Photo: Team HARD

Team HARD announces two BTCC development drivers for 2023

British Touring Car Championship squad Team HARD has signed Daryl DeLeon and Maurice Henry as its development drivers for 2023.

The pair will race together in the British Endurance Championship in a Audi S3 BTCC car, marking the first time the team has run a car from the brand as it races Cupras in the BTCC and has usually fielded sportscars in the BEC.

DeLeon won Team HARD’s annual scholarship last month to secure his place as one of the team’s BTCC development drivers and BEC racers, and is going into his third year of car racing. He graduated from karting in 2021 and raced in the Radical SR1 Cup, which he came 11th in, then at the end of the year he contested the Formula Ford Festival.

In 2022 he became the SR1 Cup champion, and made another single-seater appearance by contesting a GB4 round and making the podium on his debut.

“It’s an honour to be the winner of the team’s scholarship programme and to be racing for Team HARD,” said DeLeon.

“Driving the Audi S3 BTCC car is going to be fantastic for our development this season. We’ve been working hard with the team, and we’re ready to race.”

Henry joined Team HARD in January, and was initially expecting to be embarking on a BEC campaign in a TCR rather than NGTC-spec car. His route to touring cars includes a year in rallying at the Junior 1000 level, winning the 2021 Ginetta Junior Scholarship and then spending two seasons in that series. Last year he won a race en route to eighth in the standings.

“I’m excited to be racing with Daryl and the Audi S3 BTCC car this season,” he said. “I’ve known Daryl for a while now and I’m really looking forward to being his teammate this year, I feel we can learn a lot from each other. The BEC is a tough championship, and we’re ready to take on the challenge.”

Young driver development programmes tend to more commonly be run by manufacturers in touring cars, with Hyundai operating its Customer Racing junior programme while Mercedes’ junior team was initially based around the DTM before its purpose switched to Formula 1, and BMW also sent its juniors to the DTM.

Independent teams have established their own too in recent years, with EXCELR8 having promoted one of its development drivers into a BTCC race seat for 2023. MB Motorsport signed sportscar star Andrew Watson as a hybrid development driver in 2021, and he’s now set to make is BTCC debut with rival team Power Maxed Racing.