BTCC veteran Vic Lee has revealed that motoring spares retailer Halfords will back his pair of Peugeot 406 Coupes in this year's championship.
Lee will run two ex-works cars, for 1992 BTCC champion Tim Harvey and second year driver Dan Eaves, under the Team Halfords banner from his Coventry base. The team lost works Peugeot backing at the end of 2001 after failing to break the Vauxhall stranglehold on race wins.
The squad has re-engineered the cars for 2002 with a comprehensive winter development programme and MD-cum-team principal Lee believes it has made significant progress with the engine, aerodynamics and rear suspension. The team has been working non-stop in an effort to transform the skeleton of the Italian-imported Pininfarina body shell with weight and its distribution also coming under scrutiny for 2002.
"It's great to have Halfords on board," Lee enthused, "and the Team Halfords recruits for this season will bring an abundance of experience and youth to fulfil the undisputed command that the 406 will require. We have worked hard on the Coupe over the winter months, and last year's experience will help us achieve what we deserve this year."
The elder of the two 'recruits', Harvey rejoins Lee ten years after the pair captured the BTCC crown in a season finale made controversial by the clash between John Cleland and the second VLR car of Steve Soper. The Englishman is the only former champion on the grid this year, and Lee hopes that his expertise and vast experience will go a long way to helping the team reach the top step of the podium.
"I'm thrilled to be working with such a well-know high street name as Halfords," Harvey commented, "Team Halfords has ambitious goals and objectives, along with the determination needed for the BTCC, and the whole team shares the belief that, if we work hard, we can achieve boundless things together."
Team-mate Eaves looked set to drop out of the BTCC when Peugeot cut its backing for the team over the winter, but did enough to impress Lee last year to be recalled when the 2002 programme was confirmed.
"I am really looking forward to the start of this year's championship," he said, "The BTCC is bigger and better [than in 2001] and I am sure that it will be tougher too. I will be concentrating on winning races and the championship title. My experience from last year has given me the confidence to really push the car - and myself - to the limit."
The new-look 406 Coupe - now clothed in dayglo orange to replace the Peugeot yellow of 2001 - has turned wheels for the first time today [Tuesday] as the BTCC season was launched at Brands Hatch.
"This sponsorship is a great way to demonstrate our passion and exertise to both customers and staff," said Halfords' director of marketing and merchandise David Clayton-Smith, "Our customers are willing us to do more with the brand, and Team Halfords is the catalyst for us to really change the perception of the company as a bike and car parts business by using the link with the BTCC and the emotions it conveys in-store, in all our communications and at the races themselves."
The launch day forms the second official test of the new campaign, but the VLR team missed the Silverstone opener last week. Despite missing the kick-off, however, Lee is confident that the Peugeot team will make a good impression on the series.
"The BTCC has a good line-up and promises to be nothing short of spectacular," he concluded.