The AmDTuning.com with Cobra Exhausts team will hope to bring home some strong points finishes this weekend when the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season bursts into life at Brands Hatch.
The season-opener will mark the start of a new era for the West Thurrock-based team as it embarks on a full-time multi-car touring car programme for the first time.
Recent months have seen the team – and in particular team manager Rob Tickner – hard at work preparing the team’s two Audi S3s for the start of the new season.
Both cars are now running with the latest spec parts and will also compete with an upgraded version of the TOCA engine used by a number of teams on the grid.
Having enjoyed a strong end to his 2016 season, Tamworth-based racer Ollie Jackson returns for a second season at the wheel of the Audi hoping to firmly establish himself as a regular contender for points finishes.
Despite the fact his car was only finished in the early hours of the morning ahead of the recent BTCC season launch, Ollie showed the potential of the upgraded Audi with a top ten performance on the times and he heads to Brands Hatch in confident mood.
“I’m really excited to get the new season underway and although we haven’t done a lot of pre-season testing, I feel in the best shape I’ve ever been in going into the opening round of the year,” he said.
“The upgraded parts on the car have certainly improved what we’d already shown was a good base package, and the new engine is also a noticeable step forwards compared to the old one which can only help us move up the grid.
“I’m expecting this weekend to be extremely close and it’s difficult to make too many predictions about what might happen on track. I think we’ll be closer to the pace in terms of lap times and we need to see where that leaves us, but I feel confident that we’ll be right in the mix for points finishes across the three races.”
Ollie will be joined this season in the second car by Lichfield racer Ant Whorton-Eales, who becomes the latest driver to move into the BTCC having wrapped up the Clio Cup UK championship crown.
Having sampled his new car during testing at both Silverstone and Donington Park, Ant heads into his first weekend as a touring car racer targeting top honours amongst the five rookie drivers on the grid – and with his eye on breaking into the points.
“It’s great to be going into my first weekend as a BTCC driver and I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “It promises to be a lot different to racing in the Clios, and my aim is to stay out of trouble and learn as much as I can.
“The main target for me is to challenge for Jack Sears Trophy honours, but I also want to try and pick up some points in my first weekend. Who knows, if results go our way, I think we have a car that can break into the top ten and I’d be over the moon if that was to happen.
“For me personally, it’s a little bit of a step into the unknown as I’ll be running the new engine for the first time, but even when I was using an older engine in testing it was clear to see that the Audi is a very strong package and we have a good base on which to build when we get to Brands.”
Team boss Shaun Hollamby said he was pleased to be getting the new campaign underway and was quick to give thanks to those who had made the expanded touring car programme possible.
“It promises to be a hugely exciting season for us as we expand to a two-car team on a full-time basis and it’s great that our new adventure starts on home soil at Brands Hatch,” he said. “It’s been a very busy winter as we worked to build up a new car and also had to upgrade the other with the new RML-spec parts and the latest TOCA engine.
“Huge thanks have to go to team manager Rob Tickner for the late nights he has put in to get the cars prepared as without his monumental effort, we’d not have been in the position we are in now – with two cars ready and raring to go.
“Huge thanks also have to go to Rachel and the team at Cobra Exhausts for their increased support this season as without them, we also wouldn’t have been able to run a two-car team.
“On track, we’re hoping for a strong start to the year this weekend with both drivers. For Ollie, the aim has to be to build on the potential that he showed on track in the closing rounds of 2016 and we’re confident that he will be able to regularly challenge for points.
“With Ant, it’s great that we can give him his opportunity to show what he can do in the BTCC and expect him to be very competitive against arguably the toughest field there has been for a number of years.”