheel of his newly acquired Toyota Avensis at Silverstone today, Wednesday, 4th December.

Just a fortnight since announcing his graduation from the BTCC-supporting Renault UK Clio Cup, the Swindon racer thoroughly enjoyed his eagerly awaited first run in the Speedworks Motorsport built 2.0-litre Toyota and reported a very encouraging day at the Northamptonshire venue.

Although an issue with the ECU during the damp opening session hampered the KÄRCHER supported driver’s early laps, the three subsequent sessions were dry and afforded the 2012 and 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ title winner a good opportunity to adapt to the Toyota.

“It’s been a brilliant day, it was everything I expected”, said the 39-year-old, “I’d never even sat in a touring car before today and we weren’t a million miles away by the end, so I’m really pleased. We made some good progress and I really enjoyed working with the Speedworks guys for the first time.

“I wondered how the speed of the car would feel and compare to the Clio I’ve been racing the past two years, and the touring car does have so much more power. What needed getting used to the most, though, was the brakes – you really have to stand on them.”

Belcher added: “When you’re strapped into the car it doesn’t feel that much bigger, but the steering is harder work and everything is just that bit heavier. The more aggressive you drive a touring car, the smoother it feels, so you really have to grab it by the throat to get the most out of it. That’s different to what I’ve been used to with the Clio and something to work on over the winter.”

With the initial shakedown of his Toyota now complete, the next appearance of the car – which will run under the ‘Handy Motorsport’ banner in the BTCC – is scheduled to be at Birmingham’s NEC in January where the 2014 livery will be unveiled during the annual Autosport International Show. The event runs over four days, between Thursday, 9th January, and Sunday, 12th January.

Following a programme of winter testing during the early part of 2014, Belcher’s first ‘official’ BTCC appearance will come during the pre-season Media Day at Donington Park in the East Midlands on Tuesday, 18th March.

The championship itself will get underway less than two weeks later, on 29th/30th March, at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent and will travel the length and breadth of the country before reaching its conclusion back at Brands Hatch, on the longer Grand Prix Circuit, on 11th/12th October.

Photo by George McNeil.

Harrison Scott2013 Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain runner-up Harrison Scott swapped slicks and wings for a roof at Snetterton on Tuesday (October 29) when he sampled a British Touring Car for the first time.

The 17-year-old had been invited to take part in the test with front-running BTCC squad Airwaves Racing by tyre partner Dunlop as part of his prize for winning this year’s British Formula Ford Scholarship Class.

With only one year of car racing experience under his belt, the front-wheel-drive Ford Focus ST was completely different to the EcoBoost single-seater Scott has driven this season. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long for the Althorne teenager to get up to speed.

After a briefing from current Airwaves Racing driver Tom Onslow-Cole, Scott spent the morning familiarising himself with the tin-top during a six-lap run on used tyres, before being entrusted with a brand new set of rubber for his afternoon race simulation.

“I absolutely loved being out in a touring car for the first time,” explained Scott. “Needless to say it’s a totally different experience to the Formula Ford I’ve raced this season, but not at all how I imagined it would be actually. Being front-wheel-drive you assume beforehand that it will have a greater tendency to understeer than a single-seater with higher front-end downforce. But that wasn’t the case and, in fact, through the fast corners it’s the rear that becomes a bit twitchy.

“Having said that I was able to feel comfortable quite quickly. Talking to Tom proved really useful, while the Airwaves team seemed pretty impressed with the times given my level of experience. I wouldn’t say that the day opened my eyes to the possibility of a career outside of single-seaters; it’s always been a consideration even if I am fully focused on achieving my dream of racing in Formula 1. But it did give me a greater perspective on how capable a touring car is.”

Dave Bartrum, whose Motorbase squad runs the Airwaves Racing Focuses, added: “We expected a high level of ability based on where the drivers had come from; but to be thrown straight in at the deep end and to show the speed and ability they did, away from their areas of expertise, just shows where their talents lie. All the drivers did very well and impressed the whole team. The day was great testament to Dunlop tyres and the firm’s support and commitment to the BTCC and racing as a whole. Airwaves Racing is very proud to have been a part of it.”

Scott will hope to be equally adept at testing unfamiliar machinery when he visits America in December 9/10 to receive his Mazda Road To Indy Formula Ford Driver of the Year prize test at the wheel of a USF2000 and Pro Mazda single-seaters.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Charlie Robertson - BTCC Toyota AvensisCharlie Robertson, the reigning Ginetta Junior Champion, had the opportunity to sample Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship machinery for the first time in his racing career at Silverstone on Tuesday, 5th March, with an outing in a Speedworks Motorsport-run Toyota Avensis.

Provided by Ginetta Cars Ltd as part of his prize package for winning the 2012 title, Charlie – who makes the move to single-seaters this year in the new BRDC Formula 4 Championship – thoroughly enjoyed his maiden test at the wheel of a BTCC car, describing the Toyota as a “serious bit of kit.”

Taking place as part of the annual Ginetta ‘Media Day’, the outing was not only the 16-year-old’s debut in a touring car but also his first ever run in a front-wheel drive racing car. Adapting without any troubles at all, the Whyteleafe-based youngster was certainly impressed by the Avensis.

“It was a really good experience and the car didn’t take too long to get used to”, he said, “The main thing for me was the size compared to what I’ve been used to in Ginetta Junior and to the Formula 4 single-seater I’ll be racing this year. It’s definitely a fast car and really good fun to drive.

“Compared to my first run in the F4 car last week, I think the BTCC car has similar power really but it has a lot of torque and is obviously much heavier. It’s a serious bit of kit, that’s for sure, and the run has given me a good insight into front-wheel drive and touring cars. Our focus is on single-seaters but this test has definitely shown me touring cars could be something to consider for the future.”

Charlie added: “I’d definitely love the chance to have another run in a touring car at some point and I must say a massive thank you to Lawrence [Tomlinson – Ginetta Cars Chairman] and all the guys at Speedworks Motorsport for giving me such a fantastic opportunity.”

The MSA Academy racer’s attention now returns to his preparations for the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Championship season and after a strong initial test outing in his HHC Motorsport-run MSV F4-013 last week, the Investigo-sponsored driver is counting the days until the campaign gets underway.

Officially timed pre-season testing will take place at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk on Tuesday, 23rd April, with Silverstone’s Grand Prix Circuit hosting the curtain-raiser to the brand new series just a few days later, over the weekend 27th/28th April.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Alex MacDowall - Chevrolet CruzeBritish Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Superstar Alex MacDowall is looking forward to next weekend’s visit to Knockhill as much as any event so far on the 2011 calendar, believing the Fife track offers one of his best chances yet of securing his maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship victory.

The BTCC’s annual visit to Scotland, which this year takes place on 3rd/4th September, is one of the most important events of the season for the Carlisle driver – in actual fact, it’s very much a ‘home’ race meeting with the MacDowall family originally hailing from Ayrshire.

During his debut season in the UK’s premier motor racing championship last year, Alex starred at Knockhill by taking his second career pole position in touring cars and also setting a new qualifying lap record for the 1.3-mile circuit with a scintillating effort.

In the first of the weekend’s three races, he went on to secure a well deserved second place and also posted the fastest lap to underline his pace. Had he not been jumped at the start by the Honda of Gordon Shedden – who has unrivalled Knockhill knowledge and is also the track’s Business Development Manager – Alex certainly had the speed to claim his maiden BTCC win.

So far this year the 20-year-old has two podiums to his credit and he arrives in Scotland next week seventh in the championship, despite having suffered some serious misfortune. Enjoying his best weekend of 2011 last time out at Snetterton though, bagging a healthy total of 26 points, the Silverline Chevrolet driver maintains high hopes of pushing for a top five championship finish.

Three more consistently strong results at Knockhill, a circuit which suits the superb handling of his RML-run Chevrolet Cruze, will be key to achieving that goal. Alex’s quest should also be helped now the advantage held throughout the season by the turbo-charged cars has been largely leveled out.

“Last year was great so we know the car will be good around Knockhill”, he said, “We had a test at Donington last Thursday which went really well – me and Jason (Plato) were both there so we got through a lot of set-up changes. Qualifying will be more crucial than ever next weekend with so few places to overtake at Knockhill.

“I know I can go a step further than last year and achieve my first win, the track suits my driving style and the Chevrolet Cruze is the best handling chassis in the field so it’s pole or bust! I’m seventh in the championship but it’s still quite tight behind so I need another good points scoring weekend to give me a safe gap.”

Two free practice sessions will take place at Knockhill on Saturday, 3rd September, with qualifying expected to get underway at 15.05. All three races will be contested on Sunday, 4th September, with round 19 set to begin at 11.40, round 20 scheduled to follow at 14.10 and round 21 finalising the day’s action at 17.00.

Freeview, digital satellite and cable channel ITV4 will screen each race live with the broadcast also available in High Definition on ITV4 HD. Live streaming of Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s racing will also be carried online at

Provisional 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Standings (after Rd18):
1st Mat Jackson, 158pts; 7th Alex MacDowall, 73pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Liam McMillan, the youngest driver in this year’s HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, has withdrawn from this weekend’s race meeting at his local Snetterton circuit.
The talented 19-year old driver from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire had planned to contest the event in his ex-Jason Plato SEAT Toledo, which is supported by Petronas Syntium, Cobra Engineering, EPM Technology and Proppa. He would, however, have had to use his less- powerful 20 value engine (as his 16 value unit isn’t fully rebuilt) and Liam is unwilling to race at the fast Snetterton track without a realistic chance of challenging for a top 10 finish.

In his first season of racing in the BTCC, and only his forth season in motor racing, Liam has demonstrated his potential by finishing just outside the top 10 three times and recording the second fastest time through a speed trap at Thruxton – clocking an impressive 127.1mph in the opening free practice session. The 2006 SAXMAX Champion now hopes to make at least one more BTCC appearance this season.

Liam McMillan: “Missing the BTCC race weekend at Snetterton was a difficult decision to make, but we haven’t let our hearts rule our heads and it’s definitely the correct thing to do.

“I know we can’t win with the equipment we have, but we want to put on a good show and do our best.  With a 16 valve engine we could challenge for a top ten result – but that engine isn’t fully rebuilt and we need to test it before we race it again.  With our 20 value engine, which was our only option for Snetterton, we’d be confined to the back of the field, and that isn’t good for my career.  I never want to be on track, just to make up the numbers.

“I’m hoping we’ll be able to test the 16 value engine soon and then we’ll make a decision as to which circuits will suit the Toledo the best and go from there.”

Liam McMillan will be forced to miss the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship race meeting at Oulton Park this weekend, as his engine builder has failed to return any of his units that were to power his Maxtreme SEAT Toledo.

Engine problems have blighted all three of Liam’s BTCC race weekend’s so far this season, as a newly-built 16v Toledo engine expired at Brands Hatch and at Thruxton (both after just 40 miles of running), leaving the 19-year old driver from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire to struggle with an underpowered and older 20v unit on race day. He also had to use the 20v engine at Donington Park, despite it having clocked-up twice the recommended number of racing miles without a rebuild.

Liam’s dream of completing his maiden BTCC season look on hold, as French motorsport specialists Oreca has failed to return all three of his 16v engines – despite having them for a considerable amount of time.

Oulton Park is one of Liam’s favourite race tracks and he knows it well, having won all three races there in his SAXMAX title winning season in 2006. Despite having one of the oldest cars on the grid, Liam was hoping to go well at the Cheshire circuit and was aiming to get his Petronas Syntium/Cobra Engineering/EPM Technology/Proppa-supported Toledo into the top 10.

Liam said: “I’m bitterly disappointed to be missing Oulton Park. We sent our engines away in good time and in good faith to be rebuilt by Oreca, but they haven’t been returned. It hasn’t anything to do with myself or the Maxtreme team, but there appears to be an outstanding issue between Oreca and BTC Racing, the team who raced the Toledos last year and who we bought the cars off. We seem to be stuck in the middle of an on-going dispute and our engines, which we own, appear to being held as ransom. We have done all we can, and now it’s up to others to do the honourable thing.”

Michael DoyleEmerging touring car sensation Michael Doyle has agreed a top-line deal with daily newspaper the Scottish Sun which will guarantee him first class media coverage all the way through the 2009 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship season.

The 21-year-old, from Gartocharn on the banks of Loch Lomond, has been a revelation during his maiden campaign in the UK’s premier motor racing series this year, a truly outstanding top eight finish at Silverstone National Circuit last month the undoubted highlight of 2008 for the In-Tune Racing driver.

Agreeing terms with the Scottish Sun – Scotland’s number one newspaper for motor racing coverage – to provide excellent media support throughout his second year in touring cars, Michael will also benefit from other assistance such as promotional support at a number of events, particularly his home race meeting at Knockhill in Fife next August.

Speaking on the deal, Scottish Sun motor racing correspondent Jon Doran said: “Michael is an outstanding talent, he is punching above his weight in a very tough competition. The Scottish Sun made its name standing up for the underdog so this is an ideal partnership for us.

“We are the number one paper in Scotland for motor racing coverage and hopefully, with our help, Michael can attract new sponsors and become the champion his talent deserves.”

Michael added: “I’m absolutely overjoyed to have agreed this partnership with the Scottish Sun, it’s a massive development for myself and In-Tune Racing and is a reflection on how well we’ve done this year with our limited resources.

“The Scottish Sun is a huge newspaper in Scotland and the coverage they’ve given me this year has been superb. To increase that yet further in 2009 will be a huge help as we try and attract additional sponsors. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jon Doran and all of the guys at the paper – we aim to do them proud during the season finale at Brands Hatch the weekend after next and then take big steps forward together in 2009.”

The 2008 BTCC season finale, rounds 28, 29 and 30, will take place less than two weeks from now at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent. Practice and qualifying will be held on Saturday, 20th September, with all three races – which will be screened live on Freeview, digital satellite and cable channel ITV4 – scheduled for Sunday, 21st September.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Michael DoyleHiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship rookie Michael Doyle secured his, and the In-Tune Racing team’s, maiden overall top 10 BTCC finish at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire today, Sunday, 1st June, during an absolutely rain-lashed 13th round of the season.

The 20-year-old Scottish sensation, from Gartocharn on the banks of Loch Lomond, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt he has the ability and pace to be a genuine star in the UK’s biggest motor racing championship on the back of this afternoon’s performance at a track he classes as a semi-home venue.

Ending the first of today’s three BTCC races in a superb ninth position overall – ahead of front-runners Andrew Jordan, Mat Jackson, Tom Onslow-Cole and SEAT Sport UK pairing Jason Plato and Darren Turner – the result also saw Michael secure his best finish in the Independents Trophy with sixth place.

“I’m very happy with the performance we produced this weekend”, said Michael, “We improved the car throughout and although we had a few problems and niggles during the build-up, in the first race we showed just what we can do when the car is working well and when we’re on a level playing field with the bigger teams.”

Today’s atrocious weather played havoc with the timetable and conditions were in stark contrast to the glorious sunshine experienced during qualifying on Saturday where Michael recorded the 19th fastest time with a lap of 1m 28.625 seconds (86.31mph).

However, the drenched track and persistent rain acted as a welcome leveller for Michael’s team as it battles the resources of the bigger squads.

At the start of round 13, Michael made up good ground and on the opening lap he was into 15th position and pushing hard to catch the MG ZS of Jason Hughes ahead. He was soon into 13th place and a first ever BTCC points finish looked firmly on the cards.

Red flags were shown on lap five though after the Honda Integra of Alan Taylor collided with the already stranded BMW of Stephen Jelley at Tower Bend.

Counted back a lap, the classification showed Michael in 14th place and therefore he was in that position on the grid for the re-start. Problems with his Honda’s battery did look as though Michael wouldn’t be able to start from the grid but, very thankfully, he managed to fire the car up before going on to make a terrific getaway as others struggled for grip.

Running in 10th place as he approached Sunny In, the In-Tune racer then passed Harry Vaulkhard under braking to take ninth. The Safety Car appeared at the start of lap two due to another car off at Tower and red flags followed for a second time soon after. On the grounds of safety due to the terrible conditions, the race was then declared a result.

Driving beautifully on the soddened track, Michael underlined his prowess given the right equipment and looked forward to producing more of the same in round 14. He looked set for another top 10 too early on, but a gearbox problem on lap two was the start of an eventual retirement which came on lap seven – the issue also meant he missed round 15.

“In race two I had a reasonable start and through the first few corners I had a good battle with Adam Jones and Mike Jordan”, said Michael, “Everything looked good and I think we had the chance to fight for another top 10 but as I came to brake at Tower on my second lap, the gearbox got stuck between sixth and fifth so I couldn’t stop the car.

“I ended up in the crop field on the outside. I rejoined a long way down but in the end I had to pit as the problem got worse. It was such a shame the weather caused problems with the timetable as, if the third race had started as originally scheduled, we’d have had the car ready in time for round 15. We just needed about another 15 minutes.”

With a full six weeks to wait until the next BTCC event of the season at Snetterton in Norfolk on 12th/13th July, Michael and his In-Tune Racing team will make good use of the break to try and attract some vital sponsorship to enable them to build on the excellent promise they showed at Croft this weekend.

He added: “Hopefully we’ll make it to Snetterton, it’s all budget dependant but hopefully the result we achieved today will go some way to helping us attract more sponsors. I had a lot of fun in the car today and I really enjoyed racing in the top 10. With the right backing, we know that’s where we can be on a regular basis.”

Action from today’s Croft races will be shown on Britain’s number one commercial television channel ITV1 late tomorrow night, Monday, 2nd June, at 00.50 – additional replays will be screened on Freeview, digital satellite and cable station ITV4 later in the week. Please check listings for more details.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.