Author: Russell Hogg

BTCC Rounds 4, 5 and 6 – Donington Park

Anybody hanging around the pits of Team HARD may have heard one or two of their drivers comment as to how Donington will be the real early season tester for all the new cars on grid, and how they themselves actually relish competing on this circuit. Of course, it wasn’t long ago, just a few weeks in fact, when the season launch, or Media Day, was held at Donington and despite it being an opportunity for dry track testing, it was treated partly as a scouting mission to see what the rivals had developed ‘under the hood’ over the colder months.

Team HARD themselves have always said that they have always had a soft spot for the Passat CC cars they were reunited with for this season, and with drivers; Hill, Epps and Burns they’ve surely got a cracking opportunity to show what they can do this coming weekend for Rounds 4-6 at one of their favourite tracks. Mike Epps in particular had a superb first round and having spoken to a lot of the drivers on the grid on Media Day amongst the kerfuffle of media, sponsors and fans, Mike Epps came across as (by far) one the most down to earth and composed.

Then, there’s young Aiden Moffat of course. Aiden’s youth and exhilarance is infectious and despite being so young, at 20, he has more BTCC track time than a fair few of the other drivers lining up with him this weekend. His beautiful (and now repaired, since Round 1) Mercedes certainly also impressed at Donington during the test sessions on Media Day. Aiden’s strength then seemed to be his positioning into the corners and his faster exits but even since Media Day, his highly focused team (Laser Tools Racing) will have made further improvements to the car for the data logging in testing and during Rounds 1-3.

MG/Triple 8 Racing will be looking to prove a point at Donington. Early issues with cars seem to less of a problem now and Aron Taylor Smith was just a stones through from top 10 Round 1 finish at Brands Hatch. Drivers from all teams won’t forget that the last seasons title wasn’t even decided until the very last corner of the very last race (at Brands Hatch) so MG will literally be fighting for every single point, along with all others in Round 4-6.

The weather forecast at the moment looks like probable dry weather for race day itself and perhaps a little rain for testing and qualifying meaning cars on track for the big day will need to be set up slightly differently between the 2 days.

Photograph courtesy of Ian Cutting Photography.

BTCC Round 1 Pre-Race warm up: Team Hard Scalextric Dual!

Team HARD’s Jake Hill and Michael Epps dropped by the official Scalextric tent at Brands Hatch on the opening weekend of the 2017 British Touring Car season for a little unofficial practice time.

Anybody knowing the 2 lads, let alone the competitiveness of Team HARD as a whole, could probably anticipate was what going to happen when both BTCC drivers were handed a Scalextric hand controller each before the big BTCC racing itself on the larger track took place.

You could almost sense the adrenalin and testosterone as both drivers stepped up. Perhaps it was because both drivers normally work as part of a close knit team, and here they were, pitted, side by side in what was, after all, a ‘friendly’ challenge.

Jake Hill looked nervous possibly surprised with himself as he successfully ‘drifted’ one or two corners. Mike Epps kept his normal ice cold composure. Both drivers were of course driving officially licenced RCIB Insurance Racing branded cars so neither could argue a competitive advantage over the other.

The outcome of the race? We’ll let you see the ‘small track skills’ of Jake and Mike yourself so you can make up your own minds…Official Scalextric Video.

BTCC 2017 is Coming!

It seems like an age since the end of last year’s British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), but at the time of writing this, the start of the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is just days away. And nature is almost perfectly timed, for once, as the weather even seems to have suddenly made the jump from Winter to Spring, just in time for the opening weekend at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, in Kent.

Last season, rather ironically, the Championship was decided in the very last race, also at Brands Hatch. As that final race commenced, a theoretical number of 8 drivers could have walked away with that season’s crown. In the end, it was 2015 Championship winner, Gordon Sheddon who again claimed the crown. Word on the street for this season, even before a wheel has been turned in anger, is that we could be in for an even closer season finale than ever before.

Of all the drivers and/or cars that RCIB Insurance Racing are sponsoring in 2017, all eyes will surely be on young Aiden Moffat as again returns to the series to show his fearless skills in his Laser Tools Racing Mercedes. At just 20 years old, Aiden is again one of the youngest drivers on the grid and he still retains the title of the youngest ever driver to have started in BTCC (at age 16). During testing, Aiden’s track skills looked no less sharp than drivers nearly twice his age and he won’t suffer fools gladly; his competitive nature is immediately obvious when you speak to him, or his proud father.

The MG RCIB Insurance Racing team is this year made up from the experience of the highly likeable Árón Taylor-Smith and 24 year old Daniel Lloyd who first graced BTCC’s hallowed tarmac in 2010. The Tripe Eight Racing managed MG 6 GT’s have had slight issues in testing but issues seem to have been sorted in readiness to the season opener and the partnership of the two drivers will surely be one that will be scrutinised all season by race fans and rivals.

The 3rd team involvement is with the flamboyant Team HARD who are putting 3 cars on track this season. In a clever move, each of the VW CC cars is slightly different in its colouring, enabling the three drivers to be easily recognised from the stands. The 3 drivers for this year are Michael Epps, Will Burns, and Jake Hill who each bring experience from a range of track disciplines including the GT4 Championship Series. The VW Passat CC derived cars are highly respected and gives Team HARD a new exciting edge for this season.

No matter who ultimately wins in 2017, we’re fairly sure it’s going to be a season of thrills and spills. We can’t wait.

BTCC 2017 Media Day

BTCC 2017 Media Day

Our small, but ever-faithful social media team made the trip North to the Donington Park race track on the edge of Derbyshire this week for the BTCC 2017 Media Day. Despite having had quite a lot of rain across the U.K for the last couple of weeks, race teams, and our social media team alike, seemed quite relieved to see the forecast reporting cloudy, but dry conditions ahead.

Whilst BTCC cars race in all but the worst of conditions anyway, and whilst this wasn’t a race event as such (it was the official unveiling of the cars, and their drivers in latest 2017 livery), most teams had only so far experienced testing of the re-worked 2017 cars in wet conditions. They were in desperate need for the data from the cars in dry conditions so they could make better informed decisions for setting up the cars in the warmer, and hopefully drier months ahead.

For those who have never attended a Media Day event before, the day basically consists of invited journalists, ‘social media teams’ and other special guests of being shown the freshly decaled cars, along with their selected drivers in their new overalls. The visitors are also able to take some up-close pictures, sit in on media interviews and visit team garages. The drivers were under no competitive pressure on the day and so are encouraged to engage with team sponsors and the ‘journos’ present, before the doors open to the general public at lunch time and the teams get to test the cars, on what was to be a nice dry track.

For many, ourselves included, it was really interesting to watch the drivers up close. We were fortunate enough to share lunch with Aiden Moffat (Laser Tools Racing) and his father in one of the corporate boxes over looking the end of the pit lane straight. As occasional track day drivers ourselves, we recall the feeling that often occurs in the gut before hitting the track. You can’t describe it exactly, but we’re sure many of you reading this will know what we mean…a sort of butterflies crossed with bloated feeling. Watching Aiden so calm, and munching his way through a (highly delicious) buffet lunch as he watched some of his season rivals below take to the track in their cars, one could be mistaken for thinking Aiden was just on a day out like ourselves.

An hour or so later after a couple of red flags, Aiden was to get out. Laser Tools Racing explained to us that typically, drivers would do a couple of laps in their car before returning to the pits to have the warmer front tyres swapped with the cooler rears. Anyway, regardless of the lunch, Aiden proved that he was as calm and calculated on track as he was in person as he notched lap after lap of very impressive times. His freshly prepared Mercedes looked absolutely superb and gripped corners like it was on rails.

But we weren’t just there to watch young Aiden. We also went and paid a visit to the Triple Eight garage who manage MC RCIB Insurance Racing as well as Team HARD, who run the 3 RCIB Insurance Racing / Autoaid Breakdown Passat CC’s. Triple Eight were kind (and trusting!) enough to let us wander around their immaculate garage. This is something that really stood out. Despite a dozen or so technicians, data analysers and mechanics etc in each team garage, you wouldn’t find a single tool out of place. No piles of removed packaging from fresh parts, and nobody bumping into one another. Well, apart from our social media team getting in the way…

Team HARD stood out. They too had an immaculate garage too, but that isn’t why they stood out. It had more to do with the bright pink bobble hats the team were wearing. Whilst this may have been amusing to onlookers at first, it was Team HARD who had the last laugh as whilst dry, the day transpired to be very cold out in the pits. They’d certainly checked the weather forecast.

Once the public were allowed in, you could sense the drivers increased awareness of the competition, and by the end of testing, a few of the teams were really gunning for not just discovering their own car’s new capabilities, but also the vulnerabilities of their rivals, giving quite a thrilling viewing experience for guys like us, watching on from the side lines. There were one or two ‘casualties’ of course, possibly over-exuberance or perhaps new drivers driving new cars in their first semi-competitive outing.

The next time we’ll see the teams again will be at the first race of the season a couple of hundred miles further south at Brands Hatch on 1-2 April. Next time, we’re bringing bobble hats too.

BTCC Racer Scott switches to British Rallycross for 2017

Team BMR owner and driver Warren Scott has announced he is to switch to the 2017 Toyo Tires British Rallycross Championship driving an LD Motorsports prepared Citroen DS3 sponsored by RCiB Insurance.

Scott, who will continue in his role of Team Principal within his Subaru British Touring Car Championship team this season while also taking part in BRX, will drive the car used by Dan Rooke on the way to his title win last year.

And former British Superbike rider Scott can’t wait for his new challenge. He said: “I have already had a test day with Liam (Doran) and his team. The Citroen was unbelievable and I felt at home in the car and with the team straight away. 

“I am really looking forward to this new personal challenge and to be working with LD Motorsports who won the British Supercar Rallycross title in 2016.”

He added about his roles in 2017: “I will be competing in the British Rallycross Championship. I will however remain 100% hands on as Team Principal and am fully committed to Team BMR and Subaru in the BTCC and look forward to the championship fight in 2017.”

Scott’s first competitive action in the 2017 Toyo Tires British Rallycross Championship will be at Croft Circuit on March 19.

Autoaid livery on BTCC cars

Article originally posted by Team HARD in September, 2016, on their own website marking announcement of a renewed partnership programme:
We are very proud to announce an extension to our sponsorship programme with Right Choice Insurance Brokers from this weekend at Silverstone which will see a change to the livery on our BTCC cars.
The AutoAid Breakdown livery will now take pride of place on our cars for the remainder of this season as we look forward to 2017 and beyond.
AutoAid is exceptional value all-inclusive breakdown recovery insurance. It is the unique membership based breakdown cover that covers the member for any vehicle they drive for one fixed price. To find out more please visit the website to find out more.
Anyone that signs up for AutoAid membership will automatically be entered in to our prize draw to win one of the following prizes- (draw to take place 31st October 2016)
  • 1st Driving laps in one of our VWR Cup cars
  • 2nd Hot Laps in one of our VWR Cup Cars
  • 3rd VIP hospitality to a BTCC round of your choice in 2017
  • 4th VIP hospitality to a British GT round of your choice 2017
  • 5th Signed merchandise from all of our BTCC and GT drivers
Look out for more competitions and exciting opportunities from AutoAid.
Mike Joseph Managing Director of RCIB Insurance said “following our acquisition of AutoAid Breakdown, we see the BTCC as a great window to promote this fantastic brand, following on from the success of the RCIB Insurance branded trio of team hard Toyota’s”
AutoAid is the unique membership based breakdown cover that covers the member for any vehicle they drive for one fixed price.

Michael Epps returns for 2017

Following an impressive maiden season this year, Michael Epps will return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship grid in 2017 after signing a deal with Team HARD to compete in a Volkswagen CC.

Epps has continued his partnership with Team HARD into a third year following seasons together in the Volkswagen Racing Cup and then the BTCC, with the Hemel Hempstead racer producing a hugely promising first campaign in the UK’s premier racing championship.

Breaking into the top ten for the first time in only his third meeting in the series at Thruxton, Epps would go on to secure no less than seven outright points finishes across the season and a top ten finish in the Independents Trophy standings.

On top of that, Epps would also be a leading light in the Jack Sears Trophy for rookie drivers, stepping onto the BTCC podium at both Snetterton and Silverstone as the class winner; results that helped him take the class title battle down to the season finale.

After racing the ageing Toyota Avensis this year, Epps will get new machinery for 2017 in the shape of one of Team HARD’s newly-acquired Volkswagen CC’s, a model which has been a multiple race-winner in the series in recent seasons.
With the 2017 Swindon engine and the RML specification running parts, the Team HARD CC has the potential to be a very competitive package next season, with Epps setting his sights on more points results and podium finishes in his second BTCC campaign.

Alongside his racing, Epps will also be providing some exciting opportunities for sponsors and fans throughout 2017, with plans in place to run track experiences in both the touring car and VW Cup racers, as well as simulator events at Simply Race in Milton Keynes.

The 24 year old’s return to the pinnacle of UK motorsport comes thanks to the support of Team Hard, continued partners Anytime Fitness and Simply Race, and other backers that are to be announced in the near future.
Michael Epps: “You know, I was a little concerned about being a one season wonder in the BTCC, especially being such a tough season, but I’m glad I was able to make an impression and create a 2017 campaign out of it.”

“Tony (Gilham) has essentially opened the door for me to race in a championship I once never really considered as a possibility. Now we are set for year number two and I think we have a good chance to make a real impact.”

“As anyone would expect, with a small budget and a team that aren’t as experienced in my rookie season, there have been many challenges and I’m expecting there to be plenty more ahead too. The ingredients are there though; with the new cars and more people on-board I think we should be properly in the mix this time. We definitely outdid our equipment this year.”

“The deal is the right one for us at the end of the day. The team are passionate, they’re loud, and they want success. I have a great relationship with them and I think we’ve got what it takes, this will be the first time I’ve done a second season in any championship too.”

Tony Gilham (Team HARD principal): “We are very proud to have been able to put a package together to retain Mike for 2017. It is important for us to try to keep as much consistency with the team as possible and we have a great foundation on which to build on. He had a great season and we believe that next year will be very interesting to see how far up the grid Mike can get. His pace was outstanding last year and got nowhere near enough credit for his consistent front running lap times each weekend.

This article was originally posted on Team HARD’s website.

British GT, Team HARD 2nd car entry

Following a very successful debut British GT campaign culminating in the team championship, Team HARD Racing are very proud to announce the second of their pairings of Michael Caine and Mike Newbould.

We feel it is another strong partnership that we have managed to put together as we defend our title and look to compete for the pro/am title too in 2017.

Michael is a very successful racing driver having previously raced in the British GT between 2001 and 2007 before moving on to compete in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB where he finished as runner up twice. Michael was to become the British GT Champion in 2012 and will now return to the Championship in the GT4 category at the wheel of a brand new Ginetta G55 built to the latest specification.

Michael added “After the 2016 went pear shaped, I’m really looking forward to competing in a championship again. Last year was the first time in 26 years of racing that I didn’t have a championship to compete in and then the guys at team hard gave me an opportunity in British Touring Cars that unfortunately didn’t really get started. I think we have a good chance this season and GT4 looks like it’s the future. Mrs Caine is also very happy as it gets me out the house and she has also been told that the end of year bash is in Paris!”

Michael is no stranger to the team having raced alongside us in the Carrera Cup GB as well as competing in the British Touring Car Championship for us in 2016 before an unfortunate injury curtailed his season early.

Tony Gilham said “It is great to have secured the services of Michael for the coming season as he brings so much to the table both on and off track. He is a seasoned professional and can only add strength to the team as a whole. We are very excited to see how he develops his relationship with Mike throughout the season and feel that there is a genuine possibility of the pro/am title. Mike hasn’t had much seat time so far but with such an experienced partner to learn from we look forward to seeing how he progresses”

Mike joins the team for 2017 after recently sampling one of our BTCC car’s from 2016 and having competed in the Ginetta Supercup last season as well as some seat time in a prototype car. Mike is a very capable driver and will look to work with Michael to further develop his ability as a racer and build on his relative inexperience.

Mike added “I am incredibly excited to be part of Team HARDs British GT campaign for 2017. I can’t thank Tony enough for putting this together, the opportunity to race along side Michael is fantastic for a new driver. I am really looking forward to drawing on Michaels skill and experience to help me develop as a racer in what is going to be a busy and exciting year ahead in British GT.

The new cars are currently in build at the Ginetta factory and we look forward to collecting them in the coming weeks to begin our test programme ahead of what we hope to be a very successful second year in British GT.

Thanks to Team HARD for writing this article, which was originally posted on their own website.

MG RCIB Insurance Racing 2017 BTCC line Up

MG RCIB Insurance Racing
MG RCIB Insurance Racing is pleased to announce their driver line up to compete in the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).
Last year, MG focused on using young, developing driver talent and creating new household names.In 2017 MG Motor will continue the strategy to combine exciting young talent with more experienced drivers. The line-up for the new season will be Aron Taylor-Smith and Daniel Lloyd in the MG RCIB Insurance Racing team.
Aron Taylor-Smith brings an almost unique blend of youth and experience to the new line up.  A multiple race winner over the past few years, despite being only just 27 years old, he has already competed in over 150 BTCC races. What Aron hasn’t done in his career so far is to represent a manufacturer backed team but by joining MG he has achieved this. A part of the 2016 debutant team BKR in 2016, Aron scored a race win at Rockingham Motor Speedway along with a number of other podium appearances.

Aron said “It’s a real shame in one way to leave BKR who did such an amazing job last year in their first season, but now I am fully focussed on the 2017 season and excited to ensure I deliver the results that MG not only deserve but are capable of. I am pleased that many of my key team members who made 2016 so enjoyable are coming with me to MG / Triple Eight allowing us all to enjoy further success.”

Photo credit:

24 year old Yorkshire man Daniel Lloyd joins MG RCIB Racing having had just a taster of the BTCC over previous years and is looking to have a major impact in this year’s campaign.
Daniel is no stranger to the BTCC paddock having starred in many of the support series
over previous years. He may be best known to MG fans for his guest appearances with Eurotech Racing in 2016, where his natural speed shone as he delivered two front row qualifying performances in three appearances.

The Triple Eight team are excited to work with Daniel and aid his development to ensure that his undoubted pace can be made to deliver consistent point scoring finishes for MG RCIB Insurance Racing and he will be going all out to score his first BTCC Pole Position, podium finishes and wins in the MG6 in 2017.

Daniel said “I’m really excited. The majority of my racing has been rear wheel drive so really looking forward to continuing to learn in the front wheel drive car. I loved the BTCC last year during the three rounds I competed in; I was very keen to make a full return and am delighted to have got the opportunity with MG RCIB Insurance Racing.

“I made my BTCC debut as a one off with Triple Eight way back in 2010 when I was obviously very young at Croft; it will be great to be back within the team. I also get on really well with Aron; obviously Aron is very quick so I think we can bounce off each other.”

Triple Eight boss Ian Harrison, the man charged with putting together the driver line up for the team is pleased that the hard work put in over the winter has culminated in a team that he thinks can be extremely competitive and has set the drivers targets to deliver more wins, more podiums and an overall improvement in results over the previous campaign.

Ian said “I’m happy that these guys will deliver some solid results for the team. Aron is a proven race winner, and we know Daniel has the speed. With more BTCC race experience under his belt, he will be running at the front. The championship looks wide open this year with plenty of other changes in the line-up, and we expect to be right in the mix.

MG Motor Head of Sales & Marketing Matthew Cheyne is pleased to reveal the 2017 driver line up and said “First and foremost I am delighted to welcome Aron and Daniel both to the MG RCIB Insurance Racing team and into the wider MG family. As all of our previous drivers have experienced, wearing the octagon on the front of your overalls gives you immediate support from a whole new fan base and we in turn look forward to welcoming those who have historically supported Aron and Daniel into the fold.

“The BTCC is obviously a hugely important part of MG UK’s marketing mix not just in terms of the huge television and trackside audiences but through the additional activations that we bring into our dealer network and events work.

“Triple Eight are really excited by the pace and potential that these two have on the race track but fully understand the importance of the work the drivers do with the brand off it. With everyone so positive and upbeat about the season ahead, we just can’t wait to get going and look forward to the formal unveilings on Media Day at Donington Park on March 16th.

“I should finish by adding a note of thanks to the outgoing driver pairing of Josh Cook and Ashley Sutton. These guys really understood what it meant to represent MG on and off the track and are a real benchmark for Aron and Daniel on what we can deliver through the BTCC programme. We wish them all the best in their future efforts – except in the 2017 BTCC of course!”

Thanks to Triple Eight for writing this article, which was originally posted on their own website.

Another season at Team HARD for Jake Hill

BRDC Rising Star Jake Hill completes Team HARD. Racing 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship line-up

22 year-old Jake Hill will race a Team HARD-entered VW Passat CC in this year’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, the Kent-based racer targeting regular points finishes, and to build on his impressive 2016 campaign.

Hill made a strong impression on fans, media and his fellow competitors, taking his Toyota Avensis into the top ten on seven occasions with a best result of 5th place at Silverstone, last year and is excited at the prospect of putting his first years’ experience to good use.

“It’s fantastic to know I will be back with the team and continuing my journey with them. I am hugely grateful to Tony (Gilham) RCIB Insurance, AutoAid Breakdown and TAG Industries for working to get me back on board for this season, and equally have some incredible support from Sportif Motor Group, Brisky Racing and our new partners Rolec Electrical Contractors.

Last season I learned a huge amount and felt we made some strong progress. We worked really well as a team, and it’s really significant having continuity with the crew and the partners. It’s great to be racing the Passat CC, with the latest RML equipment as I think it will be strong at lots of circuits The aim is to get points regularly, try and qualify well and be in the mix at every event. We are all hugely ambitious, and both Mike (Epps) and Will (Burns) will be quick and I’m sure we will all push each other hard all season”

Team principle Tony Gilham is excited about retaining Hill for 2017 “Jake was really strong last year and got the absolute maximum from the car. The team worked really well with him and with the new cars I’m confident all three of our drivers will be in the mix. All of our partners are delighted to have Jake back to continue the progress with us”

Hill hopes to be testing the revitalised Passat soon and has his focus on arriving at the Season Launch in Donington Park on March 16th in the best possible shape for 2017.

“I am working hard to make sure I am ready, and we aim to get to Donington next Month in great shape and hopefully competitive from the outset. It’s going to be really tough and unpredictable but this year I have 30 races under my belt and that counts for a lot. It’s my birthday next month but I feel I have got a pretty special early present! Can’t wait!”

Look out for some new and exciting initiatives to come from Jake and Team HARD. throughout the season including the opportunity to drive the NGTC Toyota Avensis as driven by Jake in the 2016 BTCC Championship in full race trim.

Thanks to Team HARD for writing this article, which was originally posted on their own website.