The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship swings into Donington Park this weekend (16/17 April), a circuit which has strong links with Toyota’s successful BTCC history and which is only 10 miles from the Burnaston plant where the Avensis racers began their lives.
A large contingent from Burnaston is expected trackside at Donington on Sunday for rounds four, five and six of the championship to cheer on the Toyota-driving Independents, Frank Wrathall Jnr and Tony Hughes, both of whom will be hoping to have ironed out some of the teething problems which hampered their BTCC debuts at Brands Hatch at the start of the month.
Donington is a track with special resonance for 24-year-old Lancashire driver Wrathall, whose teenage skills in karting were recognised by the organisers of the Will Hoy Scholarship, which was set up in memory of the late Toyota BTCC driver. It was at Donington in 1992 that Hoy’s Andy Rouse-prepared Toyota Carina claimed one of its two race wins that season.
“Winning the Will Hoy Scholarship two years in succession was a massive boost to my early career,” said Frank, “and I will always be grateful for that backing.” Wrathall’s Avensis carries two small door-mirror stickers bearing Will’s helmet design in tribute to the 1991 British Touring Car Champion, who died in 2002.
Both Frank’s Dynojet Racing car and the Speedworks Motorsport-prepared Avensis raced by Hughes were created from Burnaston-produced bodyshells by GPR Motorsport, the Buckingham-based team which turned them into the first of the ‘Next Generation Touring Car’ breed.
GPRM boss Gary Blackham says he could not have completed the job without the help of the factory: “It was not simply a case of turning up at Burnaston and collecting the bodyshells; everyone at the factory has been incredibly helpful and supportive of the project throughout the car’s sometimes painful delivery. We couldn’t have done it without that assistance.”
Saturday’s BTCC qualifying session will be carried live on itv.com, and there will be live coverage of the Donington racing throughout Sunday on ITV4.