By Rob Andrews and Mick Palmer
Life includes regrets, and it includes successes. There are some things we’d like to have a second crack at, others we’d love to live through again, but for the vast, vast majority of us neither includes getting on track in the BTCC. Here we look at nine racers who have had a crack at it that we’d like to see give it another go. Our rules are this – they can’t have run a full season in the last decade (the truth of that being we wanted to give one old hand a second shot!)
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.)
Two part seasons in the BTCC. The final two rounds in 2018 and 2020 in a VW CC and an Audi S3 didn’t set the world on fire. Hammerton is only 21-years-old, that’s some significant experience for a racer of that age. Okay it was towards the back of the grid and he has 10 finishes out of 12 races, so he at least has a feel for how a BTCC weekend works – those crazy six hours on a Sunday where you squeeze in three races. Hammerton has his medals for campaigning in the Clio Cup and can be seen putting it down on track in the spiritual successor, the JCW Mini Challenge series that’s on the TOCA bill right now.
There is a full season in the BTCC in the career of Rob Huff, and it fits in with the remit we set of not racing a full season in the championship over the last decade (or rather, we changed the original premise to fit Rob in there.) The thing about Huff is he’s one of only four drivers from his 2004 cohort to be campaigning anything meaningful. Colin Turkington and Jason Plato are still here. Yvan Muller, like Huff himself, is plying a trade in the WTCR. Muller was in the UK arguably at the prime of his career – which we didn’t get to see with Huff. There’s always rumours in the off-season that he’s about to make a BTCC comeback (it was to be Toyota for this season) but the thing is, he’s still relevant. Another win last weekend in WTCR and the 2020 STCC title are decent examples as to why he could cut it. Add in his one-off return in 2017 where he scored a second place with Power Maxed, and you can see why he’d not just be a major pull, but competitive too.
Brought in as a ringer for the 2007 BTCC finale to try to help Jason Plato to the crown, Tom Coronel is one of the great Touring Car names to have missed the BTCC with a fulltime campaign. Those three races gave three top 10 finishes, but he didn’t have any real impact on a crown that didn’t go the way of his team mate. He can still get the job done and is almost always behind the wheel of something. This year he’s doubling up in both the WTCR and TCR Europe, and he’s still winning races. At 50-years-old he still has the chutzpah to keep going, and let’s be honest, stick the cheeky chappie on pitlane for the Sunday autograph session and you’ll see some rather large queues form outside of his garage.
Like Jamie Chadwick in our list of 10 we’d like to see debut in the BTCC, Jess is right in there in W Series – and may have sights on a single seat route. After all, she’s also involved in the Aston Martin F1 team as an ambassador, so there must be plenty of doors starting to open there, but she does have some BTCC starts under her belt, oh, and that fantastic, historic win earlier this year in TCR UK. Those outings at both the 2020 and 2021 Snetterton rounds did deliver some wheel-to-wheel action in her two BTCC weekends, and like anyone joining the series after the opening round back in the ballast days, she was hit with the newcomer weight penalty, which always hurts qualifying, which in turn always has an effect on how the races will play out. The results were what you’d expect, but this season it’s changed markedly. The Oulton TCR win might have marked her out as the first female to win in the championship, but the way she did it, holding off the insanely fast Max Hart shows that she’d easily fit in with a full time BTCC ride.
Our Max. We can say that because Max is a columnist in Motor Racing UK Magazine (it’s great for Touring Car fans – you should subscribe!!) Max and Graves announced last season that they’ll be in the BTCC next year, but that’s the future! Taking our biased opinion and chucking it to one side for a moment, is there any driver as hard working as Max in the TOCA paddock? Racing the Mini Challenge. Involved in the Mini Challenge Trophy with Graves helping the drivers there. Racing in the British Endurance Championship. Team boss for his own Britcar outfit. Marketing guru. It’s a surprise that he isn’t in the BTCC already. It’s harder to find a racer more popular with BTCC fans who isn’t in the series, after all he’s raced in one series or another on the bill for a decade, but he did have one BTCC outing during that time – in 2015 at his home track at Croft. We, and many fans think it’s time for him to become a fulltime member of the BTCC grid.
We’ve been close to having Jac Constable in the BTCC. As a Power Maxed development driver he’s had a few runs in the Astra, and is campaigning with them in the TCR UK championship. As is often the case, the only reason we haven’t seen him with a full time ride has been getting the right amount of pounds across the line at the right time. His first TCR UK campaign saw him take two race wins, and a third has been added this year. He’s not afraid to dig in with his opponents to give a meaty battle, and that TCR grounding will serve him well when he gets to race in the BTCC, because, unlike the others on the list, he hasn’t raced in the championship – but he has taken part in an official weekend and qualified at Croft in 2020, before being hit with appendicitis. We’d like to see him get a chance to get those starts. And more.
Currently becoming known for his strong opinions surrounding F1 through social media, a fair few people don’t realise he actually is a racing driver, and a bloody good one at that. A multiple class champion and winner at the Nurburgring in VLN endurance, along with starts in the 24 hour race around the fabled circuit, Philpot went to the extreme opposite for his one-off BTCC sojourn in 2020 on the ultra short Indy layout at Brands Hatch. Throw in a bit of club racing and all the ingredients are there for him to tick all the boxes that you’d need to run fulltime in the championship. In an age where some BTCC racers really are beginning to understand how to interact with racing fans, this is a driver who would be able to take that to a higher level. He’d quickly become a fan favourite, and even his online haters would join followers in giving the series some eyeballs.
He’s been here before for a season of two parts, but didn’t fare too well in eight meetings at Power Maxed Racing, but wouldn’t it be good to see ‘Twinkle Toes’ back in the series? The soap actor is a well known face to the mainstream public thanks to his TV dancing exploits, and that’s not a bad thing. Shoving any old person into a seat for some crossover attraction alone isn’t a brilliant idea, but he’s shown in British GT in the intervening years that a podium isn’t out of reach.
Wouldn’t it have been great if ‘The Gaffer’ had run in the opening BTCC race of the year in the fourth TEAM HARD Cupra before Will Powell signed up? There were quotes attributed to the team boss that claimed he’d thought about it, but whether that was in jest or not isn’t quite clear. Gilham did get through most of the 2011 season with 888 then Geoff Steel Racing, but in the years since it has been bits and bobs on the circuit, while full time off the track building the team up to what it is now. There were rumours of a TCR/TCT campaign a few years back, which would have been grand, but wouldn’t it be good to see a team boss hop into a car and compete in the BTCC, even as a one-off?