BTCC favourite James Thompson has been appointed as test and development driver for the championship's Next Generation Touring Car project, series organiser TOCA has revealed.
The 2002 and 2004 series champion, Thompson was unable to find a full-time BTCC ride this season, and has been plying his trade overseas instead, but will lend his proven abilities behind the wheel when testing of the first NGTC machine hits the track in late September. The NGTC specification pioneered by the BTCC is already receiving interest from foreign series, and Thompson's input could thus have wide-reaching implications for the success of the formula.
The regulations, which are expected to slash the cost of competing, come into force in Britain next year and, as well as private testing, Thompson is being slated to drive the NGTC prototype in free practice at the 2010 season finale at Brands Hatch in October, giving fans an early chance to catch a glimpse of the future. Rumours persist that the car may also make its race debut ahead of its planned 2011 debut.
“The first full NGTC car is now underway, in its very early build stages, [and] I couldn't think of a more ideal driver than James, with his vast experience and proven track record in the BTCC as well as other international race series, to provide the precise technical feedback needed to develop its full potential," series director Alan Gow told btcc.net
, "I thank him for enthusiastically accepting my offer.”
Despite NGTC coming into force next season, teams already owning S2000 cars can continue to run them for several seasons on an equal footing with the new machines. The NGTC engine claimed its first race win at last weekend's Croft BTCC round, with Andrew Jordan taking a maiden win for Pirtek Racing's Vauxhall Vectra.