Team BMW launch the defence of their British Touring Car Championship titles with a brand-new car that is sure to be a fans’ favourite at a packed Brands Hatch this weekend.
Debuting the BMW 330i M Sport are reigning Drivers’ Champion Colin Turkington and new team-mate Tom Oliphant, who make up a formidable duo at the WSR-run team.
Colin, from Northern Ireland, gives WSR the opportunity to run the coveted #1 on their car for the first time in the BTCC.
The Portadown driver could make history this year with a record-equalling fourth title, but is well aware of the intense level of competition he needs to overcome to achieve this.
Brands Hatch holds happy memories for Colin as he claimed his first BTCC career win there with WSR on the Indy circuit in 2003, as well as securing each of his three crowns on the longer ‘Grand Prix’ loop in 2009, ’14 and ’18.
Leamington Spa-based Tom joins Team BMW after a promising debut year in the BTCC in 2018 in which he qualified inside the top 10 at just his second event – a feat repeated five times – and set the fastest lap at the season finale.
The 2015 Ginetta GT4 Supercup Champion’s return to rear-wheel-drive race machinery promises to be a strong one as he prepares for his first outing in the 330i M Sport.
WSR have an excellent record on the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy Circuit. They have scored 12 wins – including an opening-day triumph in 2012 on the most recent appearance of the BMW 3 Series in the BTCC – and finished on the podium 37 times in 19 seasons.
Among several key rule changes for 2019 are the introduction of a new Dunlop control wet tyre and a reduction in the maximum success ballast applied from 75kg to 54.
The Brands Hatch triple-header on April 6-7 is the first of 10 events in the BTCC, which takes in eight circuits the length and breadth of the country. Each race will be screened live and exclusively on ITV4 in HD.
Colin Turkington said: “This is the first time I’ve been able to continue with WSR after a title-winning season and I’m thrilled we can do this in a new car for Team BMW. I’ve been working closely with the engineering team and we’re doing everything we can to fast-track our understanding of the 330i M Sport. The grid looks as strong as ever and I’m prepared to battle hard for points. It won’t be easy to retain my title, but ultimately that’s the target and I’m incredibly motivated to bring something new to my game in 2019. The greatest show in town is about to get going and I couldn’t be happier to be involved.”
Tom Oliphant said: “This time last year I was getting ready for my BTCC debut. Now, 12 months on, I’m lining up for the champion team in a car – the BMW 3 Series – that has achieved unrivalled success in touring car racing over the past 30 years. That feels pretty awesome, but I know that now is when the hard work really starts. My aim is to win races and I have a fantastic team around me to learn from and help make myself the best driver I can be. I’m confident that once we learn how to maximise the potential of this brand-new car, that we can be strong everywhere.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “It’s exciting to be at the start of a new era for Team BMW and WSR with the 330i M Sport. We won our first overall BTCC crown with the 3 Series and Colin Turkington in 2009 so it feels quite fitting that, 10 years later, we are the ones to bring the model back into the series at a time when Colin is aiming to equal the all-time record of four titles. Brands Hatch Indy has always been a circuit where we’ve been able to maximise the BMW and its rear-wheel-drive platform to great effect and we’ve had many wins and podiums here. This weekend will be the biggest challenge we’ve faced for many years. We’re very early into the development process and only had two days of testing, but we’ve been in this position before, have a tremendous team behind us, including two quality drivers in Colin and Tom, and we’re relishing the challenge.”