Last season, seven drivers entered the British Touring Car Championship as rookies. Though most of them had been preparing with for their BTCC career in junior categories, the step up to the championship brought all new drivers plenty of challenges.
This season will see more drivers taking the step up to the BTCC – four already announced as rookies for the 2017 season.
Two 2016 rookies – Ashley Sutton and Matt Simpson – shared the challenges they faced in their debut year.
Jack Sears Trophy winner, Sutton, shared how the biggest problem he tackled in 2016 was tyre management.
“That is the biggest thing,” he said. “When you’re sat in the car, and you’re trying to look after the tyres, that was the real turning point of my season last year. Croft last year when we really just focused on that. From then on, we didn’t really suffer any real problems.”
It was at Croft that Sutton took his first BTCC podium, and then first BTCC win.
Simpson also spoke about the difficulties he’d had in his first year, trying to get the best out of the tyres in qualifying.
“Qualifying is the hardest bit of the weekend,” he said. “Trying to get into that top ten in qualifying: the times are so close. I think Knockhill, eight tenths between first and 24th. Just trying to get that two or three lap window, trying to get the best from the tyres, trying to get a good clear lap… that’s the key. I’m used to a 15 minute run on one set of tyres trying to get pole but numerous sets of tyres and just trying to get the best from it.”
Simpson described the BTCC as the toughest championship he had ever raced in, but that wasn’t the biggest thing he learned about the championship in his rookie season.
“The fan base is absolutely phenomenal,” Simpson said when asked his biggest lesson. “Race weekends, dealing with the fans, is just overwhelming. It’s just crazy. I remember being her last year for the autograph session and the people queuing up. I’ve never seen so many people in my life. But it’s great. Without the fans, the touring cars wouldn’t be what it is today. It’s great to be part of it.”
Now, Senna Proctor, Luke Davenport, Ant Whorton-Eales, and Will Burns are in that same position, about to start their BTCC careers. Hopefully Sutton and Simpson’s advice – and the advice of other drivers with more experience in the championship – will give them an idea of what to expect this year.
Image credit: Caroline Rhea