The BTCC roars back into life (albeit 5 weeks later than originally planned) at Thruxton this weekend and after 2020’s compact calendar of 9 events in just 16 weeks, the 2021 calendar reverts back to the usual 10 event format with an extra visit to Thruxton at the end of August.
The 2021 season sees the introduction of the Team HARD run Cupra Leon and multiple driver changes, including the returns of race winners Aron Taylor-Smith and Dan Lloyd and the return of multiple champions Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato.
2021 will also be the first time since 1990 that three-time champion Matt Neal hasn’t competed in the championship, ending a run which is unlikely to be matched. His presence on the grid will be missed, however the door is open for him to rejoin for 2022.
Here are the 28 runners and riders for the upcoming season:
Laser Tools Racing
Drivers: Ash Sutton, Aiden Moffat
Consistency is the word of day for the Laser Tools Racing squad and may be an inauspicious sign for the rest of the field. Ominously, 2020 was the first year for Sutton in the Infinti Q50, so if he, and the LTR team, can find even more performance from the car he will certainly be in a good place to defend his title.
Moffat is a BTCC race winner, so shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, however he has struggled to adapt the rear-wheel drive Q50 since it’s introduction midway through 2019, but once the car is to his liking, we will undoubtedly see him fighting for podiums again, it would not be a surprise if he found that form this year.
Drivers: Colin Turkington, Tom Oliphant, Stephen Jelley
A four-time champion with race winning team mates is a great place to start a season, particularly with a car that which will surely win races and almost definitely fight for championship. Turkington’s quest for his record breaking fifth title goes on and although he did lose out to Sutton in 2020, his desire and speed is unabated. His calm and collected approach to race weekends will surely work in his favour again and a championship challenge is almost guaranteed.
Oliphant’s performance trajectory continues to rise, as shown by his first race win in 2020, if he can add consistency to his speed he should be there or thereabouts at the final round at Brands Hatch.
Jelley is a bit of a wildcard here, a quick driver in the aging 1-series can a move to the new 3-series show his true speed? Don’t be surprised to see multiple race wins from him this year.
Drivers: Gordon Shedden, Dan Rowbottom
Arguably the biggest story of the off season is the return of three-time champion Shedden and although his foray into the World Touring Car Cup didn’t appear to be a major success, he won’t have lost any of speed or ability and so must be considered a dark horse for the a title tilt this year but whether he’ll be on the pace immediately remains to be seen.
Rowbottom’s somewhat unexpected jump into the Dynamics squad after a year out of the series should yield some special results for the former Clio Cup driver, however after a somewhat disappointing 2019 season this will be a real test of his speed, especially with the benchmark of a three time champion.
2021 also sees Dynamics as an independent entry after losing works backing from Honda.
Racing With Wera & Photon Group
Drivers: Sam Osbourne, Andy Neate
After a successful sophomore year in the category for Osbourne a third season in the highly competitive Focus ST should see another jump in results and should be targeting consistently finishing in the top 10, a strong possibility, particularly if the Focus stays as competitive as it was in 2020.
Neate’s 2020 season had it’s fair share of controversy in it and although removing the controversial incidents would be a step in the right direction, his race results do need to improve given the machinery he’s in. However he has proved previously that he can consistently score points and there’s no reason to suggest it cannot happen again.
Drivers: Josh Cook, Jade Edwards
2020 was a painful year for Cook, as horrible Brands Hatch and Knockhill rounds ended any real chance of a championship challenge, however it was the disqualification in race 1 at Oulton Park that really stung. A double victory at Croft showed just how quick team and driver are and should both have some better luck this year there’s no reason why Cook couldn’t score multiple wins and potentially challenge for the title.
Edwards’ cameo at Silverstone should be regarded as a success, even though, on paper, the results don’t suggest that is the case. This a fantastic opportunity for her and whilst wins and podiums may be just out of reach this year consistently finishing in the points should be expected.
Michael Crees was due to be the third driver for the team however, he and the team have split, just a week before the opening round.
Toyota Gazoo Racing UK
Drivers: Rory Butcher, Sam Smelt
On paper, Butcher in a Corolla is a match made in heaven. A very quick driver in what should be a highly competitive car should see Butcher in the title fight all the way until the end of the season, for the second year in a row.
Smelt, another driver to have had a break from the category after competing back in 2018, has a good chance to make his mark and after a relatively successful 2020 season in the British GT Championship, scoring points consistently should be regarded a good season and a realistic possibility.
Drivers: Tom Ingram, Chris Smiley, Jack Butel, Rick Parfitt Jr.
An expanded line-up for the team in it’s second year of the running the Hyundai i30N and the introduction of Ingram into the team could very well give the opportunity for them to challenge consistently at the front of the grid.
Ingram will of course be targeting a title challenge and there’s not reason to suggest it cannot happen. The car appeared quick in testing and whilst it’s likely Smiley and Butel will take advantage of that, Parfitt Jr, may take some time to get up to speed. However he is a British GT champion, so should get up to speed quite quickly!
Drivers: Jack Goff, Nicolas Hamilton, Aron Taylor-Smith, Glynn Geddie
A great mix of drivers for Team HARD, particularly as they bring a new car to the BTCC, the Cupra Leon. The new car appears competitive and with race winners Goff and Taylor-Smith targeting more wins this could be a successful debut season.
Hamilton and Geddie will have their work cut out getting to grips with the new car, however after an improved 2020 season for Hamilton and good part season for Geddie last year Team HARD could be a force to be reckoned with as the season goes on.
Drivers: Adam Morgan, Tom Chilton
A change from the aging Mercedes A-Class to the new BMW 3-series may not yield major results straight away for the front-wheel experts of Morgan and Chilton but the quality both drivers have will undoubtedly bring great results later in the year. Both multiple race winners and with a lot of experience, it would not be surprise to see both win at least one race each this year, however a title challenge may just be out of reach for now.
Drivers: Jake Hill, Ollie Jackson
2020 was a great season for both drivers, Jackson scored the first win of his BTCC career and although Hill didn’t win a race last year, a seventh place finish in an aging FK2 Civic was a fantastic achievement. But for 2021, both drivers find themselves in new Focus ST’s and surely must be considered potential race winners at most events and if Hill carries his 2020 form into 2021 a championship challenge cannot be ruled out.
Power Maxed Racing
Drivers: Jason Plato, Dan Lloyd
Arguably the wildcards on this year’s grid, odd to say for a two-time champion and a race winner, however Plato hasn’t raced since 2019 after his enforced break last year and Lloyd was last on the grid in 2018 and hasn’t yet competed in a full season. And yet, given the right car both drivers are likely to be at the sharp end of the grid and if testing times are to be believed (good luck with that) the Astra appears to have the pace to give both drivers the chance at of some great results this year.