Touring cars excitement builds at Brands Hatch

News Shopper: Fabrizio Giovanardi and Alain Menu are returning to the BTCC Fabrizio Giovanardi and Alain Menu are returning to the BTCC

The British Touring Car Championship season gets underway at Brands Hatch later this month with an unprecedented seven former champions on the grid set to make this a year to remember.

The return of BTCC legends Alain Menu and Fabrizio Giovanardi, both double champions, has heightened anticipation to fever pitch.

And Brands Hatch is certain to be buzzing on March 29 and 30 with crowds are expected to boom for Britain’s biggest car racing series in 2014.

“This is exciting,” confirmed Menu, who has signed to drive a VW Passat for Team BMR after several years racing in the world touring car championship.

“The best times of my career have been in the BTCC and it's going to be nice to see many people I've not seen for many years.

“I'm well aware that it will be different with a new team and new cars, but I've been watching the races, have spoken to a lot of people about it and the championship is really picking up at the moment.

“With lots of competitors, spectators and live TV, there are many reasons to be here."

Giovanardi will race a Ford Focus for Wrotham’s Airwaves Racing.

He said: “I'm really looking forward to starting again, to go bumper to bumper with the other guys.

“It's always different, always tough.”

The pair will face BTCC regulars Matt Neal, Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden, Colin Turkington and reigning champion Andrew Jordan for the first time at the Kent circuit, where Jordan secured his first title last October.

“It was tense last time we were here but I'm looking forward to it,” said Jordan.

“We're excited.

“It's been a busy winter.

“I had a week's holiday after and then it was straight back to it really, so I'm hungry to do it again.

“I've been doing lots of training, trying to improve myself for this year.

“It looks to be very competitive this year, that’s why I’ve been working hard to make sure we've done all we can.”

He added: “It’s going to be competitive, but it doesn't really make a difference to our approach.

“The number of champions doesn’t make a difference to us, we want to win and beat whoever is there.

“The championship has got a real buzz about it and I’m really proud to be part of it.

“I’m equally as obsessed with winning it as I was at the start of last year, so my approach won’t change.

“It will be to win races, be consistent and see where that puts us towards the end.”

While Jordan will be racing the proven Civic, the works Honda team are switching to the Tourer model, the first estate car in the BTCC since the Volvo 850 20 years ago.

Triple champion Matt Neal has been working hard with team-mate and 2012 champion Gordon Shedden over the winter to ready his new challenger.

Neal said: “It’s very different.

“It’s still early days yet with the Tourer, we thought it would be similar with the same wheelbase, and we have a different engine this year to work with.

“Team Dynamics’ previous three cars; the Integra, the older S2000 Civic and the NGTC Civic have all won on the first race weekends of the season, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge.”

Meanwhile, both double champion Jason Plato and 2009 title winner Colin Turkington are hot favourites for honours this year after impressing last year.

Turkington returned after a sabbatical from the BTCC with a new car, the BMW 1-Series.

He said: “Last season was a real transitional period for me, but hopefully it has made me a better driver and I am confident I can go even better with the eBay Motors team this season.”

The drivers will compete in three races and will take part in a free pitwalk and autograph session on the Sunday.

A packed support bill includes the Renault Clio Cup UK, Ginetta GT Supercup, Ginetta Juniors, Porsche Carrera Cup GB and the Formula Ford UK Championship.

Family entertainment includes a fun fair and free children’s adventure playground.

Tickets for the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch are available from £26, with free entry for children aged 12 and under.

For more information, visit brandshatch.co.uk or call 0843 453 9000

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