Runners and riders who are ready to step up
Outside of the top runners, the most impressive has been Team BKR and specifically Aron Smith.
The Irishman joined the newfor-2016 squad, which only got the green light on its plans to run the older Gprm-spec ex-team BMR VW CCS on the very cusp of the media day.
Smith grabbed two podiums at the start of the season when the other teams, grappling with new Rml-spec kits, were getting up to speed. The form has dipped slightly since, but Smith is there ready to pick up the pieces should the top runners slip. Team-mate Mark Howard is struggling.
Rob Austin switched to frontwheel drive this season with the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis and took a while to get to grips with it even though he had strong pace in testing. It is beginning to click, with strong performances at Thruxton and Croft, but there is a lot more to come. Both he and engineer Matt Taylor are learning their way.
Jeff Smith’s Eurotech Racing team was ready to steal a march with its TOCA Btcc-engined Civics, and both the team owner and Martin Depper have been able to break into the top 10. But newcomer Dan Lloyd, who joined the team at Oulton, has a brace of front rows to the team’s credit already. Once he has the hang of the real cut-and-thrust of the BTCC, he will become a winner.
Team Hard took on an ambitious programme with three cars this season.
The rapid Jake Hill’s maiden full season at the wheel of the Toyota Avensis has been full of promise, with a sixth place at Croft last time out.
Michael Epps, in the sister car, has shown that he has the ability to be a star with a particularly battling performance at Thruxton, and has been unlucky not to land a big result.
The third car, in the hands of Chris Smiley, has been thwarted by unreliability.
Like his former team-mate Austin, Hunter Abbott has swapped to front-wheel drive with the Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet Cruze. Top 10 qualifying pace was ruined at Croft with an opening lap shunt, but the potential is there. Teammate Kelvin Fletcher clearly needs more mileage at this level.
Dan Welch’s Proton Persona, with a bespoke engine, had started from a reversed-grid pole at Thruxton. That should have brought rewards but for a suspension failure.
Matt Simpson is learning his craft in the Speedworks-run Honda Civic and has shown flashes of top 10 form, while Alex Martin’s Ford Focus is still vigorously driven without landing any real results.
Ollie Jackson will be waiting for tracks better suited to the AMD Tuning Audi S3, while Stewart Lines has bitten off a lot running his Ford Focus with his Maximum Motorsport team. It seems like it is too much.