12th February 2016

It’s all coming together, isn’t it? There aren’t too many seats left although there are still a few pieces of the jigsaw yet to fit, but it is looking like another cracking season.

I would say that wouldn’t I, but genuinely, there is going to be a lot to look forward to this season. There is champion Gordon Shedden keen to stay at the top of the tree and there is no reason to think that he won’t be a major factor again. Team-mate Matt Neal will be in the mix as well and proved last year that he hadn’t forgotten how to drive. Then there is the fascinating Motorbase Duo (geddit?) of Mat Jackson and Andrew Jordan, one keen to continue his winning ways from the back end of last year and the other keen to put a miserable 2015 behind him. And then there are the Subarus.

Thoughts? There is massive excitement and optimism in the Team BMR camp and it is a massive project to get four cars ready for next month’s Season Launch. Expectations? Well, these are being carefully managed but you can bet your house that Carl Faux and Kevin Berry who have designed the cars won’t have come up with driftwood. These things should be competitive from the get-go and can only get stronger.

For all sorts of reasons, it’s good for the championship as well that a new manufacturer is involved. Crucially it illustrates that the series is once again a place that manufacturers want to be, to advertise their products and to beat the opposition. And for Subaru, a brand with a rally rather than racing heritage, it is a crucial marketing step. Will it work? You betcha.

What else? Adam Morgan and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class continue to improve and Tom Ingram has come out fighting with a new backer and bigger budget as he remains part of the Speedworks family. That maiden win, for Ting and team, can’t be far away.

And what of BMW? Gone, sadly is Andy Priaulx, but into the IHG seat comes Jack Goff, which is a great reward for a real grafter who has worked so hard to be on – and then stay on – the BTCC grid. This is a real chance for him to shine and there is no reason to suggest that he won’t, especially as he has decent rear-wheel drive knowledge from his outings in Lotus races. The internecine contest between Goff, Tordoff and Collardoff will be a fascinating one.

But in all of this, what about Triple Eight? It’s all gone quiet in recent months but I really hope that Ian Harrison is on the grid with two quick and competitive drivers and that Triple Eight puts the disappointment of 2015 behind it. ‘H’ has been part of the BTCC fabric since the 1990s and the paddock would be a poorer place without him. Throw the MGs back into the mix for race wins and it would start to get even more interesting up front.

And, keep an eye on Chris Smiley who makes his BTCC debut this year. If you haven’t followed the MINI Challenge or DTM-supporting Scirocco Cup you may have missed Chris, but he is a proper little racer who deserves to be on the BTCC grid. He is someone who, funds and opportunities permitting, should have a long future in the BTCC and it will be interesting to see how he gets on in the Team HARD entry.

So, a month or so to go before the Season Launch and a few names to slot into a few seats (and, if the rumour mill is to be believed, some interesting ones) but the championship is shaping up to be a fascinating fight between drivers, teams and brands once again.

So, let’s start a competition. When will a Subaru win its first race in this year’s BTCC?

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