TCR UK preview – Is Ollie Taylor the man to beat?

Ollie Taylor topped the times at the series’ official test day earlier this month and is in prime position as TCR cars take to the track for the first ever round of the TCR UK championship this weekend at Silverstone.

This coming Easter Sunday afternoon the lights will go out for the first ever TCR race in the UK. With such a brand new series there are so many unknowns leading into the first round, especially concerning who will be the major runners and riders throughout the year. The series hosted an official test day (in place of the postponed media day) at Silverstone on March 6th in changeable conditions. The final session of the day was almost dry and was topped by Ollie Taylor in a time of 59.300 seconds.

Ollie Taylor may not be a household name, or even a name hugely well-known to hardened motorsport fans in the UK, but he certainly comes with some pedigree and should be considered one of the title protagonists leading into TCR UK’s inaugural season. Now 29, Taylor began his racing in 2009 in the Caterham R300 championship finishing 6th overall including a double win in the final round of the year at Snetterton. An impovement to 3rd place in the standings followed in 2010. Then, after a couple years away from racing, he returned to the series in 2013 and won the championship with five race victories, including all of the first four. Since then he has raced in the Kumho BMW championship winning class B in 2016 and class A in 2017.

Taylor took the Caterham R300 in 2013 Credit – BRSCC, Photo – John Cooper

Various possibilities were on the table for 2018. “I have fortunately been selected to be part of Andy Priaulx’s management programme and he wanted me to be racing in something that was more compatible between drivers,” explains Taylor, “so from the options he presented, including Ginetta’s and Clio’s, we thought that TCR was the best.” I guess when a three times World Touring Car champion decides TCR UK is the place to be for one of his drivers the organisers must be doing something right!

Taylor will drive a Honda Civic run by Barwell-based Pyro Motorsport. “They are a great bunch and I already have a feeling like we have been working together for years”. Taylor clearly feels at home with the team that is also running cars, including for Max Coates, in the BTCC supporting Clio Cup this year. Pyro have given Taylor a good start to his campaign with testing at Castle Combe, Donington and Silverstone in preparation for the year ahead. The current car is a first generation TCR car whilst they await the delivery of the 2018 machine. “We will be back-to-back testing the new and old cars to see which is better suited to me based on the BoP (Balance of Performance). The independent rear suspension (on the new car) will have particular benefits but may have tighter BoP restrictions. We will have to wait and see.” Taylor’s Pyro-supported team mate, Finlay Crocker, has already committed to the new car so it will interesting to see which of the two Taylor has decided upon for this weekends opening round.

For reasons unknown to this writer the TCR UK series has gathered some negative press since its announcement last summer. Taylor says “It will be a success and i’m really happy to be part of the series in its early years. I feel its’s a shame that it’s facing such opposition because I think the format of the cars and regulations is brilliant and great value when you look at costs vs lap times.” Taylor’s sponsors obviously feel the same with regards to the value for money and reach of the series. His lead sponsor Movac (a paint and lacquer supplier) will be continuing with him in 2018 after sponsoring his BMW racing last year. Kvadrat, London Drywall and Franchi will also be partnering with Taylor alongside Complete Fixing Solutions and Plus Interiors.

Dan Lloyd will race a VW Golf at Silverstone
Credit – TCR

With the official media day moved to Good Friday it is still unknown exactly how many cars and drivers will take part in the first TCR UK weekend but that number is expected to be at least in the mid-teens. As well as Taylor and the aforementioned Crocker, some very competitive names have recently been announced for the series. The recent big-name announcements have been those of Aiden Moffat and Dan Lloyd. Moffat will drive in the full series for DPE Motorsport in an Alfa Romeo Giulitta backed by Laser Tools who are also backing his full-series campaign in the BTCC in a Mercedes A-Class. His team-mate will be Derek Palmer Junior. Lloyd’s drive for Swedish team WestCoast Racing is currently only for Silverstone but he hopes to secure sponsorship to enable him to do the full-season. If this is possible he has to be seen as one of the favorites for the title especially considering he was one of the chosen drivers to take part in the official Balance of Performace tests which enabled him to drive a variety of TCR machinery at Valencia in February. He also has international TCR racing experience. His team-mates will be brother and sister Andreas and Jessica Backman. All three will drive VW Golfs.

Also confirmed are Howard Fuller who will drive the Sean Walkinshaw Racing Honda Civic, Stewart Lines who will race the Maximum Motorsport Seat Leon, Carl Swift in a privately-run Leon and 18-year-old Lewis Kent in his Hyundai i30. Other recent announcements include VW Cup race winner Darelle Wilson who will drive a Vauxhall Astra and Olli Kangas who will drive one of Finnish team LMS Racing’s CUPRA TCR cars. More names are set to be officially announced in the coming days.

This weekends season opener will see the cars using the short National circuit. With only four real corners connected by some long straights this should make for good racing. The Milltek Sport Volkswagen Cup and the Civic Cup will supply the bulk of the support races along with the Mazda MX-5 Supercup, the Alfa Romeo Championship and the Formula Ford 1600 Championship. TCR UK qualifying takes place on Saturday at 4.25pm with the two 30-minute races on Sunday at 2pm and 4.05pm. All action will be streamed live at the TCR Hub and on the TCR YouTube channel.

Feature Image Credit – TCR UK

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