Adam Morgan and the Ciceley Racing team are ready to hit the ground running ahead of the coming BTCC season. Preparation work on the team’s new Toyota Avensis is progressing well and, with two months to go before the start of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, plans are well advanced for the vital pre-season testing programme.
Morgan, 24, hopes to be able to “shake down” his Avensis mid-month and then head to a UK circuit for a couple of days at the end of February, ahead of a full programme of testing during March.
Work on the Toyota is being overseen by Ciceley’s new chief engineer, the vastly experienced Paul Ridgeway, and Adam is himself lending a hand with the build. “We have managed to get a lot of weight out of the shell already and the target is to be right on the minimum,” he says.
“Paul has a brilliant success record in touring cars and he is absolutely the right man to be helping us. We also have two full-time mechanics: Martin Kenyon and Michael Sparks, both of whom were with Ciceley in 2011 and also last year with us at Speedworks. I have a good, experienced team behind me.”
Adam won his debut BTCC season with Speedworks Motorsport thanks to his 2011 Supercup victory and the Ginetta BTCC Scholarship which went with it. Morgan endured a tough rookie year in the UK’s premier race series but established himself as a quick qualifier – his average grid slot was 11th – and he collected his first championship points mid-season, going on to finish inside the top 10 in four races. He was voted BTCC Rookie of the Year by the readers of influential motorsport website TouringCar Times.
Q&A with Adam Morgan
Why have you decided to reinstate the family team, Ciceley Racing?
First and foremost it made sense financially, but also when we won the Ginetta Supercup in 2011 with Ciceley Racing we had the best year ever; we all got on and did the job and enjoyed ourselves, and we had a very successful year. I know the BTCC is a big step up but hopefully we will get more success and enjoy ourselves. I have a good team behind me and I think we will get on well.
Did you learn a lot from your rookie season in the BTCC?
An enormous amount, and in particular how competitive it is. There is so little difference between the guys at the front and those in the midfield that you have to be on top of your game the whole time. I did not go nearly as well as I had hoped. We had some good results, like qualifying fifth at Snetterton, but it was a steep learning curve and I made a few mistakes. I learned a lot and this year should be a lot better.
How do you hope to improve?
By being consistent. We had 13 DNFs last season, I think, so this year I am working on keeping it on track and getting finishes and points. We have always had the pace: now we just need consistency and to cut out the mistakes.
My target is the top 10: I want to be consistently finishing races inside the top 10, and setting consistent lap times. It will be incredibly tough, but if the keep points ticking over and I can stay out of trouble we will end the season in good shape.
Who do you expect to be your main rivals?
The other Toyota drivers, of course – I will want to be beating them – but there will be a lot of stiff opposition out there. It’s hard to say at this stage which cars will be quick at which tracks.
Which drivers do you respect the most?
There is a handful of really good drivers… Colin Turkington is coming back, Jason Plato is incredibly experienced and talented, and the same goes for Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden. You look up to those guys, but at the same time I am racing against them and while I want to learn from them I don’t want to be giving them too much room to beat me.
What do you think of the introduction of the rule which says you must use “soft” tyres in one of the weekend’s three races?
I think it’s going to make some big differences. At first it will be a total unknown for everyone: pot luck to a certain extent, having the right tyre for the right race, so long as you’re in the right grid position. Some tracks are tougher on tyres than others – will the soft rubber last the full distance? But it’s good; it’s another element which will get teams thinking and adapting their strategies.
What about the new threat of a grid-drop penalty if you get “three strikes” against you for poor driving? And how many times were you reprimanded last year?
I think it’s fair. There are people on the grid who have been around a long time and they know how to get people out of their way. Sometimes they need to learn that they can’t just bully their way through. I earned no reprimands last year at all, despite the number of crashes I had!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If I can, I’d still like to be in the BTCC. It’s been my dream ever since I started racing. I love touring cars: the atmosphere, the crowds… I’d be well happy to get a works contract one day.
Morgan hopes that the hard work being carried out now at Ciceley’s Lancashire workshops will pay dividends when the team arrives fresh and ready for battle at Brands Hatch over the Easter weekend (30/31 March) for the opening rounds of the 30-race series.