Tom Onslow-Cole has reluctantly stepped back from his racing activities with the Team HARD VW Passat as the team seeks to bring the car up to full competitiveness for 2014.
Despite having found the podium in 2013, team and driver took the decision that its budget would be better utilised in development of the car, having started the season with the Passat still very much untested.
“To score podiums in one of the first events of the season was great, but it has been tough to develop the car over race weekends,” TO-C admitted, “Ideally, we needed to have had a full testing programme but, of course, the car was brand new on the eve of the season, so it's important that it is completely ready for the start of next year.
“I'm a racer, so it's always tough to make a decision that means we won't be racing for the rest of the year but, if it gives both the team and I the best possible chance of winning in 2014, then it has to be the right decision.
“I would like to thank Tony and everyone at Team HARD for what they've achieved so far this season and hopefully the team will produce the tools to fight at the front on a consistent basis next year. Obviously, this turn of events negates our long-term deal and puts me in a position where I need to reassess my future in the BTCC. Hopefully, we can look at the situation when the dust has settled and the team's plans for 2014 are clear.”
Team boss Tony Gilham confirmed that the decision had not been an easy one to take, but that the focus had to be very much on next season.
“It's a difficult decision that we've had to make, but we just feel that our investment in Tom would be better spent on making sure the car is moving forward ahead of a real championship assault in 2014,” he explained, “We believe in the car and it has obviously scored podiums already this season.”
Gilham confirmed that, despite Onslow-Cole being stood down, the Passat would continue to see track action for the remainder of the season.
“The car will still be utilised on race weekends for us to further develop some of our young VW Cup drivers, with more details coming on that soon,” he revealed, “We need to be able to invest in putting the car through an extensive winter testing programme that we believe will ensure the Passat can fight consistently at the front at all circuits next season.”