By Mick Palmer and Rob Andrews
Yes, we know, you need a budget. Like all forms of pro motor racing Touring Cars is a category where drives aren’t handed out on pure merit. Drivers for the most part need to be good enough, and all of them need to be able to attract a pile of £’s to get on the grid.
This lot that we’ve chosen would bring something to the field for a number of different reasons. Some of them are oozing talent, others would be good for the series, all have enough skill, and we’d like to see what they’d achieve if they could grab the cash needed to have a go at it.
If you want to share your opinions on our choice, or have some suggestions of your own, hit us on our socials.
Here’s the nine (in no particular order.)
A mainstay in the TCR UK championship with eight wins in the category Lewis is the reigning champion. Now in a fifth season campaigning a Hyundai he’s been there since the inception of the series at the beginning of 2018. Guile and commitment are two words that come to mind when you see him on track. He’s now in his fifth year of campaigning in Touring Car racing, and he’s only 22. There was a possibility of running with Trade Price in an Audi in the BTCC at the end of 2020 but budget was a restricting facet. He did get to run a Motorbase Focus in a Goodyear tyre test at the end of last year and did display his pace. So there is plenty of experience on the board already. If Lewis Kent doesn’t stand on the top step of a BTCC podium this decade that the championship will miss out.
Chutzpah. Often it’s a misplaced trait.
When Max Hart states that he’s ‘fearless’ you believe him. Often it’s a term that needs to be ascribed by an outsider, but Hart is one of those exceptions where labelling himself as being that is allowed. Unusually for one who can do that he’s not one of those drivers who you think ‘He’s an arrogant, confident prick,’ he’s far too affable for that. Really, out of the car he’s a really nice and well rounded person – in the car he’s like Nuclear fusion – once he’s going you can’t stop him. Now in his third year in TCR racing, and only just into his twenties, Hart is one of those with raw, pure, natural talent that oozes in qualifying and races. Really, if someone has the sense to put him in a BTCC car they’re going to see someone who will make mistakes and give it some rough, but who will certainly take wins, and be of a championship calibre.
It could have happened. It still might. The Sky Sports F1 pundit does have a connection with the TOCA package – being on the Motorsport UK board he’s one of the people responsible for the reborn British Formula Four championship. He did admit to looking at the BTCC for 2022 but other commitments prevented him from giving it a proper shot, he also commented that it’s a series he wants to have a go at. Throw into the mix a bit of mentoring from his on screen buddy at Fifth Gear – a certain J Plato – and the ‘sensible one’ of F1 TV coverage might be analysing the elbows of some of the finest drivers in the country and their ‘touring car’ moves.
Okay, Jamie Chadwick does have her sights set on moving up to Formula 2 in the next year or two. with an aim for F1 in the long term. It’s a hard task to make those steps, and if it doesn’t her experiences elsewhere – like British GT – would set her well on the way to a career in endurance racing, but, of all the British racers looking in that direction, she’s one with the results and profile to raise a budget to race in BTCC as a full time professional making a living from it. Of all the young Brits in single seaters who in the next year or two will likely find themselves being shoved sideways, Chadwick has the temerity to handle the physical nature of Touring Cars.
Fast. Fast. Fast. To quote one rival Mini racer in years past: “Henry is as fast as shit off a shovel all the time. He wins or ends up on his roof.” His first year in the Touring Car Trophy racing the NGTC Honda Civic FK2 that his dad raced saw some of that, but by the end of year two the rawness of the talent had been controlled. The 2020 season polished him as a driver and there was a career arc that should have launched him into the BTCC – where he undoubtedly would become a bit of a star. Honda ditching their factory support of Dynamics in 2021 in the BTCC also resulted in the funds for a third year in TCT being halted, and a plan for a third Dynamics car for Matt Neal this season – which would see the seat opened for Henry in 2023 also went to the wall. The Neal family legacy could be extended for another 10-20 years if he could be elevated to the BTCC.
Forget the name for a moment. Even though there are traits on track that are similar, forget that surname, we’ll return to that in a minute. An average Mini Challenge campaign in 2016 was a decent grounding in British tin tops. A half season with consistent points in the top 10 could have been a championship challenge in 2017 – there would have been wins had the season been completed. Not stellar, but decent. Back on track in TCR UK for 2019 – it was a revelation. Turkington (we can use the name now) took the crown with some sassy drives, and one eye on the points, oh, and he also didn’t race in the category for the opening round, he was busy taking a Seat Leon Supercoppa to fourth place in those races. Over the year he displayed the speed needed, but also marked himself as a thinking man of the racing world. He’s wouldn’t match Turkington the elder, but put him in a BTCC car and he’d perform to a decent level.
Just over a decade ago you could have easily thought that this Ginetta Jr Racer was ideally suited for the ‘in house’ route to the BTCC. Single seater ambitions took Morris off in a different direction that would lead to endurance racing, and success in British GT. A title in 2017 with Rick Parfitt as team mate justified the decision to aim at that part of the motor racing world, but the complexities of pairing drivers in that arena stalled things a little of late, and he’s returned to the TOCA package in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB this season. Long term the GT and sportscar racing angle is probably on the radar for Morris, but would he turn down a chance to share a grid with his former team mate again? Stick Seb in a rear driven machine in the BTCC and surely you’d have a combination that would fire on all cylinders wouldn’t you?
Boom, boom, boom. That season long battle with Max Coates was contentious at times wasn’t it? The final season of the Clio Cup supporting Touring Cars was a memorable one wasn’t it? The BTCC finishing school finished off with Jack Young lobbing race grenades asunder, stamping his feet as the one most likely, but he isn’t here. TCR Europe, WTCR, Italian TCR. Fighting it out in a more considered style across Europe. Had he made the move to the BTCC he’d have topped the podium by now, no doubt about that. His no holds barred attitude would win him a legion of fans and the BTCC is lesser for not having him make the step up on these shores.
We’ve all done it at a Touring Car meeting over the last few years. The first time you heard the name over the PA you thought ‘why is Alan Hyde talking about football?’ Well it wasn’t the case was it? Aston Millar didn’t become just another Jr driver who disappeared after a season and a bit of being in the entry level Ginetta championship. He came back in 2021 and hammered home the opportunity by winning seven races after the summer break. This year Millar is in the GT4 championship from the same stable. Aston is still a kid but a hoard of second and third places behind James Kellet (who has won every race) certainly puts him on the radar as ‘one to watch.’ The BTCC is one category where young drivers have yet to dominate, we’ve seen Dexter Patterson make the shift this year, what odds that he and Millar become rivals for years to come.
International drivers who have been in everything. Bjork is one of those. He’s kind of like Tom Coronel (we’d love to see Tom in the BTCC again – his 2007 one-off excludes him from this list.) Swedish Touring Cars, Scandinavian Touring Cars, World Touring Cars. Hundreds of starts and four championships. At 41 he’s in his prime, he’s one of those tin top racers who really does use his noggin – so would really be in his element in this hybrid era. Thed is one of those old dogs who can learn new tricks. Throwing him in a championship with a bunch of new tracks and a new type of car wouldn’t befuddle him. Definitely a driver who would win races given the chance.