Today was always bound to be a busy day in the BTCC sphere. The opening day of the Autosport International Show didn’t fail to disappoint when it came to a large number of BTCC teams and drivers announcing their 2016 plans, and with Team BMR confirming their tie up with Subaru just a matter of days ago, we can finally begin to see what will no doubt be a landmark season for the BTCC in 2016.
Such has been the amount of press releases over the last week that to avoid any confusion, and to begin to imagine what the 2016 BTCC is going to look like, I’ve compiled a small guide summing up all the major BTCC announcements from the last few days.
Subaru and Team BMR will be fascinating to watch. I’ll start with perhaps what has been the most exciting news of the off season so far, and that’s Team BMR fielding factory supported Subaru’s for Plato and Turkington next year. Now, I must say this news came as a complete shock to me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the Volkswagen Passatt’s which BMR ran last year had at least another season in them before their age started to tell. However, having another manufacturer join the BTCC is fantastic news, and testament to the fact that after a difficult few seasons, the BTCC is heading right back to where it belongs, the forefront of global touring car racing.
It’ll be very interesting to see where TEAM BMR’s VW’s will now end up. With the new BTCC development series confirmed for 2016, will they end up competing in there, or will another ambitious independent squad stump up the cash to purchase proven race winning cars?
Jack Goff heads over to WSR. Another shock announcement came from the Autosport International show on Thursday morning, that Triple Eight’s Jack Goff will also depart the team, to take the wheel of WEC bound Priaulx’s BMW at West Surrey Racing. After a difficult 2015 in which the team scored just one win, Triple Eight have now lost both their drivers (Jordan – Motorbase, Goff – WSR), and are facing an uphill struggle to find experienced drivers to lead their turnaround in 2016.
With MG and Triple Eight committed to each other until at least 2018, the former BTCC titans will no doubt have to pull out all the stops to keep what is already an ageing chassis competitive throughout the coming seasons. The departures of Jordan, and now Goff leaves T8 with substantial shoes to fill, and with the level of development on the MG 6 becoming more important year on year, the dwindling amount of out of contract, high quality, experienced drivers should be ringing alarm bells over at Triple Eight.
Goff’s maiden BTCC win at Snetterton last year was a long time coming, however starting 2016 in a proven race winning car will be the perfect opportunity for him to show just how much talent he has. Up until he was forced to miss Rockingham due to ELMS commitments, Andy Priaulx was right in the 2015 title race in the IHG BMW, and if results go Goff’s way this season, the youngster could well have a real shot at the BTCC title in 2016.
Rob Austin moving to Handy Motorsport means no more Audi A4’s in 2016. The Toyota Avensis is a solid, competitive BTCC package, as Tom Ingram so aptly showed during 2015, so BTCC favourite Rob Austin will no doubt experience a much stronger season than he did in 2015. With Austin’s move to a brand new Toyota Avensis confirmed at the Autosport show earlier today, Rob Austin Racing will now step down to run the old Audi A4’s in the new BTCC development series which begins this season.
The merging of the two independent teams will no doubt reap benefits for all involved and with proven race winner Austin on board, Handy Motorsport will be expecting much improved results over the course of 2016. I think it’ll be fascinating to see how Austin and the Avensis get on. After spending much of his BTCC career in the rear wheel drive Audi, the switch to Toyota will be a challenge for everyone involved, however as Turkington proved this season, that shouldn’t stop Austin starting 2016 as one of the championship’s dark horses.
Even before it has begun, 2016 is shaping up to be a vintage year and with the likes of Mat Jackson, Aron Smith, Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard still to announce their plans, stay tuned over the coming weeks for what I’m sure will be plenty more eye catching announcements.