BTCC 2006 entry list released

The entry list for this year’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has been released today (Tuesday) at Brands Hatch – 11 days before the world-famous circuit in Kent stages the BTCC’s opening three rounds on 9 April.

Nineteen cars are so far entered for 2006 BTCC’s ten race meetings that during the season will each receive live Sunday afternoon television coverage on terrestrial channel ITV1.

Reigning Champion Matt Neal (Droitwich) will once again be at the wheel of a Team Halfords Honda Integra, but he has a new-team-mate in Gordon Shedden (Dunfermline), this year making his BTCC debut. Team Halfords has also entered a third car for an as-yet unnamed driver to join as the season progresses.

While Neal is tipped by many to become the first driver to win back-to-back titles since the BTCC’s two-litre era began in 1991, he clearly faces enormous opposition. SEAT Sport UK boasts arguably the strongest driver line-up in Jason Plato (Oxford) and James Thompson (Harrogate), both former BTCC champions. Also joining the team for four race meetings in place of Thompson is Darren Turner (Banbury), making his BTCC debut but hugely experienced with his career having already taken in Formula 1, DTM and, recently, FIA GTs with Aston Martin. SEAT will race its new and dramatic-looking Leon model.

Vauxhall’s team VX Racing fields three Astra Sport Hatches and will be looking to win back a clean sweep of titles – while it took a fifth consecutive Manufacturers’ Championship in 2005, it lost the Drivers’ and Teams’ crowns that it had held since 2001. The driver line-up is virtually all-new – Irishman Gavin Smith (Rathfarnham) remains, but he has two new team-mates in fast-rising 21-year-old British talent Tom Chilton (Reigate) and Italian superstar Fabrizio Giovanardi – one of the world’s most successful touring cars drivers.

The renamed Team RAC squad also looks likely to challenge for championship honours with its MGs being driven by proven race-winners Rob Collard (Eversley, Hants) and Colin Turkington (Portadown) who rejoins the outfit after a frustrating season with VX Racing. Like Team Halfords, Team RAC has entered a third car with the driver’s identity yet to be revealed.

Uniquely, the BTCC will again be contested by a car running on bio-ethanol fuel – Fiona Leggate (Boston), the only female driver on the grid, will race the Thurlby Motors Boston Bowl with Tech-Speed team’s alternatively-powered Vauxhall Astra Coupé.

Meanwhile, four teams will make their BTCC debuts in 2006, such is the ever-increasing level of interest in the championship. They include Eurotech Racing with John Guest, InFront Motorsport, Geoff Steel Racing and Motorbase Performance – based in Wrotham very much the local team at Brands Hatch.

Entry List: 2006 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship
No., Driver (NAT), Hometown, Team, Car:
1. Matt Neal (GBR), Team Halfords, Honda Integra
4. Jason Plato (GBR), SEAT Sport UK, SEAT Leon
5. Tom Chilton (GBR), VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch
6. Colin Turkington (GBR), Team RAC, MG ZS
7. Robert Collard (GBR), Team RAC, MG ZS
8. TBA, TBA, Team RAC, MG ZS
10. Gavin Smith (IRL), VX Racing, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch
11. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch
12. Mark Proctor (GBR), Fast-Tec Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R
14. James Thompson (GBR), SEAT Sport UK, SEAT Leon
15. Martyn Bell (GBR), Geoff Steel Racing, BMW E46
20. James Kaye (GBR), Synchro Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R
24. Darren Turner (GBR), SEAT Sport UK, SEAT Leon
25. TBA, TBA, Team Halfords, Honda Integra
28. Jason Hughes (GBR), Kartworld Racing, MG ZS
52. Gordon Shedden (GBR), Team Halfords, Honda Integra
55. David Pinkney (GBR), Motorbase Performance, Honda Integra
66. Mark Smith (GBR), InFront Motorsport, Alfa Romeo 156
77. Mike Jordan (GBR), Team Eurotech Racing, Honda Integra
82. Fiona Leggate (GBR), Tech-Speed, Vauxhall Astra