New marque for new season.
1 January 1901
Chevrolet will join staple favourites Honda, Vauxhall, BMW and SEAT in the British Touring Car Championship next season after Robertshaw Racing revealed that it will bring the first two Lacettis to the series.
The team is poised to acquire the two cars from Chevrolet's 2007 World Touring Car programme, and its presence on the grid will mark the first time the US manufacturer has been represented in the BTCC since Australian Frank Gardener ran the legendary Camaro in the early 1970s. One seat at Robertshaw has already been filled, with confirmation that reigning SEAT Cupra R champion Harry Vaulkhard will graduate to the BTCC, but the second remains open.
The Newcastle-based team only graduated to the BTCC in September, contesting the final two rounds on the 2007 calendar, and will continue to run a brace of Hondas in the series next year, an Integra for Alan Taylor and Civic for rising Scottish star Michael Doyle, as well as fielding cars in the supporting Clio Cup series.
“Our BTCC programme marks a major expansion for our company and we'll almost be doubling the amount of full-time staff here, but we feel ready,” team principal Gary Robertshaw insisted, "Initially, our entry had been planned for 2008, but our preparations have put us ahead of schedule, meaning we were able to enter Alan into the final two meetings of 2007.
“That's given us a good insight into the BTCC and, although we know it's going to be a very tough challenge, we won't be going into 2008 with our eyes completely shut. However, running the latest S2000-spec Chevrolets alongside the older-BTC-spec Hondas will mean having to divide the team into two squads."
Robertshaw admitted that it might have been easier to plump for a known quantity for its full season, but insisted that there were advantages to running the Chevy.
“It would have been easy to opt for a proven car in the BTCC, such as a BMW or a SEAT, but the Chevrolets mark us out from the crowd," he claimed, "As pointed out, it's going to be a big learning curve – the Chevrolets have never competed on Dunlop tyres before – but we have a solid amount of testing planning, including running alongside the factory Chevrolet squad in Spain to give us an idea of our performance.
"This is a long-term project, although I'd certainly like to think we can begin rattling the bigger teams' cages towards the end of next season and into 2009.”
For Vaulkhard, the elevation to the top tier of national tin-top competition was the realisation of a childhood ambition.
“I used to watch my dad [Nigel] race in historic touring cars and it was always my dream to be in the BTCC," the 22-year old Tynesider revealed, "In the world of motor sport, it's got a massive following.
“My ultimate aim would be to land a drive with one of the manufacturer teams but, to make that happen, you need to make an impression first and that's what I'll be hoping to do with Robertshaw Racing. I like the set-up and I like the idea of developing the Chevrolet. This is a very exciting programme to be a part of.”