Gilham returns with BMW, Caine and Swanwick to make BTCC debutsPosted: September 15, 2011
A raft of new drivers will make their BTCC debuts during selected final rounds of this year’s championship, while Tony Gilham will return to the series after securing a new deal to drive a BMW with Geoff Steel Racing.
Gilham, who drove a Vauxhall Vectra for Triple Eight Racing in the first six rounds of the season, was forced to leave the series prior to the last event at Knockhill due to sponsorship and budget difficulties.
He has now already put together a new deal to return to the series after completing an agreement with Geoff Steel Racing to drive a BMW 320si for the rest of the season. “I’m delighted I’m coming back,” Gilham told Touringcartimes.
“Once you’ve done the BTCC you don’t want to do anything else really. I’m just opening my own garage under the Tony Gilham brand in Kent and that has led to some great new sponsors who want to build their image as well – the BTCC is the right place to do that”.
Geoff Steel Racing had also been looking for a return to the British Touring Car Championship since their main driver Dave Newsham, who scored points with them in their BMW during the first two rounds of the season, left the team to move to Special Tuning Racing to drive a SEAT Leon alongside Tom Boardman.
The car that Gilham will drive will switch from being a normally-aspirated car for Rockingham, to an NGTC-specification-engined version that the team are planning for the final rounds at Brands Hatch and Silverstone in preparation for a 2012 assault.
Caine gets his chance, Clio youngster in at Rob Austin Racing –
Elsewhere, Motorbase will expand to three cars for the next round at Rockingham, with former Porsche Carrera Cup GB frontrunner Michael Caine making his debut in the series driving a third entry for the team to aid Mat Jackson’s title bid.
Sportscar ace Caine finished second in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB in both 2008 and 2010 to Tim Harvey, but has endured a tough year in the series with a best race result of two fourth place finishes at Oulton Park, and is already out of contention for the championship after recently handing his car over to Pro-am2 class team-mate Steve Parish at Knockhill last time out after the latter crashed heavily.
The Motorbase team had bought all three of Team AON’s Ford Focus STs available from last season and had hoped to field the trio of cars for the full season, preferbly with Tom Onslow-Cole – hotly tipped after being somewhat ousted by Arena during pre-season – behind the wheel of the third. That deal fell through however, and the team have since been left with a third car on the sidelines all season.
Caine will now fill the void, and is delighted by the generosity of Airwaves to give him a chance that he has said he never thought would happen.
Meanwhile Rob Austin will finally have a team-mate after Rockingham as his team will run a second NGTC-specification Audi A4 for Chris Swanwick, the 17 year-old also making his Touring Car debut after racing in Ginetta Juniors last year and competitively in the Clio Cup this season.
With a second Audi now fully prepared, Swanwick has now been handed the drive in the second A4 for the rest of the season having been signed as Rob Austin Racing’s development driver in July.
Finally, Triple Eight Racing will run only one Vectra this weekend with James Nash hoping to close further on Jackson’s Independents points lead and third in the overall standings, while Knockhill driver Aron Smith will continue in the supporting Clio Cup which he is currently second in the standings of what has been a thrilling season in the one-make championship.