The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has this morning officially confirmed a 23-car entry for its much-anticipated 2010 season. Defying the current economic climate, that's more than was announced at the start of 2009 and includes a number of new teams, drivers, models of cars and big name sponsors.
Media, VIP guests and fans have descended on the world-famous Brands Hatch circuit in Kent for the annual launch of the UK's premier motor racing series. There, the teams and drivers are taking part in an official test session prior to the opening round, which this year will be staged at the Thruxton circuit in Hampshire on Easter Sunday 4 April.
In total, seven different manufacturers, with nine different models, are represented on the grid, namely: BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, SEAT, Vauxhall and VW (see entry list below).
Notably Honda and, for the first time, Chevrolet have entered as official manufacturer teams with former champions and fierce rivalsMatt Neal and Jason Plato spearheading their campaigns, running under the Team Honda and Silverline Chevrolet banners respectively. Chevrolet's entry also debuts its striking Cruze model into the BTCC. Joining Plato in the Chevrolet fold for what will be his debut season in the BTCC will be the youngest driver on the grid, Alex MacDowall who has only just turned 19.
Uniquely, Team Aon's front-running Ford Focus will be powered by pioneering liquified petroleum gas (LPG) technology, while Triple Eight Race Engineering - which masterminded the factory Vauxhall team's six drivers' titles during the last decade - will continue with a pair of its Vectras for two as-yet unnamed drivers.
Looking to the future, two teams, Pirtek Racing and Pinkney Motorsport, will use the BTCC's turbo-charged 'Next Generation Touring Car' engine, each in a Vauxhall Vectra, ahead of the arrival of full-blown NGTC regulations in 2011.
WSR, 2009's title-winning team, and Airwaves BMW will both continue to run BMW's ultra-successful 320si model, but with all-new driver line-ups. Robert Collard, an Airwaves driver in 2009, and Andy Neate - back after a remarkable recovery from serious injury - are both in at WSR. Meanwhile, Mat Jackson - second in 2008's championship in a BMW - and the returning Steven Kane form Airwaves' line-up. Newcomer Forster Motorsport makes it six BMWs on the grid.
In addition, the VW Golf - one of the most iconic models in motor manufacturing history - will appear in the BTCC for the first time since 1989, run by new team AmD Milltek Racing.com. Also entering its first BTCC campaign, Special Tuning UK maintains SEAT's presence with the Spanish make's Leon.
Meanwhile, Hondas and Vauxhalls are further represented thanks to four smaller teams entering older but nevertheless still-potent BTC-spec cars. Running Honda Integras - one for pop star Mel C's brother Paul O'Neill - are Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport and, making its debut, Central Group Racing. TH Motorsport is fielding a Honda Civic Type R and Boulevard Team Racing continues with its 2001 Vauxhall Astra Coupe that twice achieved top ten results in 2009.
This year's BTCC season will once again receive massive TV coverage across the ITV network. Mammoth six hour-plus broadcasts from all ten race events on ITV4 will each be followed by four 90-minute highlights on ITV1, ITV4 and Men & Motors. Coverage is set to break the 120-hours mark - beating 2009's record figures. Furthermore, the itv.com website will live-stream ITV4's race-day coverage.
And, as announced previously, world-renowned tyre company Dunlop has returned as title sponsor of the BTCC for the next four years. In conjunction with the BTCC, Dunlop last year developed pioneering RFID technology in its tyres. This year it will introduce a new race tyre to the series, the Dunlop Sport Maxx BTCC, which is more durable and also complies with latest EU environmental regulations. Similarly, Dunlop's sister company, 'fast fit' vehicle service HiQ, will back the hotly-contested Teams' Championship through to 2013 after two years as title sponsor of the BTCC.
"This is a fantastic start to our new season and a new decade for the BTCC," commented BTCC Series Director Alan Gow. "Globally, motor sport has really felt the pinch of late following what has been a very cruel recession, yet the BTCC continues to buck that trend and set an example for many other high-profile series around the world, as shown by our 2010 entry list.
"I'm immensely proud of the huge efforts made by the teams, drivers and sponsors during the winter to ensure they are here, but the fact they continue to want to compete and succeed in the BTCC speaks volumes for this great championship's ability to excite, inspire and reward at the very highest level in the UK. No doubt, as normal, even more teams and drivers will join the championship during the course of the season - which is further testament to the BTCC as being Britain's biggest drawcard for teams, drivers and sponsors.
"Just to remind people of a few facts: our trackside crowds are often bigger than many Premiership football games; we are watched by many millions on TV, in both the UK and right around the world, thanks to our truly terrific broadcast partner ITV; we enjoy the tremendous support of a hugely passionate title sponsor in Dunlop; plus, the free admission for children and unrivalled interaction between the public and the stars all make the BTCC a unique sporting attraction.
"The BTCC remains way ahead of all other motor racing series in Britain in terms of public profile, variety, action, competitive rivalry, unpredictability, popularity and levels of professionalismï¿½ and our entry list again underlines its stature. In fact, many other international series look at our championship with real envy. I look forward to what promises to be another phenomenal season in the BTCC's illustrious history."
Official Entry List: 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship
No. Driver (NAT), Lives, Team/Car (specification)
- 2. Jason Plato (ENG), Oxford, Silverline Chevrolet/Chevrolet Cruze (S2000)*
- 4. Matt Neal (ENG), Shenstone, Staffs, Team Honda/Honda Civic (S2000)*
- 5. Mat Jackson (ENG), Henley-in-Arden, Warks, Airwaves BMW/BMW 320si (S2000)
- 6. Robert Collard (ENG), Hook, Hants, WSR/BMW 320si (S2000)
- 11. Steven Kane (N IRL), Northampton, Airwaves BMW/BMW 320si (S2000)
- 20. Alex MacDowall (ENG), Carlisle, Cumbria, Silverline Chevrolet/Chevrolet Cruze (S2000)*
- 21. Tom Onslow-Cole (ENG), New Malden, Surrey,Team Aon/Ford Focus (S2000)*
- 22. Tom Boardman (ENG), Preston, Lancs, Special Tuning UK/SEAT Leon (S2000)
- 23. Tom Chilton (ENG), Reigate, Surrey & Poole, Dorset, Team Aon/Ford Focus (S2000)*
- 27. Martin Johnson (ENG), Skegness, Lincs, Boulevard Team Racing/Vauxhall Astra Coupe (BTC)
- 28. John George (ENG), Guernsey & Par, Cornwall, Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport/Honda Integra (BTC)
- 29. Paul O'Neill (ENG), Widnes, Cheshire & Northampton, Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport/Honda Integra (BTC)
- 30. Martin Depper (ENG), Earlswood, Warks, Forster Motorsport/ BMW 320si (S2000)
- 37. Arthur Forster (ENG), Morpeth, Northumberland, Forster Motorsport/BMW 320si (S2000)
- 43. Lea Wood (ENG), Hereford, Central Racing Group/Honda Integra (BTC)
- 44. Andy Neate (ENG), Aylesbury, Bucks, WSR/BMW 320si (S2000)
- 52. Gordon Shedden (SCO), Dalgety Bay, Fife, Team Honda/Honda Civic (S2000)*
- 55. David Pinkney (ENG), Harpenden, Herts, Pinkney Motorsport/Vauxhall Vectra (S2000-NGTC)
- 77. Andrew Jordan (ENG), Lichfield, Staffs, Pirtek Racing/Vauxhall Vectra (S2000-NGTC)
- 88. TBA, Triple Eight Race Engineering/Vauxhall Vectra (S2000)
- 98. Matt Hamilton (ENG), Hemel Hempstead, Herts, TH Motorsport/Honda Civic (BTC)
- 99. Shaun Hollamby (ENG), Orpington, Kent, AmD Milltek Racing.com/VW Golf (S2000)
- 888. TBA, Triple Eight Race Engineering/Vauxhall Vectra (S2000)
* Cars 2, 4, 20 & 52 are Manufacturer entrants within the Manufacturers/Constructors Championship. Cars 21 & 23 are Independent Constructor entrants, within the Manufacturers/Constructors Championship.
Key S2000-NGTC = S2000 car using new (2010) turbocharged NGTC engine S2000 = Super 2000 (2004-present) BTC = British Touring Car (2001-06)