Motorbase Performance enjoyed a stunning season in 2008, with Steven Kane and Rob Collard ensuring the BMW team became a regular contender in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship.

During the off-season, Crash.net caught up with team boss David Bartrum to look back at '08 and look ahead to what 2009 may hold...

Crash.net:
It was a big year for Motorbase in 2008 and after a tough start, you must be pleased with how it panned out?

David Bartrum:
Very pleased indeed, and the second half of the season was exactly what we hoped it would be. We didn't get that elusive win, but I think we know where we are now to start 2009 and we know the car. The truck is stocked with the parts that we need and we have the database in place so I'm looking forward to the new season.

Crash.net:
Was it a gamble to pick up those two cars for 2008 as they arrived but then you had to find the drivers to bring the budget to run them. Was it a challenge to get it all in place for the start of the season?

David Bartrum:
The project for me started at the WTCC meeting at Brands Hatch at the end of 2007, which is when I first spoke to Charly Lam at Schnitzer about getting the cars. BMW then went through their vetting process as they won't just hand you a car; they want to know you will do a good job with it. We bought the first car home in December and the second one arrived in January and we were working on our sponsorship packages and it was all going rather well. It looked like being a good year and we'd be able to do a lot of testing but then things didn't go right with the sponsorship and we were on the back foot a bit.

Truthfully, the budget was cut and we had to go with what we had for the first half of the year and as I've said before, it was all about just learning the car. In the second half of the season, we got some idea of where we were going and you could tell that by the way the car was working with the team. I really enjoyed the second half of the year, which is something that it is nice to say about touring car racing.

Crash.net:
Does that make what was a good season, also quite a frustrating one with that lack of testing meaning that where you were at Snetterton for the second half of the year is where you could have been at the start of the year at Brands Hatch?

David Bartrum:
Obviously, the more testing miles you do, the better you are going to be. We didn't have that luxury so we just had to get on with the job and work harder with what we had. If we had had the testing in February and March and gone into the season with a good database of the circuits then we would have gone better and had a better season that we had. In that respect, we lost some ground but at least in the end, we weren't left disappointed and put ourselves in a good position for 2009.

Crash.net:
The second half of the year, only Vauxhall and SEAT scored more points...

David Bartrum:
That was nice. I think the two drivers worked very well together in the second half of the season and there were only a few little things that stopped us scoring more points that we did. There was the incident at Oulton Park where Steven was taken off by Tom Chilton and at Silverstone, we had some luck there that didn't go our way. But it wasn't the usual doom and gloom as the cars were still fast.

Crash.net:
How important was it to make the breakthrough to become regular podium contenders?

David Bartrum:
Very important because it was our second year as a two-car team with S2000 machinery and I needed to know we were going forward. In everything we do, we want to progress and get better at it, so for me, this will be the first time we go into the second year of a programme with the same car and won't be learning about it. We go into the year knowing what we can do and knowing we can carry our speed from 2008.

Crash.net:
You were one of the first people to start testing for 2009 with the session at Brands Hatch. How pleased were you with the way the four drivers on track settled in?

David Bartrum:
I really enjoyed that. Steven was there to see what was going on with the other drivers...

Crash.net:
...And to keep and eye on his car...

David Bartrum:
Yeah he was getting paranoid but the season was over so they are my cars again! In the close season I want to test some new talent and we had a mix of youth and experience with Tim Harvey doing some running for us. He was really good and was also keeping an eye on Jonathan Adam who was there with the BRDC Superstars programme and we gave him some help with that. We had James Nash as well who is a young driver who deserves more coverage than he gets in the UK as he is a young talent who came in from the SEAT Eurocup where he did a very good job. You leave the country and you may get forgotten a little bit so I was very pleased with the job he did. Michael Caine enjoys everything he does so I enjoyed those days and we learned a lot. We worked with Tim to double check a few things because, while he hasn't been in touring cars for a long time, he has a really good understanding of the championship and the cars, and is a very good test driver. We came away from that test with some good ideas for drivers.

Crash.net:
Jonathan we know is a back-to-back SEAT title winner and we know a lot about him already, but you mentioned James. How did he settle in?

David Bartrum:
James settled in very quickly. He came along on his own after one meeting I had with him and his father and I offered to test him. He sat down in the briefing with the engineers and Steven, went out in the car and did exactly what was asked of him. I think he came across very well and is a star of the future. Jonathan Adam is definitely a star of the future. There isn't a lot of work needed there to make him into a top class touring car driver and that is something we would like to try and do if the money permits. That is the big thing at the moment, as its all about budgets and that is the same for every team and driver. It's not a good time to be looking.

Crash.net:
You're in a good position with two drivers there who have shown the potential to come and do a good job. You had two drivers who did a good job and delivered podiums in 2008. But how challenging is this part of the year now as you chase sponsors to finalise, especially in the current economic climate to turn 'what ifs' into definites and get the 2009 programme in place?

David Bartrum:
It's very difficult for team and driver. You can't fail to see what is happening around you and it isn't a good time for money full-stop. Motor sport is a hobby for a lot of people or a business luxury that people can use as a business tool. When times are hard, people don't spend the money but we have to look at it and hope that there are people who look at it the other way and say 'Things are tight but we want to push ourselves and be noticed - and we want to do it through motor sport'. It's the same for the drivers. This season, our drivers had their ups and downs but they did a good job and I would like to keep both of them as well so we have to work hard to carry on for next year.

Crash.net:
Next year we have lost SEAT, but there are teams who have signalled their interest or announced plans for 2009. But with the current climate, what do you think we can expect from the grid next season? Will we struggle to meet some fans expectations of a big field?

David Bartrum:
I don't really know. It will be hard for all teams, big or small. The main teams will stay and hopefully some new teams will come in. Arena has already announced what they will do and I think they will be a great addition to the BTCC and will replace SEAT. You hear of Clyde Valley Racing and a couple of others who say they will come in and I hope they do. There will be natural wastage in these situations but things will move on and I think there will be a decent sized grid. Touring cars will come through it okay.

Crash.net:
With Arena, how good for the series do you think it is that they haven't just bought another BMW or a SEAT and will bring in something new with the Focus?

David Bartrum:
I think it's great. Heart in heart, I am a Ford man myself and raced them for many years. From the point of view of what they are doing, they will do a good job because it is Arena. I also think they are very brave because they will build it all themselves. We went the other way round to get the BMW and let someone else do all the development work and put our own stamp on it. We have lost a manufacturer in SEAT and I know the Ford thing isn't manufacturer backed, but it is another make on the grid and it's a good make.

Crash.net:
You've mentioned four drivers you'd like to have in the team, but when do you anticipate knowing who will be driving?

David Bartrum:
I'd like to know myself. Obviously we would like to keep Steven and Rob and add someone to that. If we had four drivers we could run because the finances were in place, what a problem to have that would be! I don't think that will happen though but we have to keep working hard and hope we get what we want on the grid. We'd like to run two certainly and I have said before that I would run a third car if the money was there. As long as we run competitively and keep moving forwards, then that is what I want to do. I want to run two or three cars but the reality check says we need to make sure we have two on the grid at the moment.

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