While the Virtual Grand Prix circus is in France for the next round of the World Championship, the first meeting of the new British Touring Car Series is well and truly underway here at Brands Hatch.
The championship features eight different brands of car, with nine models being run by the teams, with entries who have come from all around the world as far as the United States, Australasia and Peru joining British teams in a battle for supremacy. Three manufacturer teams are in the championship: Downton Motorsport, Westwood Motors and Peugeot Sport UK, who are running under the Peugeot Sport Mathershaw banner alongside Lapierre Competition. Leading independent teams include WTC Racing running Mercedes C-Class AMGs, MT Racing who are running the Peugeot 208 GTi T16 and Vinery Racing wit their Renault Lagunas, but there are a total of 31 cars that are entered for the season, with potentially more to come both later in the year and beyond.
The new twelve round season encompasses iconic circuits throughout the British Isles as well as a round in the Republic of Ireland, and at each meeting there will be three races. Today however, the first qualifying session of the 2014 BTCS season is the order of the day.
One of the quirks of the BTCS is a cost cutting measure that ensures teams don't overspend on travel: The first time the cars run in competition each weekend is qualifying. Testing is unrestricted in private sessions, though only Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Donington Park can be used. Most of the teams have already familiarised themselves with the undulating layout of the Brands Hatch circuit, to which different cars react very differently. Overall, the Brands circuit favours a car with good stability, something offered by the saloon cars, however in the tight turns 2, 3 and 8 the hatchbacks will claw an awful lot of time back due to their handling advantage.
The cars made their way onto track, and the manufacturer cars immediately found their way to the top of the timesheets, but the whole grid was very evenly matched. After times were exchanged back and forth between the top five or six drivers, the top 10 ended up like this:
The first pole position of the year goes to Gareth Eaves who pulled out a blistering lap time to beat Serge Bernard to the top spot on the grid and also take the first championship point of the year. Top independent is Easter in third, who was pushed to the limit by Patrick Feischlenden of MT Racing who ended up fourth.
The full grid for the first race at Brands Hatch is as follows:
So overnight Gareth Eaves is the championship leader, but that will surely change after tomorrow's racing. Join us tomorrow for the first three races of the 2014 British Touring Car Series, live at Brands Hatch.