The Silverstone round on the 2009 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) calendar will welcome a new face to the grid, and a familiar one at that – as erstwhile British Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert gets set to make his debut with Team Dynamics.
Herbert has been drafted in to fill in for James Thompson as the Yorkshireman has prior racing commitments elsewhere, and will remain at the wheel of the Honda Civic until season's end, taking in subsequent appearances at Rockingham and Brands Hatch along the way.
Following in the wheel tracks of fellow former grand prix winners and British racing heroes Jim Clark, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and David Coulthard in making his tin-top bow in the hotly-contested BTCC, Herbert acknowledged that there could be few better places to be joining the fray, having achieved his breakthrough triumph in the top flight at Silverstone back in 1995 – and he hinted at a long-term engagement in the series should he enjoy himself.
“Silverstone is a fitting place for me to begin what is the start of a new chapter in my career,” revealed the popular 45-year-old. “I've got memories of some great races here in the past, in Formula Ford and Formula 3 in the mid-eighties. It was always a special place for me, but then of course I got my win in the grand prix in '95. It's where I was able to experience something that not many British drivers have, so I suppose it makes it that bit extra-special.
“I'm going to be going three or four-abreast into corners for the first time since my Formula Ford and Formula 3 days. Obviously the power I've experienced since then in F1 and sportscars has been much higher than a BTCC car, but that takes nothing away from the challenge.
“I'm going to be up against some of the best touring car names in the world with the likes of Matt Neal, Jason Plato
and Fabrizio Giovanardi
– and I've seen what these boys get up to along the way...scraping panels and having a wing mirror or bumper taken off is part of the game, and it's something I'm going to have to adapt to quickly.
“I've tested the Honda once already, though, got down to some good times and I've got another run in it next Monday. Plus it's won three races already this season, so is obviously a very competitive car. I hope I can be in there somewhere near the front.”
Herbert did indeed test encouragingly for Dynamics at Rockingham back in July, and has considerable experience of racing with a roof over his head from his outings in sportscars and the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours – in which he triumphed outright for Mazda in 1991 – but Silverstone will be his first taste of the cut-and-thrust, doorhandle-to-doorhandle nature of the BTCC around the Northants circuit's short National layout.
So how do you think the 'Romford Rocket' will fare on his BTCC debut? To have your say, click here