The BTCC is basically NASCAR with hatchbacks and right turns. It’s one of the most action packed series in the world and one thatBMW has had years of success with. And now after a 21 year hiatus asa works team, BMW is back.
Official release: A further chapter in BMW’s illustrious history in touring car racing unfolded today as BMW UK, in partnership with West Surrey Racing (WSR), announced a three-car team that will again bid for victory of the 2017 British Touring Car Championship.
The announcement of TEAM BMW is a landmark occasion, marking BMW’s return to the country’s best-watched motor race series as a manufacturer team. It has been 21 years since the marque last contested the series in this manner, when BMW Team Schnitzer fielded a BMW 320i line-up.
Graeme Grieve, CEO of BMW Group UK, commented: “The BTCC is one of the most significant race series in the UK and has a huge and enthusiastic following. With a history of success and the continuous support of WSR for the past decade, we are delighted to step up as a Manufacturer Team again after 21 years.”
BMW UK’s significant financial investment in the BTCC team includes the funding of technical developments on all fronts, focused on the very latest BMW engine derivative.
At the launch at BMW Park Lane, London, Graeme Grieve joined WSR Team Principal, Dick Bennetts, to remove the wraps from one of the three BMW 125i M Sport team cars that will contest the 2017 BTCC. With the cars freshly-developed, prepared and run again by WSR, BMW’s return to the Series as a Manufacturer coincides with a further landmark, marking a decade since WSR first contested the BTCC with BMW, which has endured to this day.
The BMW relationship with Dick Bennetts’ Sunbury-based operation in the BTCC was established in 2007, where they claimed both the Independent Drivers and Teams Championships. They repeated the feat in 2008 and went on to take the overall BTCC Drivers’ title in 2009, and added a driver and team double crown in 2014.
Dick Bennetts remarked: “I reckon that working together successfully as motorsport partners for ten years is the equivalent of a lifelong marriage. It is a tribute to BMW’s product and commitment, and we are delighted to once again represent the marque as they return with increased commitment as a Manufacturer in the BTCC.”
Significantly, the driver roll of honour for each of the three BTCC Independent, Overall and Teams Championship victories fell to Northern Ireland’s Colin Turkington.
Turkington has spent nine of his 12 BTCC seasons with the WSR-BMW team, during which he scored 26 wins over five seasons. Now, two years after claiming the outright Drivers Championship at the wheel of a previous-generation BMW 125i M Sport, he returns to the rear-wheel drive TEAM BMW with renewed vigour.
Driver talent runs deep in BMW’s 2017 BTCC campaign. Joining Turkington is Andrew Jordan, 2013 BTCC Overall Drivers Champion and three-time Independent Drivers Champion – who brings with him long-term personal sponsor, Pirtek. Completing the trio is Rob Collard, a BTCC followers’ favourite and the Series’ legendary overtaker who, after his most competitive season to date in 2016, marks the tenth consecutive year he has driven a BMW in the BTCC, the last seven with WSR.
Last year, the trio of WSR-prepared BMW 125i M Sport cars contributed to a nail-biting finale that went down to the wire at the final round. Team driver Sam Tordoff was pipped at the post for the overall driver’s title, just two points shy of victory. Nevertheless, the WSR BMW team claimed a double title success at the conclusion of the series, taking the BTCC Constructors crown and the Teams’ Championship once again.
Entering the 2017 season of the super-competitive BTCC, TEAM BMW has heavyweight success behind it, increased financial and technical investment from BMW UK, the skills, consistency and superb track record of West Surrey Racing, and a driver trio that collectively represents the most powerful line-up in this year’s BTCC series.
The history behind the success: WSR and BMW
A switch to BMW machinery in 2007 marked the start of the most successful chapter in WSR’s touring car history. Colin Turkington became independents’ champion in his first season with the BMW 320si and added an overall title in ’09 and a race win in the FIA World Touring Car Championship for WSR the following year.
Replacing the 320si model with the new BMW 1 Series for 2013 paved the way for another overall title for Turkington in 2014. He also won the independents’ title – the fifth for a WSR driver in 11 seasons – and helped the team add a fourth independent teams’ crown in the same year.
The 2015 season brought race victories for WSR’s three drivers; Rob Collard, Sam Tordoff and Andy Priaulx while Collard, Tordoff and Jack Goff combined to win the constructors’ and teams’ championships in 2016; the latter under the Team JCT600 with GardX banner.