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The rekindled BTCC partnership making an attempt to scale new heights

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I used to be by no means a small boy. I used to be Mr Spherical. I used to be big, so large I couldn’t slot in a kart! Tillett, who made the seats, couldn’t make one sufficiently big for me to slot in. So I began off drifting Ford Escort Mk2s at eight years {old}, and at that age we went with household pals to Manufacturers Hatch to look at the British Touring Automotive Championship. I completely cherished it.

We sat with a picnic blanket to the aspect of Druids the place you may see the vehicles coming down via Paddock Hill. I bear in mind seeing somebody punt somebody off into the gravel and pondering, ‘That is sensible – there’s all the time crashing, it’s all the time thrilling to look at.’ At that age you get nervous even serious about driving a automobile like that – it’s nice going sideways in a subject for a little bit of amusing, however I by no means thought I’d truly be racing in the very best motorsport championship within the UK.

And right here I’m. I’ve been doing it for over twenty years, successfully a 3rd of the BTCC’s life. I’m a part of the furnishings. I’ve pushed lots of the vehicles, lots of the completely different laws. I really like the BTCC. It’s so ridiculously shut, and I really feel that now, with the laws, you’ve acquired to be in your A-game the entire time. You’ve acquired your youth pushing the {old} guys like me actually onerous.

Prime 10: Ranking the greatest BTCC champions

This yr, my third with Excelr8 Motorsport and their Hyundais, I’ve now acquired Barry Plowman engineering me, Matt Neal’s {old} engineer. We’re the oldest, most skilled pairing on the grid, towards my team-mate Tom Ingram and his engineer Spencer Aldridge, who’re one of many youngest.

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I really feel that as a group now we’re so sturdy. It’s not simply the vehicles – the entire bundle concerned with the group, all of the individuals who work on the PR and advertising and marketing, simply pushing each single avenue as onerous as attainable. If the sponsors are blissful, we will make the vehicles sooner and we’re blissful.

Barry ran me at Crew Dynamics in 2008, once I was team-mate to Gordon Shedden. I took Matt Neal’s seat and he took mine at Vauxhall. Barry’s actually calm. We have been testing this yr at Anglesey and Tom Ingram’s automobile had an issue with the power-steering rack – a mechanical situation with an element on the rack, which was new – and Barry was the one one who knew precisely what had gone incorrect with it. He’s as {old} as a dinosaur, so he can nearly hear when it goes previous, ‘Oh that’s what’s incorrect with it’.

Chilton will probably be reunited with engineer Plowman after a earlier stint at Crew Dynamics in 2008

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

As a lot as I labored with Barry many moons in the past, he’s modified a bit over time and I’ve modified a bit, so we’re simply marrying up that connection once more and studying this automobile collectively, as a result of it’s clearly completely different to the Hondas he ran. Now we’ve modified bits in order that it’s what Barry thinks ought to be on the automobile, it’s completely different to the final two years, so we’re making an attempt to shuffle via issues to get the very best out of the automobile and myself.

I spent 2012 to 2016 out of the BTCC and on the earth championship. I used to be unsure once they have been initially altering the laws to NGTC. The suspension was very unusual – it acquired softer and softer, and it didn’t appear to be a racecar to me.

I knew when it began off some vehicles could be sooner and a few slower, after which they’ve acquired to get the steadiness of efficiency proper, and I didn’t need to get entangled within the politics of that, as a result of when you have been on the incorrect finish of the stick you would drive your coronary heart out and be final. So I acquired the sponsorship along with Aon, at first with the Ford after which with the Chevrolet alongside Yvan Muller, and it was wonderful being with Yvan – a celebrity, my hero. I learnt a lot off that man, he’s unimaginable.

I do genuinely assume that in the meanwhile Tom Ingram and Ash Sutton – and Yann Ehrlacher on the earth sequence, who’s a celebrity – are the very best front-wheel-drive touring automobile drivers

That was an enormous step for me, shifting forwards into the TC1 regulation, which for my part have been the best front-wheel-drive touring vehicles ever to have been on this planet. I’ve acquired two in my storage at house – an {old} Chevy, and my {old} Citroen from once I was with Sebastien Loeb Racing in 2016-17.

Sebastien mentioned, ‘Tom, I’m clearing out the storage, would you want a Citroen?’, and once I instructed him, ‘Yeah, I’d like my one’, he instructed me that it had been earlier than I raced it. So he mentioned I might have Yvan’s one, and put my pedal field and stickers on it. I did the Nordschleife, Macau, the very best circuits on the earth. It’s cool, whereas earlier than I might simply say I’d received in England and Scotland and that was it!

Coming again to the BTCC in 2017 felt like I used to be coming house, and I’m a household man with 4 boys. While you’re doing world championships, motorsport is hard since you’re away quite a bit, whereas this I can go away on Thursday evening or Friday morning and are available again Sunday evening.

And it says quite a bit that I’ve stayed with Excelr8 for a 3rd season. Justina and Antony Williams, the house owners, are pushing the toughest and in one of the simplest ways. They’re so proactive, so good at evolving, blissful to take recommendation or criticism in making the group stronger yr on yr.

Chilton is entering his third season with the Excelr8 Hyundai team

Chilton is getting into his third season with the Excelr8 Hyundai group

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

With the transfer to Dynamics, we now have a much bigger manufacturing unit in the midst of the nation, a wealth of data, a much bigger pool of with the ability to get the very best engineers and mechanics. We’re now making an attempt to make it like an F1 group within the BTCC, however so are NAPA Racing, and West Surrey Racing are world class as everyone knows!

PLUS: How Ingram is seeking to reclaim the BTCC crown from Sutton

I’m very lucky to have been team-mates with many high British and world champions – and even a world rally champion! However I do genuinely assume that in the meanwhile Tom Ingram and Ash Sutton – and Yann Ehrlacher on the earth sequence, who’s a celebrity – are the very best front-wheel-drive touring automobile drivers.

To be team-mates with considered one of them [Ingram] makes it more durable for me. The older I get, the sooner I used to be! However I hold pushing. I by no means cease, I need to be on their degree. We’re pals, we have now amusing, and out of all my team-mates Tom Ingram, and Tom Coronel within the WTCC as effectively, are in all probability essentially the most enjoyable I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

Chilton puts Ingram alongside Coronel as his favourite team-mate

Chilton places Ingram alongside Coronel as his favorite team-mate

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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