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Thursday, November 30, 2023

The BTCC plotlines to be careful for in 2023

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The collection hasn’t had essentially the most dramatic of foolish seasons – certainly, the highest six drivers from 2022 all line up with the identical groups and equipment in 2023 – however there are many components that would shake issues up.

For the primary time, Ash Sutton and Dan Cammish have had a full winter to work with the tech workforce throughout the Motorbase Ford line-up, ditto Jake Hill with the West Surrey Racing BMW squad.

The return of choice tyres is certain to shake issues up, and there have been tweaks to the laws surrounding hybrid use.

We even have a brand new Toyota engine for Rory Butcher and his Speedworks cohorts to make use of, whereas One Motorsport (previously BTC Racing) now has the Dynamics Hondas and their powerplants.

There’s sufficient to offer Tom Ingram a good few worries as he appears to guard his standing as champion with the Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai squad. This is our decide of them.

1. Tweaks to the hybrid guidelines

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Hybrid guidelines have been adjusted to make it more durable for drivers within the pack to cancel one another out with enhance

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

It’s truthful to say that not everybody within the British Touring Automobile Championship was ecstatic concerning the new hybrid system that arrived for 2022; some groups had been nonetheless having issues with its reliability on the finish of the season. However what can’t be denied is that restriction on hybrid utilization for the collection’ most profitable drivers was a much more passable methodology of performance-balancing than the success-ballast system it changed. That’s been tweaked for 2023 within the wake of a season the place racing was extra processional.

The minimal pace for hybrid deployment has been lower from 120km/h to 115, however this goes as much as 135km/h in increments for the highest seven within the championship for qualifying and race considered one of every occasion, and for the highest seven in races one and two for races two and three respectively. Hybrid utilization in races has been lower, with nobody allowed the enhance for greater than 50% of laps, whereas the qualifying guidelines have been fettled too.

Reigning champion Tom Ingram sits on a BTCC working group that recommends adjustments to the foundations: “Final yr it labored nicely for those who had been inside the highest 5. When you had been battling with Jake [Hill], Ash [Sutton] and Colin [Turkington], it affected us, however after that pack it didn’t actually do an excessive amount of to the grid, as a result of the place one would use it the opposite would on the similar time and also you’d cancel one another out. So the thought is to attempt to create an even bigger disparity between having it and never having it.

“It’s proper to attempt to enhance the racing. Though it was nice final yr, the racing wasn’t fairly pretty much as good as we’ve seen it again within the days of weight, so we’re making an attempt to nearly simulate that weight penalty with out simply bolting in a church roof to the passenger seat. It’s a unique approach of taking a look at it.”

Ingram is buoyant coming into his title-defence season with the Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N he raced to glory in 2022.

“It was a tricky resolution on the finish of the yr to go, ‘What can we do? Do we glance to attempt to make what we’ve received even higher? Or can we lower our losses and go, we’ve most likely received one other yr with it?’” he says. “In the long run we determined to attempt to preserve going, preserve discovering bits and items that we will make higher, as a result of you possibly can’t stand nonetheless on this championship. We went large, we’ve finished a variety of improvement over the winter, and to this point in testing it feels good.”

2. Return of the choice tyres

Will the BMWs be able to get sufficient tyre temperature on the returning option rubber?

Will the BMWs be capable to get adequate tyre temperature on the returning choice rubber?

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

One of many mysteries of the BTCC’s pre-season launch day at Manufacturers Hatch final week was who’d misplaced the set of false tooth that had been mendacity on the bottom subsequent to the West Surrey Racing vehicles. One other thriller but to be resolved is whether or not WSR’s BMWs will be capable to get sufficient ‘chew’ into their tyres this yr.

Choice tyres, you see, are again for 2023, after they had been shelved final season whereas groups received to grips with the additional weight of the hybrid equipment. At seven of the ten rounds, there will probably be two compounds of Goodyear to race upon; at Snetterton and Croft, all three have to be used; on the high-speed and abrasive Thruxton, it’s onerous rubber solely.

The onerous compound of Goodyear is about for its busiest season since 2019, and the BMW 330e M Sport – as the one rear-wheel-drive machine left within the BTCC – takes longer to modify on even the softer rubber.

“The main target has extra been working with the choice tyres,” says WSR’s four-time champion Colin Turkington of pre-season testing. “We haven’t run on the onerous tyre, aside from Thruxton, for fairly a number of years, and we’ll be utilizing it fairly a bit. That’s one thing positively the place we may have improved wanting again at 2019 – the onerous tyre was a little bit of a limitation.

“It’s very depending on ambient and monitor circumstances on the day, however we all the time attempt to tackle our weaknesses. We all know we’re good on the mushy tyre, however we’re all going to be on totally different methods this yr – I might be on the onerous tyre towards any person on the mushy, so it’s necessary to not lose an excessive amount of floor in these circumstances.”

Turkington, after all, was overwhelmed into third place in 2022 by new team-mate Jake Hill, who stays on board at WSR for this season. The Kentishman is raring to go after cracking on within the second half of final season following the mid-season Snetterton check.

“We primarily simply discovered some stuff within the automobile that made me drive higher,” he says. “I used to be fairly to grips with the automobile instantly I might say, however we lastly simply discovered a number of issues that we hadn’t had time to check, and I felt actually snug after that. It simply made me really feel extra at dwelling. Now, six months on from the tip of the season, we’re right here and I perceive it much more.”

3. Stand by for the final word Ford Focus…

A winter of development at Motorbase has given Sutton hope for a renewed title push in 2023

A winter of improvement at Motorbase has given Sutton hope for a renewed title push in 2023

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Motorbase Efficiency chief Pete Osborne hoped his NAPA-liveried workforce may develop a brand new rear-wheel-drive contender for 2023, but it surely wasn’t to be. As a substitute, the Kent squad has caught with the Ford Focus ST. Three-time champion Ash Sutton and his sidekick engineer Antonio Carrozza arrived fairly late within the winter of 2021-22, and the attentions of Carrozza and incumbent engineering chief James Mundy (who takes care of Dan Cammish) had been absorbed by the implementation of hybrid. Sutton labored miracles to take the title runner-up spot, and now the combo have had an entire low season to work on the Focus.

“We’ve simply been capable of assault it a bit extra,” reveals Sutton. “We knew immediately [early in 2022] there have been bits we wished to vary, however basically in the midst of the season it’s not attainable. We had been so late to the occasion there wasn’t sufficient time, and there was a lot extra occurring with hybrid.

“So a yr beneath our belt, we’re in a unique place now. We’ve received a greater automobile, we’re in a significantly better beginning place. When you take a look at the place we began final yr and the place we ended it, it was two fully totally different vehicles. Having that winter has allowed Tony [Carrozza] to work some magic together with the remainder of Motorbase – we’ve received some good guys there and everybody’s knuckled down.

“Hopefully we will hit the bottom working at each monitor relatively than being a bit hit-and-miss. It was a mix of issues. First time for me getting again in a front-wheel-drive automobile, first time for Tony to ever work with a front-wheel-drive automobile. Each time we turned as much as a gathering we didn’t know what to anticipate, whereas you’ve received any person like Tom [Ingram] – 9 years he’s had of that studying course of. It’s no totally different to if we’d rocked up in a rear-wheel-drive automobile – we might know the place we need to be from the get-go.”

The return of choice tyres is reckoned by BTCC cognoscenti – 1992 champion and latter-day ITV pundit Tim Harvey – to play into the arms of the quick-thinking Sutton and Carrozza.

“Yeah,” agrees Sutton. “They throw a variety of spanners into your path and it’s whoever picks out the proper ones. For us, we’ve all the time been fairly artful when it comes all the way down to that. The larger deltas in hybrid are positively totally different, and there’s a brand new monitor format [Donington GP] concerned. I feel there’s a variety of good variables thrown in to spice issues up.”

4. The skilled rookie within the pack

Andrew Watson - CarStore Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra

Andrew Watson – CarStore Energy Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Of the BTCC rookies on the grid this season, there are three who will probably be carefully watched, and all arguably have a shot on the Jack Sears Trophy sub-division for drivers who’re but to complete on an general podium within the collection.

Younger Scot Ronan Pearson has taken what you’d regard as the usual step up from the Mini Problem to drive an Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai; Englishman Mikey Doble can be transferring up, from extra uncommon arenas because the reigning champion in each the Ginetta GT5 Problem and BMW Compact Cup.

However Irishman Andrew Watson has the tradition shock of stepping again from GTE – through which he’s twice been a starter on the Le Mans 24 Hours – and GT3 equipment to line up alongside Doble within the Energy Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra workforce.

“It’s been actually enjoyable,” says 28-year-old Watson. “I haven’t finished an in depth pre-season check programme by any means, however we had day at Manufacturers Hatch a few weeks in the past. I actually loved it. The vehicles, while you get the warmth within the tyres and it grips up, they’re actually enjoyable to drive. I actually just like the sequential shifting as nicely – again away from the paddleshift.

“The racing is the actually thrilling little bit of touring vehicles. We’ve got a variety of studying to do with the automobile, I’ve to be taught the hybrid system, practise standing begins, which I haven’t finished in about eight years! However already you possibly can see the thrill and pleasure across the paddock – we’re gearing up properly.”

Alongside Watson and Doble is the seasoned Aron Taylor-Smith. A great benchmark?

“Yeah massively,” agrees Watson. “I’ve a variety of expertise on paper, however in a front-wheel-drive tin-top I’ve none, so I’m treating it like my rookie yr in any type of top-level machine. Aron I need to say has been sensible. He’s pushed a variety of vehicles and he is aware of what works and what doesn’t work, and he’s clearly gained races earlier than. With out him I’d be actually acutely aware of the place we’re and the place we’re going. I’m actually having fun with it, however I haven’t received the entire package deal unlocked but.”

The three-car Power Maxed Racing stable features two series newcomers who will be keen for Jack Sears Trophy spoils

The three-car Energy Maxed Racing steady options two collection newcomers who will probably be eager for Jack Sears Trophy spoils

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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