Speedworks Motorsport has taken the wraps off its 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) challenger, with high hopes that the facelifted Toyota Avensis will help to propel the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit to Independents’ glory in what is widely regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
Speedworks enjoyed its most successful BTCC campaign to-date in 2016, as three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion Tom Ingram stunned with both his and the team’s maiden pole position and race victory in the Brands Hatch curtain-raiser. He added to that with a second triumph at Silverstone and was a consistent podium threat at every circuit on the calendar.
Not only that, but the talented young Bucks ace proved to be the fastest average qualifier in the field – no mean feat in a series uniting some of the very best touring car protagonists on the planet. His results earned him fourth place amongst the 24 high-calibre contenders in the final Independents’ Trophy standings, with Speedworks snaring a best-yet third spot in the Independent Teams’ Trophy classification.
With even loftier ambitions in its sights for 2017, the plucky giant-killing squad has substantially updated its #80 entry, with a primary focus on aerodynamics, cooling and damping, revised bodywork from bumper to boot lid and a distinctive new front grille in a concerted bid to enhance efficiency.
It will be the only facelifted Avensis on the 32-strong grid, and Team Principal Christian Dick can scarcely contain his anticipation as Speedworks revs up towards its seventh season in the immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised, all-action BTCC.
“This is the biggest single overhaul the Avensis has ever had, and we are confident that we have taken significant strides in every respect,” he affirmed. “We decided towards the end of 2016 which direction we wanted to pursue and that gave us a head start on a lot of the groundwork. The boys have put in an immense effort over the winter, and what they have produced is a real testament to the strength-in-depth and design expertise inside this team. The car looks quite different from every angle, and we’re all extremely excited to see how it performs when it hits the track.
“The Avensis still has plenty of untapped potential, and our objective was to keep it fresh by bringing it right up-to-date. We carefully evaluated every aspect and identified quite a few areas in which we could make gains. The BTCC is so tight and intensely competitive that you have to carry on continuously developing because if you stand still, you will go backwards very quickly.
“2016 was by far our best season to-date in the championship, but we are certainly not going to rest on our laurels and we are all eager to take another step forward in 2017. By the time we get to Brands Hatch for the first round, we intend to be every bit as strong if not stronger than we were 12 months ago. As a team, it is imperative that we are absolutely on top of our game throughout. We have to be gunning for the Independents’ crown this year – and if we can do that, there is no reason why we can’t also be in with a shot at the overall title going into the final weekend…”
Ingram will put the redesigned Avensis through its paces for the first time at Portimão in southern Portugal this week as Speedworks aims to make the most of some milder weather. The 23-year-old KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member echoes Dick’s palpable enthusiasm about the team’s prospects for the forthcoming campaign.
“I’ve spent a lot of time up at the Speedworks factory over the winter, closely following the changes to the Avensis, and I cannot tell you how much of a buzz there is about the package we now have underneath us,” he revealed. “On paper, we have improved the car pretty much across the board and if it goes even half as quick as it looks, we will be in good shape. I can’t wait to get out there!”