The striking new Team BMW livery
(Photo from: www.btcc.net)
With just one seat left on the British Touring Car grid for 2017, this season is starting to take shape and in the last month, there have been a whole host of driver and team announcements which have shown us what to expect this year.
The first news of the month was that Stephen Jelley will return to the British Touring Car Championship for the first time since 2009 as Team Parker announced the former WSR driver will pilot their Ford Focus for the 2017 season. Since leaving the BTCC, Jelley has gone onto race in various series, most notably the Porsche Carrera Cup GB of late, having finished fifth in the 2016 championship.
As well as racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup, Jelley has also raced in the British GT championship and the Blancpain Endurance Series, which included competing in the Spa 24 hours.
It was not just independent teams announcing drivers as MG revealed that Aron Taylor-Smith and Daniel Lloyd will spearhead their 2017 British Touring Car Championship campaign. It is the third year in a row that the team has fielded an all new driver line up, with the team continuing its strategy of combining youth with experience with Taylor-Smith competing in his sixth campaign while Lloyd goes into his first full season in the BTCC.
Despite only being 27, Taylor-Smith is a multiple race winner and has already competed in over 150 races. Last season saw the Irishman race with Team BKR in a VW CC in which he enjoyed a race victory at Rockingham as well as a further two podiums. However once it was announced that Team BKR would not feature in 2017 the rumour mill started turning and Taylor-Smith was linked to various drives up and down the paddock.
In contrast Lloyd only made his return to the series after a six year gap last season in the third Eurotech Racing Honda at Thruxton. However due to budget issues, Lloyd had to withdraw from the remainder of the season after Croft, though despite this he impressed hugely with two front row starts and six points finishes. He returns to Triple Eight after the team handed him his debut in 2010 in a Vauxhall Vectra.
The next piece of news was from MG’s sister outfit Team BMR Subaru who announced that Ashley Sutton would be joining the team from MG for the 2017 season and would be joined by returning duo Jason Plato and James Cole in the factory backed team.
Sutton impressed hugely in his debut season last year with two pole positions and a maiden victory as he went onto win the Jack Sears Trophy.
WSR also completed their driver line up this month as they confirmed Rob Collard would remain with the team however the big news was that Colin Turkington would return to WSR after two years away with Team BMR. The Northern Irishman has enjoyed huge success with the BMW outfit in the past as his connections with them date back to his debut season in 2002 and has raced for 9 seasons with the team over three separate stints.
This huge success amounts to 30 race victories, a further 86 podium finishes, eight Independents’ crowns and two outright Driver’s Championships, won in 2009 and 2014, which was also made into a team double. All this ensures that the Turkington, WSR partnership is one of the most successful in the history in the BTCC.
It is good news for Collard too as 2017 marks 10 seasons with WSR having first raced with the team in 2005 for two years in an MG before returning in 2010 after a season away from the BTCC and two seasons with Motorbase Performance.
WSR also confirmed that they will be an official manufacture team for the first time since 2003, as BMW announced that they were to return to the BTCC for the first time in 21 years. WSR has run independent BMW machinery for 10 years and will see the team benefit from increased financial and technical support from BMW UK. BMW’s return also sees the return of one of motorsport’s most striking liveries.
The final piece of news from February was that Josh Cook will be on the grid this season after agreeing a deal to drive for Maximum Motorsport in the team’s rebuilt Ford Focus. Having spent 2016 with MG it looked as though the 25 year-old would spend this season on the sidelines having announced he would be leaving the Triple Eight run team earlier this year. With the vast majority of seats taken options were low however following an injury to regular driver, and Team Principal, Stuart Lines, Cook has been bought in while Lines steps aside.
|2017 BTCC Entry List|
|Team BMW||4||Colin Turkington|
|BMW Pirtek Racing||77||Andrew Jordan|
|Silverline Subaru Team BMR
Honda Halfords Yuasa Racing
|Simpson Racing||303||Matt Simpson|
Power Maxed Racing
Triple Eight Engineering
|Handy Motorsport||11||Rob Austin|
|Speedworks Motorsport||80||Tom Ingram|
|Laser Tools Racing||16||Aiden Moffat|
|Wix Racing||33||Adam Morgan|
BTC Norlin Racing
|Maximum Motorsport||66||Josh Cook|
|Team Parker Racing||TBA||Stephen Jelley|