eBay Motors BTCC season preview
For the 2012 season, eBay Motors expands its involvement in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship to become title sponsors of leading outfit West Surrey Racing.
The newly-named eBay Motors team heads into the new campaign chasing top honours in the series having expanded its line-up to three cars, with young charger Tom Onslow-Cole being added to the 2011 driver pairing of Rob Collard and Nick Foster.
The trio will be at the wheel of three turbo-charged BMW 320si models in what seems set to be another action-packed and hard-fought season of competition, with a 25 car grid having been announced during the annual media day at Silverstone.
Onslow-Cole rejoins the team having competed in the BMW during his debut season back in 2007, when he took a maiden win at Snetterton. The 24-year-old brings turbo experience to the team having raced turbo-powered cars for the past two years.
Collard, winner of the Independents title back in 2003, enters his third straight year with the team and his fifth at the wheel of a BMW having previously raced for rivals Motorbase, while Foster will be competing in the BTCC for his second season after an impressive 2011, where he emerged as one of the top rookie drivers.
In total, the three drivers start 2012 with a combined record of 395 starts, with eleven wins and an impressive 51 podium finishes.
All three eBay Motors drivers go into the new season aiming to challenge at the front of the field, with the turbo-powered BMW being viewed as one of the strongest packages on the grid.
However, building a championship challenge will be far from easy in a field full of quality, featuring two factory teams and at least a dozen cars capable of realistically challenging for race wins.
Honda and MG field two cars apiece, with both teams having taken on the challenge of developing cars to the BTCC’s Next Generation Touring Car regulations for 2012.
Honda again pair defending champion Matt Neal with Scot Gordon Shedden, while MG has signed double champion Jason Plato to partner Andy Neate as it returns to the sport.
The new Civic and the MG6 go into the opening rounds of the season with plenty of development work still to be done, with eBay Motors amongst the teams aiming to take advantage with what is effectively a ‘hybrid’ car – featuring an NGTC-specification engine in a Super 2000 chassis, designed to the regulations seen in the World Touring Car Championship.
Motorbase Performance has also taken the ‘hybrid’ route, fielding three Ford Focus STs for Mat Jackson, Liam Griffin and newcomer Aron Smith, although the Pirtek Racing team has made the switch to NGTC, with two Civics purchased from the works Honda team for Andrew Jordan and Jeff Smith.
Toyota are represented by the privateer Dynojet and Speedworks teams, with Dynojet running one car for Frank Wrathall and Speedworks expanding to two cars with Adam Morgan joining Tony Hughes. All three drivers will be at the wheel of an NGTC-spec Avensis. The Rob Austin Racing team again runs two NGTC-spec Audi A4s, although Mark Hazell is the only confirmed driver so far, while the final cars built to the new rules are entered by Welch Motorsport (Proton Persona) and Thorney Motorsport (Vauxhall Insignia).
The remaining cars on the grid are all ‘hybrid’ machines, including Ollie Jackson’s AmD Tuning VW Golf, Tony Gilham’s Honda Civic and Vauxhall Vectras entered by BINZ Racing and Team ES Racing.
eBay Motors will enter battle against its rivals when the new season gets underway at Brands Hatch on 1 April with the first of ten meetings to be held at circuits around the UK, with Donington Park, Thruxton, Oulton Park, Croft, Snetterton, Knockhill, Rockingham and Silverstone all hosting events before the season finale back at Brands Hatch on 21 October.
Each of those ten meetings will feature three BTCC races, with a change in regulations for this season meaning the top 15 drivers will pick up points in each of the 30 races.
As well as fighting for overall honours, eBay Motors will also be in contention for the Independents’ championships – meaning the target is to try and end 2012 with no fewer than four pieces of silverware in the bag when the chequered flag falls for the final time.