A BTCC team look­ing for a step for­ward. By Matt James

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o and look at the speed trap fig­ures from the last five meet­ings of the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship in 2015. Go and look at the sec­tor times. Go and look at the bare re­sults.

Mo­tor­base Per­for­mance dom­i­nated, and there­fore it would be the log­i­cal choice as a favourite for the 2016 BTCC sil­ver­ware. And about time too: af­ter 10 years in the top flight of tin-tops, there have been 18 vic­to­ries. For a team at the fore­front of the cat­e­gory, that is a rel­a­tively mea­gre re­turn.

But that flour­ish of four wins over the lat­ter pe­riod of 2015 set tongues wag­ging. And it wasn’t just the wins: it was the way they were ac­com­plished. De­spite only con­test­ing half a sea­son due to bud­get con­straints, the cars sim­ply flew.

Lead driver Mat Jack­son was able to dom­i­nate. Look­ing on jeal­ously was 2013 cham­pion An­drew Jor­dan. Sad­dled with a less-than-com­pet­i­tive MG6 GT, he could only stare up the road at the Eco­boost-pow­ered Ford with as­ton­ish­ment. But Jor­dan has put that right by sign­ing for the Kent-based team, along­side Jack­son, for the 2016 cam­paign.

Oth­ers up and down the pit­lane are sug­gest­ing that Mo­tor­base Per­for­mance will have its rocket ship ‘turned down’ by of­fi­cials. The team, nat­u­rally, feels that the strong speed at the end of 2015 should not lead to any dent in its prospects for 2016 – but there are other fac­tors that could drop it back in to the com­pet­i­tive pack.

Team man­ager Oly Collins ex­plains: “We feel we should be as com­pet­i­tive as we were last sea­son. We built the car to the reg­u­la­tions and the en­gine was put through the cylin­der head flow test [the checks de­signed to keep the en­gines equal]. We were per­form­ing within the reg­u­la­tions. We had a car that was strong in the cor­ners and one which hardly ran with any ex­cess of suc­cess bal­last, be­cause we were late­com­ers to the cham­pi­onship.”

De­spite the protes­ta­tions from oth­ers, the prospects for Mo­tor­base are good this year, but the thorn in ev­ery­one’s side will be the raft of new con­trol parts from RML. They in­clude new sub­frames, wish­bones, power steer­ing, up­rights and hubs, which will al­ter the han­dling of the cars.

But with Jor­dan and Jack­son at the con­trols, Collins is con­fi­dent the learn­ing process can be done quickly: “If you look at it, we have the best of both worlds in terms of our driver line-up. We have Mat, who has been with the Ngtc-spec Ford Fo­cus since its in­cep­tion half­way through 2012 and that means he knows the car in­side out. Then we have AJ, who has been suc­cess­ful in other NGTC chas­sis and who can bring his ex­per­tise. That should help us get on top of it quickly.”

The team has been out back-to­back­ing the old kit with the new kit, bolt­ing on set­tings that would work on the 2015-spec car and see­ing how they re­act with the new RML parts. The ini­tial run­ning was pos­i­tive.

“The change in the parts is go­ing to be a big thing, and I think it is go­ing to shake up the or­der – more than we have seen in the re­cent sea­sons,” adds Collins. “It is go­ing be the hard­est sea­son to win for a long time.”

De­spite the chal­lenges that are ahead, new re­cruit Jor­dan is al­ready fizzing with en­thu­si­asm for the year ahead. The for­mer MG man de­cided on the switch late last year, and there were sev­eral solid rea­sons be­hind his choice.

“Firstly, wher­ever you go, you want the car to be quick – that is num­ber one,” says the 26-year-old Pirtek-backed driver. “And the car was fast last sea­son. Then, spon­sors are im­por­tant and you want to go where you know they will be looked af­ter.

“But, with Mo­tor­base, you get an ex­tra­or­di­nary pas­sion to win. You get the im­pres­sion that [team prin­ci­pal] David Bartrum would move a moun­tain to con­quer the BTCC. He would be shout­ing it from the rooftops if he did, and that was a very im­por­tant fac­tor for me.

“When I won the ti­tle back in 2013, it was with my fam­ily [Eurotech] team and we were so ded­i­cated to win­ning. Whether that meant spend­ing a few ex­tra hours in the work­shop at the end of a work­ing day, or spend­ing a lit­tle bit more money, then we would. I can see that pas­sion at Mo­tor­base al­ready.

“I know this might sound like PR guff, but it isn’t: I feel so at home at Mo­tor­base al­ready. The team works hard and is pre­pared to go the ex­tra mile. Peo­ple say it is a risk to join a team that has yet to win the cham­pi­onship, but I turn that around – the team are hun­grier to win than any other out there.”

And Jack­son too, a stal­wart of the squad with six sea­sons al­ready un­der his belt, is con­fi­dent of a con­sis­tent chal­lenge in 2016. “We have been to­gether for such a long time that I know how the team works and they know how I work, so that is go­ing to be a huge boost for me,” he ex­plains. “There have been some changes in the staffing line-up and I will have a new en­gi­neer this year [Piers Phillips has left and Carl Owen has joined from Team BMR].

“Last year was frus­trat­ing be­cause we had to sit out the first part, but the flip­side was that when we did ar­rive, the car was im­mense. We are des­per­ate to carry that over, but the new parts will make it tough. Hav­ing said that, there is a de­sire and pas­sion within the team. We are in a good place, and this year does rep­re­sent a great chance for us.” ■

GT rac­ing in Bri­tain is cur­rently big busi­ness, and few cham­pi­onships re­flect the cur­rent growth spurt as well as the GT Cup.

Sure, Bri­tish GT is also in rude health with sell-out grids, but that’s per­haps to be ex­pected. It is Bri­tain’s top flight sportscar cham­pi­onship. It’s where the pro­fes­sion­als and those that as­pire to the in­ter­na­tional stage flock to get them­selves no­ticed.

But there’s an­other side to GT rac­ing other than the pur­suit of a ca­reer – th­ese driv­ers are sim­ply the pure en­thu­si­asts.

Many don’t pre­tend to be, or even want to be, pro­fes­sional rac­ing driv­ers. They just love their cars and their mo­tor­sport, and are pre­pared to in­vest time and great amounts of cash in en­joy­ing their hobby.

GT cars – GT3 in par­tic­u­lar – are not cheap. Some cost up­wards of £400,000, and that’s be­fore you’ve even thrown spare tyres, fuel or run­ning costs at them. To en­tice driv­ers and teams to run in a club-level cham­pi­onship can be a tough ask, es­pe­cially with the bright lights of Bri­tish GT not far away.

But what the GT Cup has done so well in re­cent years is find its niche. It doesn’t pre­tend to be a pro­fes­sional driver-only, ca­reer-fo­cused cham­pi­onship. In­stead, it has es­tab­lished it­self as the best of both worlds – a well-run and cus­tomer­fo­cused se­ries, but with just enough of a pro­fes­sional el­e­ment to also make it a per­fect step­ping stone on to big­ger things.

Last sea­son the cham­pi­onship fea­tured 100 driv­ers and an av­er­age grid size of 25 cars and that is

Mat Jack­son (l), team pa­tron David Bartrum (c) and An­drew Jor­dan

The Ford Fo­cus has Eco­boost power

The GT Cup had some dif­fi­cult years with grids... ...but is now bur­geon­ing af­ter for­mat changes Boland heads tech team Mod­ern GT3 cars key to turn­around

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