Several teams and drivers have confirmed their plans ahead of the new British Touring Car Championship at the annual Autosport International Show at the NEC in Birmingham.
Gordon Shedden (Honda) overturned a deficit of more than fifty points to claim a third championship crown, narrowly stealing a last-gasp victory against Sam Tordoff (BMW) at Brands Hatch last October by a mere two points. With Tordoff departing to the British GT Championship, Shedden lines up alongside three-time champion Matt Neal for the eighth consecutive season, and Halfords Yuasa Racing unveiled an inverted new livery on their striking orange and black Honda Civic Type R on the opening day of the show.
Independent Teams Champions Motorbase Performance also confirmed the signings of experienced campaigner Martin Depper and GT-convert Luke Davenport to complete their three-car outfit, now backed by the sponsorship of heavyweight cereal brand Shredded Wheat. The duo join Mat Jackson at the Kent-based squad as the team targets a leap from Independents glory to the main championship honours.
Andrew Jordan, who left Motorbase for West Surrey Racing during the off-season, was also present to show off the chrome blue Pirtek-branded livery on his new BMW 125i M Sport, as the 2013 series winner targets a return to championship contention after claiming his first two race victories in more than a calendar year in 2016.
Matt Simpson has also switched teams, moving from Independent outfit Speedworks to join Shedden and Neal in the Team Dynamics garage, whilst Rob Austin and Handy Motorsport released an altered livery on their Toyota Avensis to reflect their new partnership with Northgate.
Ant Whorton-Eales becomes the latest in a string of drivers to graduate from the Renault Clio Cup UK to the BTCC, inking a one-year deal to drive AmDtuning.com’s Audi S3 alongside Ollie Jackson. Whorton-Eales, who narrowly edged former BTCC driver Mike Bushell to claim the popular one-make series title, is the fifth driver to graduate with Shaun Hollamby’s AmD outfit alone.
The rumour mill went into overdrive with the announcement that two-time champion Colin Turkington will not drive for the works Subaru team in 2017, as the Ulsterman becomes heavily linked with a return to partner Jordan at former employers WSR.
Aron Smith also confirmed he will remain within the series despite BKR pulling out after a single season, though it remains unconfirmed whether he will take over one of the Levorg GT seats or instead move into an MG6 with MG RCIB Insurance Racing.
With several teams heading out to Portimao in Portugal to begin pre-season testing next month [February], the focus turns to mastering the new-for-2017 compounds of Dunlop tyre, as well as adapting to the compulsory RML control component upgrade for those who chose to run older GPRM parts last season.
The official Season Launch takes place on March 16th at Donington Park, before the series curtain-raiser unfolds at Brands Hatch over the weekend of April 1st-2nd.