BTCC 2016 is just four days away, and I can’t wait to get down to Brands Hatch on Sunday for the start of the new season. We’ve all been waiting for this moment ever since Shedden took the 2015 title in that dramatic final race at Brands Hatch last October and with a record 32 car grid, represented by 11 different manufacturers I think we’re in for an incredible season. The BTCC seems to just be getting better and better over recent seasons.
The series suffered a little after the Super Touring Era ended in 2000 however the last few seasons has seen the championship really get back on its feet and we have to praise Alan Gow for the great work he ‘s done. The series is now incredibly competitive and cost effective, and the four car entry of Subaru/Team BMR is confirmation of the series’ new appeal to both independent teams and manufacturers alike. My full BTCC 2016 preview will follow over the next couple of days however today I want to focus on Speedworks Motorsport who I think could be the real dark horses in the BTCC this season.
I’m sure we all remember Speedworks and Tom Ingram from the epic battle with Jason Plato at Rockingham which so nearly concluded in a maiden win for the Cheshire based squad, and this year the expansion to two cars for 2016, in the form of Matt Simpson’s Honda Civic Type-R means there’s an even greater chance we’ll see one of the Speedworks run cars regularly fighting in the top ten.
Speedworks enjoyed a strong end to 2015, and Ingram followed up his fine second place in race three at Rockingham with another second place finish at Brands Hatch in October. Combined with five consecutive top ten finishes from Oulton Park – Snetterton, Ingram ensured a 13th place finish in the table, with Speedworks coming 9th in the teams championship. The expansion to two cars for 2016, in what will be their sixth season in the BTCC means Speedworks should be taken very seriously indeed and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Ingram and the team improve on their 2015 results.
Tom Ingram will line up in the Toyota Avensis for the third season in a row, and the 22 year old from High Wycombe will be looking to add more than just podiums to his already impressive CV. The 2010 Ginetta Junior champion and 2011 BRDC Rising Star finished the Media Day test session in an impressive 4th place on the timesheets, just two tenths off Matt Neal’s time and with the playing field effectively being levelled for this season, the BTCC’s top table is open to teams all the way up and down the pitlane. The Toyota was fast at Brands last year, and Ingram scored a 10th, and two 6th place finishes at the first three rounds of 2015, and we all know how good the Honda is! If Speedworks are quick right from the offset I see no reason why they can’t stay there.
Ingram will be joined in 2016 by BTCC rookie Matt Simpson, who will line up in the Speedworks run Simpson Exhausts Honda Civic Type-R. Despite being a rookie in the BTCC Simpson is no stranger to top level motorsport and is a two time European Hot Rod champion alongside being a runner up on the world stage. Simpson finished the Donington Media Day test session just 0.9s behind his more experienced teammate Ingram in 19th place, ahead of Andy Neate in the Halfords Honda and Mark Howard in last seasons race winning Volkswagen CC. A sign of things to come?
I think Speedworks are one of those teams which have been bubbling under the BTCC’s surface for a little while now, and the expansion to two cars has come at the right time, where they stand their best chance to establish themselves as a consistent top ten team since they joined the series back in 2011. Five seasons experience with the Toyota Avensis, which has proved to be a very durable package should stand Ingram in with a good chance of continuing his impressive 2015 form, and Simpson’s Hot Rod experience will stand him in good stead for what promises to be cut-throat midfield battle this season, I don’t expect the field to be covered by much in qualifying all year long.
Out of all the independent teams up and down the pitlane, I think Speedworks are the ones the BTCC’s establised elite should be keeping a very close eye on this season. 2014 and 2015 saw the breakthrough of Team BMR and Cicely Racing and I can see no reason as to why Speedworks Motorsport won’t be joining what is looking to be an increasingly competitive top ten battle sooner rather than later.