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Harvey previews BTCC season

Tim Harvey
26 Mar 2009

Touring Car ace Tim Harvey looks at the 2009 BTCC runners and riders

This year promises to boast another classic season of cut and thrust BTCC action. Along the way reputations will be made or questioned, new stars will emerge to challenge the establishment, rules will be argued and hopefully a few personal rivalries created. Without those oil burning turbo SEATs, I predict more race winners than ever and a championship that will go down to the wire. Here though are my (light hearted) thoughts on some of the runners and riders for 2009 and their championship odds…

FABRIZIO GIOVANARDI/VX RACING/VAUXHALL VECTRA Smooth Italian operator – likes his racing like his Italian women, fiery and hot! Has to start as favourite to retain his title for third straight year.  Odds – 2-1 on

COLIN TURKINGTON/TEAM RAC/BMW 320si Fabulous race driver and great qualifier, but too nice for his own good! Odds – 6-2

JONNY ADAM/AIRWAVES/BMW 320si Double SEAT Cupra champion will rock the establishment in his first year. There’s Irn Bru in his veins but you can actually understand what he says! Odds – 4-1

MATT NEAL/VX RACING/VAUXHALL VECTRA Used to be the Max Power favourite, now the Loose Women idol! Needs to show that marriage and four kids have not slowed him down. Odds – 4-1

GORDON SHEDDON/TEAM DYNAMICS/HONDA CIVIC The Jenson Button of the BTCC field? Saved from oblivion at the last minute, drives a revised Honda, takes a pay cut, and emerges stronger than ever! Don’t bet against him... Odds – 5-1

ANDREW JORDAN/VX RACING/VAUXHALL VECTRA Outrageous car control and fierce determination. Will not be overawed by his illustrious team mates and will win races. Better looking than Tom Chilton so expect some cat fights between these two. Odds – 11-2

ROB COLLARD/AIRWAVES/BMW 320si Tears down buildings with his bare hands and nicknamed ‘The Human Wrecking Ball’. That tells you everything you need to know about Rob. Should be back to winning ways this year if he can stay out of trouble. Odds – 6-1

ADAM JONES/CARTRIDGE WORLD/SEAT LEON Could race a wheelbarrow and do well. A real fighter on the track, I love to watch him race. Odds – 6-1

DAN EAVES/CARTRIDGE WORLD/SEAT LEON Former Team Dynamics race winner returns, hopefully hungrier than before and eager to stick one on his old team, who dumped him! Odds – 6-1

STEPHEN JELLEY/TEAM RAC/BMW 320si My favourite jelly is Strawberry, sadly Stephen is more like orange, very middle of the road! He showed serious pace at the end of last year but is still learning to race a Touring Car. Odds – 13-2

DAVID PINKNEY/TEAM DYNAMICS/HONDA CIVIC The oldest swinger in town! 57-year-old Pinkney returns with a first rate team and car. Will be looking for an oxygen tent between races but will be the most popular race winner if he can pull it off. Odds – 8-1

PAUL O’NEILL/TECH-SPEED MOTORSPORT/HONDA INTEGRA Has the best looking girlfriend in the paddock so gets my vote! Welcome back lad, stay off the partying and go get ‘em… Odds – 10-1

TOM CHILTON/TEAM AON/FORD FOCUS ST If Tom could tear himself away from the mirror or watching cartoons on telly he could be a real contender. In his own mind he is Roary the Race Car, sadly he often drives like the tow truck! Odds – 10-1

MARTYN BELL/TECH-SPEED MOTORSPORT/HONDA INTEGRA Top Northern fat bloke, we have so much in common it’s frightening! Guaranteed to be having more fun than anyone else in the pitlane, may get a shock result, like top six. Odds – 50-1

THE REST... The best thing about Harry Vaulkhard, Jason Hughes, Liam McMillan, John George and Martin Johnson is that I can’t think of anything rude to say about them. The BTCC would be a far worse place without you guys so good luck to you all. Odds – 100-1

Ok, that’s enough of the jockeys, so let’s take a look at the form guide for the nags!

VAUXHALL VECTRA A genuinely ugly car cleverly disguised with a cool paint job. Could anyone really say they aspire to own a Vectra? A shame really, because Triple Eight have done a fantastic job with this car. Strong, reliable and good in all conditions, the perfect foil for Giovanardi’s talents.

BMW 320si Having tested the Motorbase car in October, I know how good this car is and how easy it is to drive. Perfect for customer teams, it does what it says on the tin! There should be a decent battle between Beemer drivers this this year involving Turkington and Adam.

HONDA CIVIC On its day a great car but quite sensitive to different tracks and set-ups. Honda engine is strong but this is a car which demands a lot from the driver.

FORD FOCUS ST The best looking car. Please Ford, can I have an RS? This is a first class team but developing a new car is not easy. Needs a breakthrough in performance, but how soon will it come? It will be very interesting to see.

CHEVROLET LACETTI These are last year’s RML run race winning World Touring Car Championship cars, so no excuses here. Very expensive to run with parts and engines costing a fortune but assuming no fiscal problems, these cars are winners.

SEAT LEON The old petrol engine Leons are not bad cars as Adam Jones proved last year, however they are no comparison to the now departed turbo diesels. Could spring a surprise on the tight tracks, however...

HONDA INTEGRA Like a comfy pair of old slippers, this workhorse of a BTCC car is still a good solid independents’ car. Strong as well which is good for John George!

MG ZS Talk about flogging a dead horse, poor Jason Hughes! This one is too old for the stud farm, too ugly to eat, so best off making glue or whatever...

That’s your roundup, then, so let battle commence on Sunday. You can watch it all unfold live on ITV4, with all three races at Brands Hatch on the channel from 11.45am to 6pm. There’ll be highlights on terrestrial TV (ITV1) on Monday night.

Win tickets for the second round at Thruxton on 26 April in our online comp.

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