1st April 2015

Last year, a regular pre-season question posed was: “Who is going to be best rookie?” I confidently banged the drum for Marc Hynes, you may recall, and was spot off in my assessment. Therefore, the voracity of this Moonlighting is open to immediate question…

Inevitably, there has been much discussion about who will be champion and there is a list of five, maybe six, drivers that you can expect to be fighting for the win. But what about those looking to score a first win? How can they be expected to shape up this year?

In some ways it may be easier to score a win this year given that the new ballast regulations are going to play a bigger part than before. Given the effects that 75 kilos are likely to have, there is a reasonable assumption that the wins will be spread across a greater range of drivers. That said, we will have to go some to better the record 11 different winners of 2014.

Let’s start with Adam Morgan and the WIX Racing Mercedes-Benz. Yes, yes, I know he won at Brands at the end of last year but he did inherit that win after a Jason Plato penalty and I am sure Adam is itching to take the flag first and score what could be regarded as a proper win. The Mercedes made solid progress during 2014 and Adam’s racecraft has improved and this, coupled with engineering ace Paul Ridgway’s contribution, should have the car up front this year.

Then you come to Jack Goff. I was surprised that when JG got the Volkswagen last year, he didn’t leap up the order, but this year he has no reason not to be at the pointy end of the grid. He drives the second MG6 at Triple Eight Racing and drives the ex-Plato chassis, which has proved its ability to win races in the past. Putting Goff in a team like Triple Eight should help him develop as well and he is on the verge of a breakthrough season. That maiden win can’t be far away which will be just reward for a driver who works incredibly hard to find funding for his racing, but he has to deliver: he has the team and car to do the job, so he has to come good now. This could be make or break season for Jack. I reckon he’ll make…

And then you daren’t overlook Tom Ingram. He looked impressive last year but never achieved the results his talent demanded due to myriad circumstances. A number of teams have shown an interest in TIngram over the winter but he has remained at Speedworks and collectively they need to take a step forward. Reliability was an issue last season but the team has worked hard over the winter to take that step forward and the package should gel in 2015.

Now, how about a win for Warren Scott? You may dismiss the thought straight away, but then factor in ballast, reversed grids and how far he and the team have come in two seasons. Take the set-up data from Colin Turkington and Jason Plato and his car, surely, will be closer to the front. So, if he avoids weight and gets a good grid position for race three it is possible that a win could go his way. He’ll need to make fewer errors but Warren, rightly, points to his driving improving with each race. Worth a few quid on good odds, perhaps…

As for the newcomers, such as Mike Bushell and Josh Cook, I think their main task is to get up to speed in the BTCC and adapt to its nuances. Whatever people think, winning in the BTCC isn’t easy. Only the best do so, drivers and teams, and while we may well get some quirky results this year, expecting every driver to be able to win isn’t realistic. It’s tough out there, but this new ballast spread will certainly throw up some surprises.

I still think that keeping away from maximum ballast is a good idea. If you can be lighter and score regular thirds and fourths, for example, that should prove better than winning and then coming, say, ninth in the next race when the full weight really hurts. Remember, we are talking 75 kilos now as the heaviest amount you can carry and that is the weight of a person. I think that’ll have a noticeable effect, certain circuits more than others, but it will hurt.

So, throw that in, the race two grid format, further restrictions on the BMWs, shuffling of top drivers and teams, new drivers… the list goes on! A superb season is in prospect. It’s a brave man that makes any confident predictions this year!

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