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BTCC Media Day 2015: Time To Rock n Roll

The stunning 2015 BTCC grid. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The stunning 2015 BTCC grid. Image Credit: BTCC.net

After months of silence, the sound of 2 litre touring cars made a thunderous return. The BTCC Media Day is a chance for the public and press to get their first glimpse of the cars they will be following for the season ahead. In the backdrop of the legendary Donington Park circuit, the time had come for the teams to showcase the results of their winter’s labour. This was my first time attending the Media Day, and I was not disappointed.

The first thing I noticed was the sheer volume of support from the fans; the queue to get into the circuit at 12:30 reminded me of days gone by when I would wait in line for hours to see my favourite band up close and personal. If there was no other proof that would be enough, the BTCC is a shining jewel in the crown of not only British but world motorsport. As the gates opened a rapturous combination of applause and cheers echoed down the line, this was going to be a good day.

It has felt like a lifetime since enjoying the full BTCC experience of the senses; the sight of touring cars charging around the track, the smell of the exhaust mixed with the fragrant aroma of the burger vans and the explosive sound of the 2 litre engines all coming together in such beautiful harmony.

It was released in the close season that Robb Holland would not compete in the 2015 season due to other commitments, and it did not take long for the seat to be filled. So, it came as no surprise that one of the biggest news stories to come from Media Day was the announcement that the Audi S3 would be driven by Nicolas Hamilton, brother of current F1 champion Lewis Hamilton in a rumoured £1 million sponsorship deal with Monster Energy. This is a historic moment for the championship, for it is the first time that a disabled driver will enter.

Image Credit: BTCC.net

Image Credit: BTCC.net

“I’m doing this to inspire people to exceed expectations” (Nicolas Hamilton on his 2015 drive)

Sadly, we will not get to see Hamilton in action until Croft, as he is only competing for half the season and will not be eligible for championship points. The ex-Rotek Audi has been transformed into a ferocious beast, and we can hope that it will give Hamilton some strong results in the latter half of the year.

The new liveries for the 2015 are a stunning selection, which will make for a majestic sight for both the trackside and television audiences. The Pirtek livery for Andrew Jordan looks even better on an MG than it did on the Honda, while for his team mate his car is almost completely covered in sponsorship while still retaining a sense of style and good looks. The works Hondas have definitely surprised me this year; the potent mix of slight styling tweaks and the new Civic Type R have created a mouth-watering machine that looks ultra-competitive as ever.

The myserious jet black BMR VW kept everyone guessing. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The myserious jet black BMR VW kept everyone guessing. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Team BMR kept everyone guessing throughout the day with their cars all still running the jet black livery with no hint of sponsors. With Plato still running the #99 car, will he bring with him his ‘Tesco Clubcard Fuel Save KX Every Little Helps Asda price’ look from years gone by? A sly placement on the front of the cars revealed a question mark (literally), which could either refer to the question of what the liveries will be or that the cars are now sponsored by ‘What Car?’. Rob Austin Racing has introduced an intriguing new look for the Exocet cars this year; the flames from last year have been replaced by what looks like smears of marmalade mixed with mustard. Eventually I will make up my mind as to whether I like this change or not.

Of all the cars on the grid however, my prize for my favourite livery goes to the Power Maxed team with their Chevrolet Cruzes. The two car team including the Coffee Drops car for Dave Newsham and the #RacingForHeroes car for rookie Josh Cook did nothing but steal my attention all day with their smouldering good looks. Since acquiring the ex-Stockton car, Power Maxed are definitely on their way up for 2015!

Power Maxxed has probably my favourite livery on the grid! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Power Maxxed has probably my favourite livery on the grid! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Considering their immense media effort, the Support Our Paras team were somewhat of a disappointment on the day; the cars did not make it out on track due to not having correct parts in time. After all the time they have had to get the car ready, it seemed slightly strange that they still were not able to take part in the test session. Other teams have managed to get cars ready and out in much less time, so perhaps the Infiniti squad need to focus a bit more on the motor and less on the media message. What I will say however is the choice of sponsors have somewhat amused me when it comes to Infiniti. Perhaps Nico Rosberg and Support Our Paras have more in common than I first thought…

Interesting sponsorship deal there, Infiniti! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Interesting sponsorship deal there, Infiniti! Image Credit: BTCC.net

As it has for many years, ego plays such a significant part within the BTCC and although the media day is surprisingly about the media, there is also the small matter of the first official test session for the field. The testing times may not count for anything in particular considering teams are often still fine tuning their cars, but setting your personal precedent for the upcoming year is still important. That is exactly what the BMR boys decided to do; Plato and Turkington ended the day at the top of the time sheets, separated by a tiny 0.006 seconds. The new look Triple Eight MGs made their intentions clear with a strong 5th and 6th as the official timing ended.

Some of the surprises of the session came in the form of Moffat who planted his brand new Mercedes 3rd fastest and Hunter Abbott who managed an impressive 7th. Personally, one of the biggest shocks came from Martin Depper, a seasoned backmarker from 2014 who shot up to 9th only 0.679 off the pace. Having spent a great deal of last year in strong criticism of his abilities, perhaps Depper has seen the light and will become a contender for the 2015 season. Power Maxed showed nothing but improvement from 2014, with both cars inside the top half of the field. Josh Cook in the RacingForHeroes car even managed fastest rookie in 15th. Considering of course that this was Cook’s first time in a BTCC car competitively, to only be 1 second off the pace in a brand new car is something deeply impressive.

The Moffatt Mercedes surprised everyone with its outright pace. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The Moffatt Mercedes surprised everyone with its outright pace. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The stunning new Honda team may be playing a clever game with their competition based on their times in the test. At their first test at Brands Hatch, they claimed that the new car was already faster than the Tourer from last year. However, both Neal and Shedden were outside the top ten at Donington Park. Initially many might think that the new car is off the pace, but I sense that some mind games may be apparent. They appear to have set slow times, but I will put my money on the table now and say that come Brands Hatch they will catch everyone off guard and dominate from the front.

As Media Day drew to a close, the unspoken question around the paddock was clear; whose season would 2015 turn out to be? There are so many teams that are hungry for victory, from the Hondas, to the MGs and Team BMR. But on top of that there are the young guns and the newbies who are confident of success; I would not discount the abilities of the Moffat-mobile. Furthermore, Power Maxed has already seen a massive improvement and with Cook and Newsham on board, I foresee podiums and even some race wins in the season ahead.

The results of the test session at Media Day

The results of the test session at Media Day

We cannot forget the people’s champions on the grid in Rob Austin and Dan Welch. Rob Austin has been in a constant upward state of improvement since joining the BTCC and his time may finally come this year. Dan Welch and the Proton suffered an embarrassment of a 2014 season, but Welch has said that the new engine will bring them consistent top 10s across the year. As a fan of all things Welch and Proton, I do hope this will ring true.

The time for conjecture and discussion will soon be over. Now is the time for action. The 2015 British Touring Car Championship kicks off this weekend at Brands Hatch.

Once more the engines will roar. Once more the flag will drop on the greatest touring car championship on the planet.

It’s time to bring the noise. Let’s rock n roll!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for all things BTCC across the opening weekend @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

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