The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and support series teams have been out in force at Thruxton yesterday and today (18/19 February), as they revved the high-speed Hampshire circuit’s 2015 campaign firmly into life come rain and shine.
Thruxton has a varied schedule of events on its racing calendar this year – from the retro-flavoured Easter Revival in April to the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship’s two-wheeled heroes in August. In-between them will be the all-action, thrill-a-minute BTCC – and many of the tin-top series’ most prominent protagonists took to the track this week to get their preparations well underway.
The traditional off-season driver merry-go-round will see a very different looking BTCC grid lining up this year, with the majority of the leading faces in new places – making this week’s test the first real showdown between the key movers and shakers.
Colin Turkington and Jason Plato – the top two drivers in 2014 and two-time champions both – have sensationally switched to Team BMR and unsurprisingly stole their fair share of the headlines at Thruxton. Returning tin-top legend Andy Priaulx replaces Turkington at West Surrey Racing (WSR), and similarly made his testing debut this week in the squad’s BMW 125i M Sport.
Sam Tordoff will partner the Guernseyman following a brace of seasons at Triple Eight Racing, whilst 2013 title-winner Andrew Jordan has departed Eurotech to spearhead the MG6 challenge.
All of them put their new cars through their paces at Thruxton this week, where they were joined by Honda duo Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, WSR local favourite Rob Collard, Team BMR’s Árón Smith and Warren Scott, Jeff Smith in the Eurotech Honda Civic and Alex Martin in his Ford Focus.
“I love Thruxton,” enthused three-time World Touring Car Champion Priaulx, “and it’s probably the closest one to home for me, which is always nice! It’s a wonderful track, it’s unique and everything you do here you don’t get to do anywhere else. It’s one of those fantastic fast-commitment circuits, which is very enjoyable as a driver!”
“I always go well at Thruxton,” added Jordan. “It gives me a buzz to drive like nowhere else does – even when I’m on my ‘out’ lap! I know how to get a front wheel-drive car to work round here, and I’d really like to get my fourth consecutive Thruxton pole this year. People have said the MG6 isn’t that great here, but I still think there’s scope to put it on pole. Outside of winning the championship, that is definitely one of my biggest aims.”
The BTCC’s loyal support cast was similarly present en masse, from the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup to the Renault UK Clio Cup, Ginetta Juniors and new-for-2015 MSA Formula junior single-seater series. Ginetta GT4 SuperCup front-runner Tom Oliphant proved to be a particularly popular draw, running a number of exhilarating media passenger rides.
Thruxton Group Managing Director Bill Coombs reflected that the test days had been a superb way in which to kick-start the circuit’s 2015 calendar of events – and following a tough few years for the venue, he is quick to point out that things are on the up and exciting times lie in-store.
“It’s a pretty open secret that Thruxton has struggled financially in recent years, but it’s important to state that we are moving forward,” he underlined. “It’s a step-by-step process, and the necessary strategy that we have adopted has been to invest in our core external facilities – by which I mean the driving experiences, skid pan and kart track.
“By making a success out of them, we will be able to plough the profits back into the racing side, which is our ultimate passion. We are all racers at heart here at Thruxton, and our long-term goal is to develop the venue into what we want it to be – a thriving centre of motorsport excellence.”
Thruxton Circuit 2015 Calendar:
April 4-5 Thruxton Easter Revival
May 9-10 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship
June 13-14 British Truck Racing Championship
July 25-26 North Gloucester Motorbike Race Meeting
July 31-August 2 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship
October 3-4 BARC Race Meeting