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Rating the highest 10 BTCC drivers of 2023

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The British Touring Automobile Championship season threatened to change into a one-horse race at occasions in 2023, such was the searing velocity of Ash Sutton and his Motorbase Efficiency-run Ford Focus ST.

However reigning champion Tom Ingram saved it nearly alive proper up till the ultimate weekend, earlier than he was compelled handy his crown again to fourth-time winner Sutton.

Motorbase, which modified its title to Alliance Racing on the eve of that Manufacturers Hatch finale, produced an absolute weapon of a Focus after a winter of intense growth. Such was its – and Sutton’s tempo – that solely as soon as was a Ford not on pole over 10 race weekends. And 6 of these poles (5 from Sutton, one from Dan Cammish) have been claimed on the championship chief’s minimal hybrid enhance allowance of 1 second per lap…

PLUS: How a top-down overhaul formed the basis of Sutton’s 2023 BTCC dominance

However, ultimately, there was loads to look at and speak about. Ingram was sturdy within the Hyundai, so have been Jake Hill and Colin Turkington of their BMWs. Right here’s how we rated the category of 2023.

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10. Rory Butcher

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

After a tricky begin with a number of points, Butcher did get pleasure from a late season surge

One of many saddest issues of this BTCC season was seeing this respectable, humble however very fast Scot struggling to get the outcomes to which he and Toyota squad Speedworks Motorsport had change into accustomed over the earlier two seasons.

A change to bespoke Toyota engines seemed to be the final ingredient required to push on for a title problem. Just like the BMW and Honda powerplants within the BTCC, these have been developed by Neil Brown Engineering, and the lump in query shares a good quantity of its structure with the Bee-Em’s. However there are additionally some vital variations, and it needed to be mounted transversely within the Corolla versus longitudinally within the 3-Sequence. Additional, it’s apparently 20kg heavier than the TOCA buyer engine it changed, it arrived not lengthy earlier than the season, hardly anybody might discover dry climate for testing, and a good quantity of re-engineering was required on race weekends because of the change in weight distribution.

Mid-season, the TOCA technical workforce allowed the Toyotas an additional 20 millibars of enhance. Butcher additionally modified engineer to long-time Speedworks worker Jack Coker, and there have been some indicators of rejuvenation. Butcher, who’d admitted to going off the boil over the opening rounds, took a reversed-grid win at Donington, raced properly at Silverstone, and certified on the entrance row for the finale at Manufacturers GP… just for a collection of punctures to spoil his raceday.

It was that sort of a yr for Butcher. His conventional late-season surge got here late even by his requirements however, with a winter of growth behind the bundle, he would hopefully be stronger out of the blocks in 2024.

9. Dan Rowbottom

While he couldn't match team-mate and champion Sutton, Rowbottom put in a few standout performances

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Whereas he could not match team-mate and champion Sutton, Rowbottom put in a couple of standout performances

Among the stick he bought earlier than the season began was appalling. The amiable bearded Midlander has labored exhausting for his Cataclean backing, and his resolution to hitch forces with the NAPA boys on the Motorbase Ford squad made business sense. And, because it fortunately turned out, aggressive sense too. That his departure from Workforce Dynamics performed its half within the squad’s absence from the grid – the final straw was the late pullout of Halfords – can’t be blamed on him.

So off he went, and rattling properly plonked his Give attention to pole for the opening spherical at Donington. OK, team-mate Ash Sutton had a faster time disallowed for monitor limits, however that lap was solely 0.112 seconds sooner and this was the one occasion the place everybody was on equal hybrid enhance earlier than the ‘success penalties’ kicked in.

From right here on Rowbottom’s type was up and down. He was fast sufficient for the entrance row at Croft, the place the workforce dominated, and was fourth in qualifying at Manufacturers GP, the place it didn’t, however was typically outdoors the highest 10. He put this all the way down to his newness to the workforce and his engineer, and enjoying round on set-up in free follow that often caught them out when it counted.

Nonetheless, 5 podium finishes went his manner. His solely win might have are available in a reversed-grid race, at Thruxton, however he needed to work for it from fifth on the grid. Rowbottom can correctly kick on from right here.

8. Bobby Thompson

Thompson is fighting for his BTCC future but continues to shine

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Thompson is preventing for his BTCC future however continues to shine

The pleasant Essex man is aware of he’s up in opposition to it on funding, and it’s solely because of the dedication of Workforce Exhausting boss Tony Gilham that he continues within the BTCC. Because the reigning Jack Sears Trophy champion, Thompson wasn’t going anyplace else for 2023, and the workforce produced a few newly constructed Cupra Leons for himself and Dan Lloyd for the marketing campaign.

Exhausting additionally recruited a number of BTCC title-winning engineer Kevin Berry (for the opening occasions anyway, earlier than TCR World Tour commitments took priority) and mopped up Workforce Dynamics’ management together with Barry Plowman, who sorted Thompson’s automobile, and Matt Neal. It was like a low-budget Premier League aspect reminiscent of Brentford getting in Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp to handle them.

When early-season engine woes weren’t going in opposition to him, Thompson was a revelation. He completed inside a second of victor Ash Sutton at Manufacturers Indy, and he put the Cupra fourth on the grid at Oulton Park. After which he was changed. The workforce, as traditional, had been subsidising his drive and wanted more cash than Thompson was capable of deliver. He gained a reprieve for the ultimate two rounds, occupying the automobile vacated by Nic Hamilton again in the summertime, Exhausting needing to maintain it on the grid to fufil its obligations to retain the TBL entrants’ licence.

Interview: The potential BTCC race winner trying to make it to the front

On the Manufacturers GP finale, Thompson was dancing that automobile round, completely giving it all the pieces he had. He completed a real third – his first non-reversed-grid BTCC podium – behind solely Sutton and Tom Ingram. Neal charges him within the collection’ prime six and it might be a crying disgrace if he couldn’t keep on the grid.

7. Ricky Collard

Collard's short-lived racing retirement proved to be the right call as he showed his quality

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Collard’s short-lived racing retirement proved to be the appropriate name as he confirmed his high quality

When he wasn’t away karting, the bubbling Hampshireman grew up watching his dad Rob Collard scrapping away throughout probably the most brutal eras of BTCC biff-and-barge. That is the sort of racing he loves. However Collard Jr can be an more and more spectacular driver.

His first full season within the BTCC, with Speedworks Motorsport in 2022, was a trial. A thumb harm from his karting days left him unable to press his Toyota’s hybrid enhance button with out taking his hand off the steering wheel, till the workforce was given dispensation to rig up an extension. By the tip of the marketing campaign, a dejected Collard declared that he was hanging up his helmet at the age of 26 to go and do extra pleasurable issues.

Fortunately, he modified his thoughts. When Speedworks struggled early within the season, it was Collard who stepped ahead to steer the road over skilled and extremely rated team-mate Rory Butcher. Sure, he overstepped monitor limits in his on-the-road defeat of Ash Sutton at Manufacturers Hatch, however his sheer dedication to see off the BTCC heavy hitter received the hearts of the collection’ followers. It was the third time in lower than 12 months that he’d misplaced a podium to a penalty, and it was ironic that his first with Speedworks got here at Knockhill – a race he completed in sixth place!

Collard mixed properly with veteran engineer Paul Ridgway, though it was on a weekend when Ridgway was away on TCR World Tour responsibility – Donington GP – the place he attained his equal finest qualifying place of third. Collard himself and workforce boss Christian Dick wielded the laptop computer themselves, and went for an audacious technique of utilizing carry-over used rear tyres from the earlier spherical at Knockhill. He enjoys wrestling a free rear finish, and it labored a deal with…

Consistency actually improved, with Collard ending 16 of the ultimate 20 races within the prime 9. The sensation is that if he might simply be allowed to concentrate on his personal job, he might take a giant step in direction of the boys on the entrance.

6. Josh Cook

Cook picked up the Independents' title again - not that he was hugely bothered by it!

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

{Cook} picked up the Independents’ title once more – not that he was vastly bothered by it!

The red-headed West Countryman had labored wonders with the shopper Honda Civic Sort R over current seasons, even showing on the fringes of outright title races reasonably than simply racking up the Independents crown (one thing of little curiosity to him).

For 2023, the workforce previously often called BTC Racing had been renamed One Motorsport. With the withdrawal of prime Honda squad Workforce Dynamics, it now had the West Midlands operation’s newest Civics, full with their bespoke Honda engines, and a collaboration with the Dynamics technical employees was confirmed.

Then the Dynamics techies appeared with Workforce Exhausting for the opening spherical, the Brackley workforce missed the mid-season official take a look at – {Cook} mentioned that there was no testing, not even a shakedown, because the begin of the season. Workforce principal Danny Buxton departed to change into Speedworks’ new head of racing in September.

By way of all this {Cook} struggled to keep up any sort of consistency with a automobile that was ostensibly the identical (besides the engine) as his {old} weapon. The massive downside was getting it to work on new tyres in qualifying. At Thruxton, a monitor he’s successfully owned in recent times, he set a free follow time that nobody beat all weekend, but he couldn’t get close to it in qualifying. At Manufacturers GP, he was speedy on {old} medium rubber in free follow; barely any faster on new softs when it counted. Clearly that lacking testing programme was much-needed.

Within the collection finale at Manufacturers, {Cook} had a tasty battle for the lead with Stephen Jelley earlier than they have been each pickpocketed by that unimaginable Jake Hill transfer. At Knockhill, he had a stormer for the lead with Sutton as rain started to fall earlier than he misplaced it at Duffus Dip.

It’s maybe powerful on {Cook} to place him behind Cammish – who he beat within the factors – in these rankings, however that’s as a result of it’s so tough to get a learn on how good he was in 2023. At the very least he received the Independents title!

5. Dan Cammish

Luck wasn't on Cammish's side in 2023, but his win from pole on the Croft opener really caught the eye

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Luck wasn’t on Cammish’s aspect in 2023, however his win from pole on the Croft opener actually caught the attention

The season started beautifully for Cammish with a well-judged drive to victory within the opening race at Donington as chaos broke out round him, and continued with a reversed-grid triumph within the day’s finale. A Motorbase Ford topped the factors desk, and it wasn’t the one pushed by Ash Sutton… Then the Berkshire-based Yorkshireman put in a sensational efficiency in moist qualifying at Manufacturers Hatch Indy, on minimal hybrid enhance, to assert pole by almost 0.3s on a 54s lap.

After that he clearly spent most of his time encountering black cats and strolling beneath ladders, as a result of Cammish had essentially the most excessive unhealthy fortune of any of the main BTCC contenders. Qualifying offs at Snetterton and Knockhill have been arguably his fault, however every other driver wouldn’t have encountered large bumps within the grass that respectively brought on a shunt and ripped components of the automobile away, would have pitted to verify all the pieces was OK, and carried on for an honest grid place.

Solely Cammish might have whole brake failure on the way in which into McLeans on the Donington GP spherical throughout FP1, inflicting an unlimited shunt that turned his Ford Focus into a Ka and ruled him out for the weekend. Solely he, now within the spare Ford whereas his Donington wreck was repaired, might have tyre delaminations late in two successive races at Silverstone. No surprise Cammish took it simple in qualifying for the finale at Manufacturers GP; he was simply cautious of anything going incorrect.

This was a tricky season for a deep-thinking driver who you get the impression must really feel confidence. It’s all the time powerful partnering Sutton, and there was a component of the automobile leaning extra in direction of the 2023 champion’s hang-on-to-everything swashbuckling fashion, though Cammish mentioned they’d moved nearer to one another’s set-ups because the season wore on. By which period he was in his mire of misfortune.

When it labored for Cammish he was excellent, and his remaining win, at Croft from pole, got here from pure superiority. In opposition to Sutton, that’s spectacular.

4. Colin Turkington

Turkington's last-to-first across the three races at Oulton Park was a remarkable performance

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Turkington’s last-to-first throughout the three races at Oulton Park was a exceptional efficiency

Statistics could be deceptive, however they can be attention-grabbing. Take Turkington’s common 2023 supertimes (the place a driver’s quickest lap of the weekend is expressed as a share of the general quickest). On imply averages he’s the place you’d have predicted: fourth on 100.499 behind Sutton (100.028), Ingram (100.357) and Hill (100.378). However on median averages, which cut back the impact of outlying figures (reminiscent of Turkington’s exclusion from qualifying at Oulton Park), he’s third on 100.392 – behind Sutton (a exceptional 100.000) and Ingram (100.362), and forward of Hill (100.426).

This paints an image whereby, when the BMW is working correctly, Turkington leaves little on the desk and, even on the age of 41, he maximises all the pieces. The issue for the Northern Irish four-time champion and WSR is that, even when the 3-Sequence was on type, it was by no means the standard-setting automobile on a race weekend in 2023.

There have been complaints of a scarcity of straight-line velocity by means of many of the season, and whispers of rising cost temperatures on the BMW engine costing energy when working within the pack. However Turkington’s devoted engineer John Waterman discounted this – the deficit, he claimed, was a results of TOCA turning down the enhance when the 3-Sequence proved dominant out of the field in 2019; extra engine growth is required, on the proviso that it stays inside the TOCA efficiency parameters to forestall the enhance being minimize once more!

Turkington received 4 occasions in 2023: he used the smooth Goodyears to triumph within the opener at Manufacturers Indy, and in addition scored within the reversed-grid encounters at Croft and Silverstone. However it was his Oulton Park efficiency that confirmed that the need continues to be there. Banished from the qualifying outcomes because of the BMW yielding inadequate gasoline for a pattern, he charged from twenty seventh and final at first of the day to fourth in race two, and victory within the finale, on one of many circuits the place it’s most tough to move. He stays a category act of the collection.

3. Jake Hill

Hill's overtake of the season on Jelley and Cook to set up victory at the season finale was arguably the best of the year

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Hill’s overtake of the season on Jelley and {Cook} to arrange victory on the season finale was arguably one of the best of the yr

In 2022, the diminutive Kentishman proved one of many hard-charging entertainers of the BTCC throughout his first season armed with a West Surrey Racing BMW 330e M Sport, and even beat long-time WSR/BMW talisman Colin Turkington within the factors.

Because the 2023 season began, from the surface wanting within the feeling was one among consolidation reasonably than making any huge leaps ahead. Positive, he was notching up outcomes however there seemed to be an air of resignation about how fast these Ford Focuses have been.

Then, earlier than Oulton Park’s fifth spherical in June, Hill and his long-time engineer Craig Porley (they have been collectively of their AmD Honda and Motorbase Ford days too) hatched a brand new set-up plan. Hill defined that the automobile had been feeling a bit numb, and he wished to exit on a limb. It labored – he was the star of race day, a tenacious defence on poleman Ash Sutton within the opening race previous his first two BTCC wins of the season.

Ultimately Hill notched up six wins, however not one of the different victories got here from being out-and-out sooner than the remainder. As an alternative, they have been the results of the proper tyre selection by means of the British summer season’s sudden rain squalls or his completely sensational double move on team-mate Stephen Jelley and Josh {Cook} within the finale at Manufacturers Hatch. On the flipside, he suffered for many of the season from a recurring misfire because of the failure of enhance sensors, most notably costing him a straightforward win at Silverstone. With out these points, it’s solely possible that he might have crushed Ingram to the runner-up spot.

Counterintuitively, the highest rear-wheel-drive contenders within the BTCC – Hill and Turkington – not often look as spectacular as front-driven prime canines Sutton and Ingram. However, if there was one BMW you would rely upon to be locking up but nonetheless making it to the apex, then that was Hill’s. He completely ragged that automobile and nobody might accuse him of not getting the utmost out of it.

2. Tom Ingram

Ingram kept the title fight alive against Sutton all the way to the Brands Hatch finale

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Ingram saved the title struggle alive in opposition to Sutton all the way in which to the Manufacturers Hatch finale

In every other low season, it’s solely possible that the work carried out at Excelr8 Motorsport to refine its Hyundai i30 N Fastback would have been sufficient for Tom Ingram to make his merry, quintessential tea-drinking English-charmer approach to a second successive BTCC title. However it wasn’t, as a result of the whole revamp being carried out at Motorbase supplied such a quantum leap for the Ford Focus.

The Coventry-domiciled Wycombe native spent many of the season chasing a few tenths to Sutton, however such is Ingram’s tenacity behind the wheel and his racecraft that he saved the title alive into the ultimate weekend, solely conceding it after chasing the brand new champion residence within the opening race. You solely have to take a look at his file of podiums to know why: 17 out of 30 in a automobile that was not often the one to beat was second solely to Sutton’s 20, and manner away from Hill, subsequent up on 12.

Ingram typically felt that the Hyundai wasn’t fairly there on set-up, however he and engineer Spencer Aldridge beavered away and there have been intervals when he was a real menace on tempo to Sutton. At Oulton Park, he sailed by means of Q1 but missed a shot at pole due to a mystifying incapacity to modify on the tyres in Q2. At Donington GP, he tousled the ultimate nook on his sizzling lap in qualifying, but on race day he stormed forward of Sutton on the fourth lap to beat him to victory on real tempo.

There was just one different win: Ingram went ‘off-piste’ on tyre selection at Snetterton, giving him a bonus within the closing reversed-grid race upon which he capitalised, regardless of feeling so in poor health he might hardly stand on the rostrum. However he had misplaced factors earlier within the day as a consequence of a puzzling sluggishness on the begins, attributed by the workforce to a ‘part situation’.

He additionally took the chequered flag first in a loopy dry-wet race at Knockhill, just for he and third-placed team-mate Tom Chilton to be excluded for failing the ride-height test. This wasn’t the primary time this had occurred to Excelr8 after altering onto wet-weather tyres throughout a race – Ronan Pearson misplaced a 3rd place at Donington’s opener for a similar motive on his BTCC debut.

Ingram was maybe as spectacular in title defeat as he was in profitable it in 2022. He, Aldridge and Excelr8 will know that their assault in 2024 will rely as a lot on what occurs on Ford-catching growth between now and March as what happens on monitor from April to October.

1. Ash Sutton

Few can argue with Sutton coming out on top

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Few can argue with Sutton popping out on prime

The arrival of Sutton and the nucleus of his {old} Workforce BMR squad on the Motorbase Efficiency Ford operation comparatively late within the 2021-22 low season gave stability to the then-three-time champion and his crew, however not a Focus ST with which he might do what he wished. The eye at this level was on implementing the new-for-2022 hybrid and all that entailed with the extra weight. The fourth-generation Focus, launched in 2020, was already one thing of an unpredictable diva anyway, but Sutton wrestled it to the championship runner-up spot.

The workforce had deliberate a brand new rear-wheel-drive Audi challenge for 2023, however this concerned bending a few the NGTC rules and there was not sufficient enthusiasm from the opposite groups for this to occur when it was put to a vote by collection organiser TOCA. Sutton’s engineer Antonio Carrozza – the brains behind his 2020 and 2021 titles with the Infiniti Q50, and knowledge engineer for his maiden crown in 2017 with the Subaru Levorg – was tasked with going by means of each nut and bolt of the Focus, and a vastly developed machine emerged from the Wrotham premises. Engine builder Mountune labored on driveability, its tweaks rigorously staying inside the TOCA efficiency parameters to make sure the enhance wouldn’t be minimize.

Throughout a pre-season take a look at within the dry – one thing that the majority different groups couldn’t discover for luck nor cash – at Manufacturers Hatch Indy, Sutton smashed the lap file. There was optimism, however nobody was getting carried away – it might have simply been a fast day because of the circumstances. Then got here qualifying for spherical one at Donington. Sutton wasn’t on pole, however his team-mate Dan Rowbottom was, albeit with a prime 10 shootout-topping time slower than Sutton’s Q1 effort. Regardless of a nightmare opening race day, triggered by Sutton’s startline collision with Jake Hill, there was an inevitability about his march to the highest of the factors desk.

Generally the Fords can be in a gang on the entrance, reminiscent of at Croft, suggesting there was a automobile benefit. Sometimes Sutton was thus far forward of his team-mates, for instance Snetterton and Thruxton, that it was evident that right here was a particular expertise now completely in tune with a front-wheel-drive automobile, after notching up all his earlier titles with rear-driven equipment.

Most of Sutton’s earlier success had are available in vehicles that weren’t the standard-setting machine; earlier than 2023, his most up-to-date pole had come for Thruxton spherical one… in 2021! Now he was in a Focus during which he was nearly invincible on tempo.

His racecraft remained good – twenty third to first at Silverstone in simply 22 racing laps, or 32 miles! – though not with out its blemishes. Whereas Hill copped a grid penalty for that first-race conflict, you’d be justified in declaring Sutton’s riskiness in shifting throughout on a faster-starting BMW; additional, there have been the first-lap eliminations at Oulton Park and Croft. However that ambition, that reaching for the celebrities, is why the crowds love him, and his record-equalling fourth BTCC crown – clinched on the Manufacturers finale – got here from a season when he was clearly one of the best within the area.

Morgan was one of a handful of drivers to narrowly miss out on making this top 10

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Morgan was one among a handful of drivers to narrowly miss out on making this prime 10

Honourable mentions

Adam Morgan moved to WSR after the household Ciceley Motorsport squad referred to as time on its decade-long BTCC journey. He was able to mixing it with the sister BMWs of Turkington and Hill on his day, and simply misses out on our prime 10. Finishing that squad was Stephen Jelley, who confirmed a whole lot of hearth in battling for the lead within the closing race of the season at Manufacturers.

It was tempting to place one of many Energy Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra drivers within the prime 10, however which one? The machines are venerable however nonetheless fast. Rookie Andrew Watson grabbed a few podiums and the Jack Sears Trophy title; fellow new boy Mikey Doble took slightly longer to stand up to hurry however landed a shock pole at Silverstone. Each have a shiny future within the BTCC, however have been crushed within the factors by the evergreen Aron Taylor-Smith, the cheerful Dubliner unfortunate to not win at Silverstone.

Dan Lloyd was most likely even unluckier together with his denied victory at Donington. He had clung on in his Workforce Exhausting Cupra till midway spherical the ultimate lap earlier than the driveshaft failed. Along with Bobby Thompson, he shaped an efficient lead duo for the squad.

One driver who did win was Tom Chilton, the extrovert Surrey veteran making the appropriate tyre selection in a dry-wet race at Donington to triumph in his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai. That workforce additionally included promising rookie Ronan Pearson, who was solely denied a maiden podium at Knockhill when he let workforce chief Ingram previous on the ultimate lap. He’s staying on for 2024 and is creating properly.

Aiden Moffat (One Honda) and Sam Osborne (Motorbase Ford) accomplished the checklist of these to get a podium, however one who didn’t was George Gamble. As a rookie he was a winner in a Ciceley BMW; in his first season of front-wheel-drive competitors he was typically fast within the races in his Speedworks Toyota, however his hard-charging fashion left him too far down in qualifying, and within the hazard zone in races.

What will the 2024 BTCC season bring?

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

What’s going to the 2024 BTCC season deliver?

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