Round-up: Local team back in the big time with Touring Cars entry
- Credit: Archant
After a gap of 15 years, the region will again be represented on the British Touring Car Championship grid with the announcement of EXCELR8 Motorsport's entry after its purchase of the MG6 cars and race licences.
The team, based on the Norfolk/Suffolk border at Brome near Diss, has a long and successful history of organising the Mini Challenge race series and has built over 75 examples of the JCW race cars for use in the UK, China and Japan.
'We have been looking towards the BTCC for a few years now and when we got the chance to get hold of the MG6s it was an opportunity that we couldn't pass up, especially as it fits with our 'Great British' theme,' said team principal Oliver Shepherd.
'The BTCC is the highest-profile championship in the country, with some incredible drivers and very high-calibre teams, so we know we will have our work cut out to learn about the racing and the new cars. However, we have no doubt that we can compete at this level.
'This is a sizeable investment for EXCELR8, and we're acquiring all-new specialist equipment to make sure we have everything we need to hit the ground running and deliver the professionalism and presentation that we are known for in the Mini Challenge.'
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The BTCC is a long way from the EXCELR8's humble beginnings when the team, owned by Justina Williams, started in a small unit in Leys Lane in Attleborough some 10 years ago before moving to their current premises via workshops in Long Stratton.
The cars are currently being completely rebuilt in EXCELR8's comprehensive workshop and up-dated with 'improved cooling systems, a known Achilles heel of the car in the past, which robs the engine of power as the race progresses' said Shepherd.
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Rob Smith was the first driver to commit to the local team and the 26-year-old has been a front runner in the Mini Challenge for the past four seasons recording six victories and 18 podium places.
'As soon as I joined the team in 2014 it was clear that we both saw our future in the BTCC, so it's fantastic to finally make it a reality,' enthused Smith.
'I have no doubt it will be a steep learning curve for both myself and the team, but continuity is key so hopefully by extending our relationship we will be able to add to the success we've already achieved.'
Sam Osborne, also 26, has just been confirmed as team-mate to Smith and has a similar racing background, having competed in the Mini Challenge series, run by EXCELR8, before switching to the Renault Clio Cup for the past two seasons.
'This deal to join the BTCC with EXCELR8 is absolutely mega and something that I've dreamt of for a few years now,' said an enthusiastic Osborne.
'I feel my time in both the Clios and Minis has prepared me well for the BTCC. My first test in the MG6 is coming up soon, and I have heard a lot of things about the way British Touring Cars drive compared to the feeder classes.'
'We are delighted to confirm that Sam will join us for our first season in the BTCC, and as a team we're now raring to get going with both our drivers confirmed,' added Shepherd.
'Sam is a known quantity to us, and he showed great potential during his first spell with us in the Mini Challenge. With our pre-season testing programme due to get underway soon, we're all very excited for the season ahead.
'The cars may be six years old but have proven competitive, especially on the quicker tracks due to their long wheel base.
'With our engine cooling improvements and our knowledge of front wheel drive we hope to make the cars stronger on the shorter layouts with the aim of consistently finishing in the points.'