Four months ago we gave you a handful of reasons why the 2020 British Touring Car Championship season was going to be worth watching, since then the World has changed drastically, and with it the overall look of the BTCC field. Out went some of the biggest names in the championship’s history and in came some very new ones.
Eight reasons to watch the BTCC in 2020
Despite the changes, there are still plenty of reasons to keep a keen eye on the 2020 season. Can Colin Turkington make it three on the bounce? Or will Dan Cammish do what he came agonisingly close to in 2019 and push Turkington from the top step of the championship podium? Or will the title challengers come from elsewhere?
Can Turkington become the most successful touring car driver of all time?
There were many standout moments during the 2019 season of the British Touring Car Championship, but none quite as emotional as watching Colin Turkington streak across the finish line at Brands Hatch in one of the most dramatic finales to a motorsport season in recent memory. As Colin screamed down the radio, a disconsolate Dan Cammish was left stranded around the GP loop having had one hand on the trophy just two laps earlier. That finish gave Turkington his fourth BTCC title, equalling Andy Rouse’s 34-year-old record in the process. It’s no secret that his BMW was the strongest car on the grid in 2019, and it would take a brave man to bet against them again in 2020. You can never count Turkington out when in a strong car, and if luck goes his way – as is always important in the BTCC – we could well be watching the first ever five-time champion.
Andrew Jordan bids farewell
Another casualty of the economic fallout of COVID-19, Andrew Jordan made the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from the 2020 season at the end of June. Jordan was being tipped by many as a title favourite, in no small part to his stellar years in 2018 and ‘19 where you could argue just bad luck stopped him adding to his 2013 championship success. What made it an even harder pill to swallow was that Jordan was signed up in the off season as a BMW works driver. After months of uncertainty following Pirtek’s withdrawal as his primary backer, a deal was struck between Jordan and the German marque, but sadly we will never get to see just how strong that partnership would have been, and West Surrey Racing have lost an incredibly valuable member of their stable.
Jason Plato and Power Maxed Racing step back
There are things in life that just seem to belong together. Fish and chips. Strawberries and cream. Jason Plato and the British Touring Car Championship. However that’s gone out of the window this season as Power Maxed Racing announced a BTCC sabbatical as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, returning in 2021. Plato is already confirmed in one of the Vauxhall Astras, while team-mate Mat Jackson will have first option on the second. As a result, the BTCC will see its first Plato-free season since 2003 and will lose arguably its biggest star and one of the most recognisable British racing drivers outside of a Formula 1 paddock. Whether we’ll see Plato in some sort of off-track capacity remains to be seen, but it will be a very strange experience not seeing him on the grid.
Matt Neal’s 30 not out
Some things in the universe are a constant. The gravitational force of the Earth. The speed of light. Pi. Matt Neal competing in the BTCC. He made his debut in the 1991 British Grand Prix support race, finishing 13th in the Pyramid Motorsport BMW M3. Since then, Neal hasn’t missed a single season (although he did only compete in the opening round of the 2001 season and was forced out through injury early into the 1994 campaign), and has racked up a trio of titles across the three decades. Assuming Neal makes it to the start of the first seven rounds of the year, the opening race at Silverstone in April will see him compete, astonishingly, in his 700th BTCC race. That is, however, if he’s fit to do so – the start to his 2020 campaign has already hit a stumbling block, after he crashed his mountain bike into a tree. He broke a rib, clavicle and shoulder and punctured a lung, which later collapsed, just two months before the start of the season. However, should Neal not be 100 per cent fit, Team Dynamics has an ace up its sleeve, with three-time champion Gordon Shedden returning to the team for testing duties over the winter.
Hyundai makes it 10
The BTCC’s current set of regulations, NGTC, has over the past decade made it easier than ever before for teams to introduce new cars to the series. As a result we’ve seen a plethora of new shapes entering the series without manufacturer backing, such as the Toyota Avensis (the original prototype for the NGTC regs), Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Vauxhall Insignia, Alfa Romeo Giulietta and even a Proton Persona. Come 2020 and thanks to Excelr8 Motorsport bringing the Hyundai i30 into the fray, the BTCC can now boast ten different marques and 12 different models. Having signed up race-winner Senna Proctor, the Suffolk-based team is making the right moves to propel itself up the grid, but only time will tell if the i30 has the race pedigree to match its little brother’s rallying prowess.
BTC Racing expands
One of the biggest surprises of 2019 was just how competitive the BTC Racing squad was. Coming off the back of its first two victories in the 2018 season, the squad brought in the hugely popular Josh Cook for the 2019 campaign. The decision proved its worth right from the off – Cook took victory in the opening round and left Brands Hatch with the championship lead. There would be only five races across the 30-race season where Cook didn’t score points, on route to fourth in the Drivers’ standings, the highest-placed driver in an Independently entered car. The team has signed up Tom Chilton for 2020, who will be keen to hit the ground running following a disappointing 2019, and expanded to a third entry for fan favourite Michael Crees. Given the speed of the team’s Honda last season, mixed with the pure pace of Cook and Chilton, BTC really does have all the ingredients to turn heads in 2020.
Ash Sutton with Infiniti
Ashley Sutton has had an interesting BTCC career to date. There are few who would doubt his credentials as one of the strongest drivers on the grid, and he certainly should have finished higher up the standings in 2019 had he not still been tied in with Team BMR. Now free of the Subaru shackles, Sutton has joined forces with Aiden Moffat at Laser Tools Racing, which sensationally switched cars halfway through last season, dropping its long-time Mercedes steed for the refreshed Infiniti Q50. Laser now has both of the Q50s – which debuted in 2015 as part of the ill-fated Infiniti works team (the less said about that the better). It appears that the Moffats have got a much better grip on the cars, finishing second in just the fourth event for the Infiniti, while Sutton topped the time charts at the pre-(what would have been mid-) season test. The fact remains that Sutton is a phenomenal driver, and give him a car that’s even remotely competitive and he’ll be right up at the sharp end. A first win for Infiniti would not surprise this writer.
As is the case with every race series in 2020, the BTCC calendar looks a little different compared to how it was meant to look at the start of the year. However, in relative terms, the BTCC calendar hasn’t gone through too many changes as it prepares for a delayed start. Dropping from ten meetings to nine, the usual six months spread will be squeezed into four, featuring three back-to-back race weekends in what is sure to be a tough task for many of the teams given the physical nature of BTCC racing. For the first time in a decade, the season will not be starting at Brands Hatch, instead opting for Donington Park to host the season opener, while Brands Hatch remains as the finale, but has been pushed back to the middle of November for what is sure to be a challenge in the fading light of a British winter. The Silverstone International layout, which had been pencilled in to fill the hole left when Rockingham closed its doors, is the round to lose its spot on the calendar, and has been dropped in favour of a second round at Thruxton in 2021.
Plus, a very new name joins the grid
With just four days before the cars rolled out for FP1 at Donington Park, Team HARD announced Ollie Brown as their new driver for the 2020, replacing Mike Bushell (and Howard Fuller, who was drafted in to share driving duties at the original opening rounds due to the Bushell’s recovery from myocarditis). While that seems very last minute, it’s very much par for the course for Brown, who had not raced a car before 2020, in fact his last competitive outing was in a kart some 20 years ago. The winner of this year’s Team HARD Scholarship, a long time instructor for Palmersport at Bedford Autodrome, didn’t even have a licence to compete five weeks ahead of the upcoming curtain raiser, so it’s been flat out to get the relevant boxes ticked in order to get Brown on the grid in the first place. Being very much thrown in at the deep end, it’s going to be incredibly interesting to see how he fares in one of the most notoriously difficult grids around.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images and Jkcob Ebrey.
Join our motorsport community
Get closer to motorsport at Goodwood! Join the GRRC Fellowship to be first in the queue for event tickets, to attend the GRRC-only Members' Meeting and to enjoy year-round, exclusive benefits.
Sign up for Motorsport news
Stay in the know with our newsletters that contain all the latest news, stories and event information.