With the drivers market and the random draw complete, we now finally get chance to look at the drivers and teams that will be taking part in season 2 of the British Touring Car Championship. With the injection of the newcomers to the series and the shuffling of some big names from season 1 it's looking to be a very hard-fought contest.
Season 1 Champion Dennis Melchert departs the championship with his season-long rival Dave Waldoch as they both pursue commitments elsewhere, meaning that Matt Draycott - Season 1 Mediocre Cup for Independents Champion - is the highest placed driver coming into Season 2, but he will not be defending his crown, deciding to join up with Josh Rayfield for a team effort this time round.
Reigning Teams Champions MightJustFit may have lost Dave Waldoch, but they have gained Andy Fox - consistent point scorer and race winner from Season 1. Michael Blake remains with the team for a second campaign and hopefully more silverware with his new teammate. On an individual level, Michael is looking to turn his bad Feature Race luck on its head this season.
Ericsson Hit Us retain Rob Lundgren who showed flashes of brilliance in Season 1, most notably his 5th on the grid at Snetterton and he's looking forward to working on his pace and consistency in Season 2, with new teammate Liam Silkstone alongside him. Liam has a lot of experience in touring cars and MX-5s on iRacing and isn't scared of getting his elbows out, so the two are looking to once again challenge for the title.
Nodafone were a very strong team out of the blocks last season with their drivers Tom Jacobs and Jack Werrell taking a win a piece in the opening meeting at Brands Hatch. From there on though, some inconsistencies left them in the mid-table and after Werrell departed due to commentary commitments, Fraser Smith was very promising but just didn't deliver to the level expected. Tom stays with the team for Season 2 and is joined by Season 1 Independent runner-up Steve Burke, whos pace was impressive to say the least at the back end of last season. These pair are definite title contenders.
Dodgy MOT finished 4th in the Teams Championship first time round thanks to the joint efforts of Andy Fox and Niall Crowther. As the former has moved on to MightJustFit, Niall has been joined by his good friend and previous Independent Ben Lambert, who used the first season to really get to grips with the car. The pair are always developing and looking to improve as a team this season.
Team Jane Fonda had a tough start to their season last time out and found themselves bouncing off the bottom of the standings with Team Netcode in hot pursuit, eventually coming out on top. Derek Robb showed massive improvement as the season progressed while Morgan Butler scored good points too - the pair of them securing podium finishes. Robb stays on to be joined by newcomer Ben Williams, while Butler decides to have a pop at the Independents title, using Matt Draycott's championship-winning Arena International Jetta.
The aforementioned Team Netcode have lost their big points scorer Josh Rayfield for Season 2, but hold on to Carl Jacolette, who didn't have many points on the board across the season, but showed good consistency in the last few meetings. Joining Carl for Season 2 is South African Michael Ellett who comes into the eyes of the series with unknown pace - only pre-season testing will show us the proof of what he can bring to the team.
Joining Morgan Butler in the Mediocre Cup for Independents is a trio of newcomers - established iRacer, Streamer and Commentator Paul Smith makes a welcome appearance on the grid in the ex-Steve Burke car, with Calvin Dent - who has been tipped as one to watch for overall honours - taking over Chris Coghlan's Matt Neal replica car. Rockingham's biggest fan Michael Jones fills Ben Lambert's shoes in the D.C. Cook machine, hoping to change the fortunes of what was a backmarker car last season.
One of two new teams on the block, Team Red Ring imitates the 1998 Audi squad with their very distinct silver and red design. Rayfield was incredibly exciting to watch last season but a multitude of incidents meant what was looking like a safe 3rd place was eventually 6th... silver lining though - he gets to wear his favourite number for Season 2! He and Draycott got on very well and formulated a plan before the season had even finished, to get into the same pairing for the next running.
Possibly the most exciting team on the grid for Season 2 is sure to be "Boredeaux" - the two Peugeot 406 replicas of Louis Hancke and Jake Robertson. The latter has appeared in the Chazlington Touring Car Championship but is better known for being an iRacing World Championship Rallycross driver - he's hoping to tame the German machinery and go for the title, so long as his teammate doesn't beat him to it. Hancke isn't initially confident judging from conversations pre-season, but he has the pace to at least score podiums.
Regarding the format, drivers will have a lot more of a fierce fight on their hands - there will be no big reverse grids in the feature races, just a 10-car reverse from the result of Qualifying, for the shorter sprint race. This now means that anyone who has an off or finds themself in trouble in Race 1, will have an even harder time in Race 2, having to work their way through the order and not "getting a good result handed to them thanks to the reverse grid" as one driver described the situation from Season 1.
On top of that, the fact that the points available have been equalled for both races will mean that there's no advantage gained from hoping for good fortune in the reverse grid draw and no point sandbagging in any session with points on offer for the Top 3 in Qualifying. The mixed approach we saw in Season 1 will be thrown out of the window this time round, as drivers will have to go for it 100% of the time!
There's also an extra race meeting this season, so two more chances to go for a maximum 33 points from one event. With the majority of the season being compressed into weekly races as well, drivers won't get as much practice time before the following round, so results could potentially be mixed ever further by that.
Either way, it's bound to be very entertaining, especially with David Addison returning to commentary duties alongside Chaz for a select number of rounds. All of the action will be live on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch as always on Thursday nights. Look out for more announcements in due course!