Last year was fantastic for me in that I got my love back for the BTCC. I was enjoying racing, and I was very much in a happy place. That’s why I’m incredibly excited to be back this season with West Surrey Racing.
Continuity was a big thing in influencing my decision for this season. By the end of last year, we had an incredibly strong setup, and were easily the strongest rear-wheel-drive unit out there. If it wasn’t for some bad luck when it came to reliability we would have been up fighting for the championship at the very end. Those issues won’t let us down this year and we’re in a really good place going into 2019.
I’m really excited for the 2019 season to get under way, more than I’ve been in previous. I feel really happy and comfortable with the team and I’ve kept the same engineer I’ve had over the last couple of years. In fact, that was something I specified in my contract, we clicked and we both really enjoyed working together
I feel we can beat Colin [Turkington, WSR team-mate and reigning BTCC champion]. If you can beat him then you’re always going to end the season in a good spot. We’ve got the pace, I feel confident, and I’m sure we’re going to be close this year.
I know there’s been a lot of talk over the last few years among the fans that I’ve moved around a lot or it was a case of “if I can’t win here then I’ll go somewhere else” and that’s absolutely not the case. I won’t change teams for the sake of it, but if there is a genuine reason to move then it’s only sensible to do so. We have no reason to move away from WSR and I’m incredibly confident going into 2019.
Looking at the task in hand for 2019, there is a lot of quality in the field now, there’s a lot of potential race winners out there. You have to accept that if you’re in the pack it’s going to be very difficult to move forward. It’s all about picking up the points where you can and being sensible. It’s all about those 8th and 9th places and building the tally through the year.
The key is to just do your own thing until the last couple of rounds – only then do you start figuring out who you need to look at and finish in front of. You don’t focus on anyone in particular until the end of the season, such is the quality of the field now – but it usually boils down to the usual five or six drivers at the end of the year.
One change for this year sees two visits to Thruxton in Hampshire, with the second trip replacing Rockingham, which obviously closed last year. I think this is going to be good for us as I really enjoy Thruxton. The circuit itself is similar when it comes to tyre wear as Rockingham was, and we’ve been strong there in the past. Obviously if we’d have gone to the rear-wheel-drive favouring Croft twice I’d have been happier, but I’d have been less happy if we’d gone to Snetterton, a circuit which famously favours front-wheel-drive.
That being said, the gap between front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive has dropped over the years and we’re pretty much the same everywhere we go.
All in all, the goal for this year is to help BMW retain all three championships again and to secure my second BTCC crown. I’m confident that we’re going to be at the sharp end again and I’m ready to get cracking on with this year. I feel like part of the furniture at WSR now, I get on incredibly well with the team, particularly my engineer, and we know exactly how each other works. There’s nothing to prove anymore, just go out and there and do what I know I can do.