BTCC drivers confirm 2017 campaigns

Three more drivers in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship have confirmed their plans for this season.

Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Rob Austin will continue for a second season with Handy Motorsport, once again driving a Toyota Avensis for the team, which has recently moved to a new base in Swindon.

Austin believes his second season in the front wheel drive car will show further improvements: "We always knew there would be a learning curve relating to all aspects in 2016: driving, engineering, management and personnel," he said.

"The BTCC is so competitive, all of these aspects have to be perfect to get to the front and I will admit it took longer than I expected.

"Our continuous improvement each time out through the second half of last season, though, capped off with a front row qualifying and a great podium at one of my weakest tracks [Brands Hatch GP] to round the year off, shows that we just about got there in the end.

"There is no reason that form won't continue, so it's exciting to be going into the 2017 season with a car that can win.

Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Meanwhile Tom Ingram, who took his first BTCC victories in 2016, has announced he will stay at Speedworks.

The Buckinghamshire driver finished tenth in the championship last year with ten top-six finishes.

“Last year was beyond doubt our best yet in the BTCC by a country mile,” said Speedworks team principal Christian Dick. “Winning our first race was a massively significant milestone, and to then back that promise up by fighting towards the sharp end season-long represented a huge step forward. That said, it was far from perfect and there are many aspects that we have focussed on refining over the winter to enhance our performance for 2017 because the championship never stands still.

“Keeping Tom on-board is a major coup. He was unquestionably one of the BTCC’s standout stars last year and with a competitive car underneath him, he consummately proved his potential with both his pace and racecraft, all underpinned by a mature and intelligent approach that belies his age. He is at the forefront of the series’ next generation and a champion of the future, I am sure.

“There are clearly areas in which both we as a team and he as a driver still need to improve, but we have been working tirelessly on all fronts since last season ended and I think the benefits of that effort and remaining together for a fourth year will shine through when we hit the track. There has been a raft of updates to the Avensis that we are all very excited about, and we believe we can be genuine contenders for the Independents’ crown in 2017. Brands Hatch cannot come round soon enough!”

Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Jeff Smith has also confirmed that he will race for EuroTech this season.

Smith, whose best result last year was fourth at Thruxton, will once again campaign a Honda Civic Type R, but will have a new team mate, after Martin Depper announced he was leaving the squad.

The team is due to test in Spain next month ahead of the start of the season at Brands Hatch on April 1st.