Brands Hatch played host to the 2019 BTCC media and public day this year with Sam Tordoff dominating the day’s proceedings with a blistering BTCC lap record around the 1.2mile Indy circuit. We caught up with both the Honda UK / Honda BTCC Racing / Halfords Yuasa racing team and Power Maxed Racing at pre- season testing for the lowdown.
The 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship is primed and ready for the opening event of the season at Brands Hatch this weekend (6/7 April), after the capacity 30-car grid completed a successful test day at the famous Kent venue.
Both journalists and fans alike descended upon the Kent circuit on Wednesday 27th March. From here the assembled BTCC circus was in attendance to test, tune and showcase what can be expected for the 2019 season.
Why was ITG there? Well, we actually sponsor and supply air filters to a number of the teams – including the Honda Racing BTCC / Honda UK / Halfords Yuasa Civic FK8s of Dan Cammish and Matt Neal, and the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astras of Jason Plato and Rob Collard. From the outset the action was fast paced. Despite being a test day there was no holding back – the initial grid assembly on the start line a sight to behold as the entire 2019 pack assembled at the hallowed 1.198mile Indy Circuit, all straining to unleash the winter-built horsepower along the slightly off-camber Brabham straight. After a couple of demo laps behind a pace car for the ITV film crew to get the shots necessary for forthcoming ITV4 footage, it was time for testing.
We’d have predicted that as both a public and media day the pit lane garages would be off-limits, but we were able to sneak back stage and get an intimate portrait of the inner BTCC workings. Having bumped into Jason Plato, Tom Chilton, Josh Sutton and even Nicolas Hamilton (brother of a very famous motor racing Hamilton) we almost fell over ourselves with a little bit of fan worship, but it soon dawned upon us that we were allowed to go anywhere we wanted with the much-coveted media bib on.
To the exceptionally famous Druids hairpin it was, as we trekked along the tyre walls to gain access to areas of the track previously unexplored by mere mortals such as ourselves, the access granted was fantastic and we soon had a selection of high-speed images in the bag from the morning session. Wheel lifting, brake lock ups and even some friendly rubbing was there for all to see as the solid race chassis’ hooked hard into the Kentish tarmac.
The morning session saw Sam Tordoff earn early bragging rights as he sat on top of the time sheets in his first official outing for the Cobra Sport AmD AutoAid/RCIB Insurance team. His Honda Civic (FK2) looking like a solid contender for the championship already.
One thing seems certain, witnessing the cars live means you get a much better impression of the exhaust notes, induction roar, turbo flutter and wastegate chirps that Touring Cars of yesteryear were known for. It’s so much more exciting as anti-lag systems seem to be chattering, farting and popping going into the bends, it’s definitely a series that’s best witnessed in the metal, so to speak.
Reigning champions West Surrey Racing fired out a warning shot to the rest of the field, storming into second and third positions during the morning running. The BMW manufacturer squad only completed the build of its brand new 330i M Sport less than 48 hours before the test, but Andrew Jordan and Colin Turkington proved its potency straight out of the box.
Lap times further quickened in the afternoon and it was Tordoff again setting the pace in the older shaped Honda Civic Type R. Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher’s Tom Chilton moved into second ahead of Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Dan Cammish. Tordoff’s time in the afternoon was so fast that he broke the previous BTCC lap record for the Indy Circuit set in 2016 by Tom Ingram. With a lap time of 47.927, Tordoff pipped Ingram to a 47.990 second lap previously set by Ingram in qualifying for the 2016 season opener
All in all, it heralds a highly competitive 2019 season, with plenty of action guaranteed when the championship kicks off at Brands Hatch over the weekend of April 6th + 7th. Be sure to tune in on ITV4 for live coverage of Sunday’s three rounds as well as an action packed supporting series of racing from the Clio Cup, Porsche GT championship, Ginetta Juniors and more besides.
If the excitement and hub bub of a very well attended media and public day is anything to go by, the 2019 season is set to be stellar for all involved.