Toyota’s independent BTCC racers, Frank Wrathall and Tony Hughes, will bring their maiden seasons in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship to a close at Silverstone this weekend (15/16 October), and each is looking to end the year on a positive note in preparation for a renewed assault on the UK’s most popular race series in 2012.
Wrathall and his Dynojet Racing Team are hoping for further podium success for their ‘Next Generation Touring Car’ Toyota Avensis. Last month, at Knockhill and Rockingham, the Dynojet Toyota claimed four top-three finishes on the trot and came within 0.4s of an historic race victory when it crossed the Round 25 finish line right in the wheeltracks of championship frontrunner Gordon Shedden’s Honda.
Wrathall, who celebrated his 25th birthday last week, is keen to return to that sort of form: “We were on the crest of a wave at Knockhill and Rockingham, and that made it all the harder to take a weekend like Brands Hatch…” Earlier this month at the Kent track Frank posted two non-finishes, his first retirements since Snetterton.
“Everyone within the team is determined to make up for last time and put everything into getting it right and finishing the season on a high,” adds Wrathall. “Fortunately the damage suffered at Brands Hatch was mostly cosmetic and easily fixed, and we have had a good, relaxed time in the workshop getting everything prepared. We will shake the Toyota down at Donington on Thursday and hopefully arrive at Silverstone with everything well prepared and in good shape.”
The track in use at Silverstone will be the triangular 1.6-mile National Circuit with its three long straights, which should provide some speedy and breathtaking action. “The Toyota has the potential to go well there,” says Frank, “although I have been caught out before with my predictions – circuits where I have thought we might struggle we have gone well, and vice versa.”
For Tony Hughes and the Speedworks Motorsport team the hope is for a trouble-free weekend. Last time out, problems with the TOCA ‘stock’ engine of their Avensis washed out their qualifying hopes and left the squad on the back foot. “We want to get through this weekend solidly and reliably,” said Tony. “I want to be able to come away from Silverstone with everything in one piece so that we can crack on and get as much set-up and experience as possible to start 2012.”
The weekend’s action will decide which of five drivers – Matt Neal, Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden, Mat Jackson or James Nash – will wear the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship crown. It’s the first time in the 53-year history of the BTCC that so many drivers have taken the title fight down to the wire.
The weekend’s BTCC action kicks off with two free practice sessions and qualifying on Saturday followed by three races on Sunday – at 1135, 1435 and 1715 – all of which will be live on ITV4.