The 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship launched today at Donington circuit with the strongest vehicle and driver line-up since 1992.
Seven champions and five nationalities number among the driver line-up, testifying to the quality of the grid. Meanwhile, among the 14 different models from 11 manufacturers competing, the svelte Avensis saloon is the most popular individual vehicle, accounting for five of the 31-car total.
Originally revealed in 2011 in line with NGTC (Next Generation Touring Car) regulations that are now mandatory, Toyota’s touring car and engine programme has proved invaluable in allowing independent teams to compete head-on with manufacturers.
The strength, adaptability and cost-effectiveness of Toyota’s NGTC package is particularly well illustrated this season. For instance, much of the running gear from Adam Morgan’s Avensis has been reborn in an entirely different vehicle for the 2014 series, while the bodyshell has been rebuilt and equipped with new Toyota-developed running gear in order for Lea Wood to join the grid again in his first NGTC-spec Avensis for the Houseman Racing team.
Lea Wood won last year’s Jack Sears Trophy for his outsanding performance in the old S2000 class, so will definitely be one to watch this season (car 43). Another one to look out for on the grid and social media channels will likely be prolific tweeter Tom Ingram in the Speedworks Motorsport Avensis (car 80).
The successful United Autosports team has made the switch from GT cars to field a two-car Avensis line-up driven by James Cole (car 20) and Glynn Geddie (car 21). Also switching to the BTCC after clinching two one-make race series championships is Simon Belcher in the Handy Motorsport Avensis (car 11).
The prevailing feeling among the drivers and organisers at the launch event today was that this season would be remembered as a return to the good old days of the BTCC.