Kumho BMW champion Rick Kerry is aiming to join the raft of newcomers to have joined the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in recent seasons when the new campaign kicks off at Brands Hatch in April.

Kerry, who won the Kumho series for the second straight year in 2006, now aims to follow fellow BMW driver Martyn Bell into the BTCC but is hoping to make his touring car debut with a 1 Series BMW, rather than the 3 Series based machinery currently seen in championships all over Europe.

Crash.net took the chance to speak to Kerry about his plans...

Q:
Rick, you're aiming to follow Martyn Bell from the Kumho BMW Series into the BTCC. Things are still ongoing in terms of putting the programme together but could you just tell us what the plans are at the moment.

Rick Kerry:
If sponsorship permits we are looking to compete in the British Touring Cars this season and follow in Martyn's footsteps. We have a car under construction, the paintwork is now finished and it has gone to West Suffolk Racing to be put together. The parts are now available, or will be from Monday [today], in Munich to collect and put the car together in the hope that we can be out testing by the end of February or start of March.

Q:
The car is a BMW 1 Series which is different to what we are used to, with the 3 Series featuring in both the WTCC and BTCC already. Why did you elect to go down a different route?

Rick Kerry:
Looking last year at several of the cars, we thought the smaller, more nimble cars, seemed to be doing better on most of the UK circuits. The WTCC cars tend to run on bigger circuits than they do here in Britain and we thought the 1 Series might be more nimble and better suited to the BTCC tracks. Knowing that BMW has developed a 1 Series for endurance racing, we looked at that and thought it would be something different and a current model that we can use for longer. So we fancied our chances with one of those.

Q:
Do you think it will be hard at all to be using a car designed for endurance racing that you have to adapt to the sprint format used in the BTCC?

Rick Kerry:
We can up the power slightly because it doesn't have to run for hours and hours, and can fit a smaller fuel tank. We can alter the suspension as well but I don't think there will be huge amounts of difference. We just have to look at it and gear the car around the sprint format and try and improve things where we can.

Q:
What was it that made you look at the BTCC for 2007?

Rick Kerry:
It was a bit strange really. After I won the Kumho series for the second straight season, there was quite a bit about us in Autosport and a local businessman who knew from before, phoned me up and said that if I went up to the BTCC he would put something into the budget. We were looking at the new BARC/Dunlop Sport Maxx Cup in a newer BMW like an E90 but when the BTCC was mentioned, we spoke to some current sponsors who seemed keen and it took off from there. It wasn't something I planned at first, but I was led in that direction.

Q:
So are you another driver who might have viewed the BTCC as being beyond you financially and has had their view changed over the past year or so by Alan Gow and his team?

Rick Kerry:
Unless I had won the lottery, I wouldn't have thought I'd have the budget to do British Touring Cars. We were a bit taken aback with the interest from people who want to be involved with touring cars and speaking to sponsors who are aware of things like the TV figures, they were keener to talk about bigger numbers than we had done before. We tried the water after we got the initial phone call and suddenly we had a reasonable amount towards a budget. I'd always looked at the BTCC and thought that if someone asked me where I wanted to race, then it would be there, but I never thought I'd get the chance.

Q:
As you mentioned at the start, the plan is to run with West Suffolk Racing. What can you tell us about the team?

Rick Kerry:
Derek Butcher from West Suffolk Racing has been running cars in the Kumho's, in Dutch Supercars and I think in Britcar in the past. He has been going for about 20 years and is a BMW specialist. He ran my M5 and built my last car that I won the championship with from scratch. I have an excellent relationship with then and a good understanding when it comes to things like suspension set-up and for me to progress, he is one of the reasons why I won a championship and I hope it is something we can do again together. He probably has to go through a bit of a change with his business in order to gear up to this kind of thing but I'll have to do the same with my driving.

Q:
It's a tough question to answer at the moment with the car yet to be completed, but when you get it out on track, what kind of level of performance are you expecting?

Rick Kerry:
Talking to BMW Motorsport, in 24 hour spec they think that the car is about a second a lap slower than the World Touring Cars. Knowing that we are going to bring it up to sprint specification, we are hoping that we can close that gap and I think the rest of it is down to whether or not I can peddle it fast enough. We do we think we have a car that, in the right hands and with enough time in the seat, we can get into the top ten regularly.

Q:
Do you think people might watch you with an interest in using the 1 Series themselves when they might previously have looked elsewhere?

Rick Kerry:
I think possibly in the UK. I know there have a series in Germany and I think that bringing it to this country, there might be people who will start to look at it. A lot of it is down to how we perform on the track and whether they will be interested in having a go themselves.

Q:
Do you also feel you might get a bit of a following from fans because you've gone for something different?

Rick Kerry:
We hope so. Because I've not raced British Touring Cars before and I'm not that well known, I probably have to look for something a little bit different. At my age, I have to try and hit the ground running and try to compete as quickly as I can as I wouldn't say I have time on my side. It will be different and being a 1 Series I think there will be a bit of a novelty value as the first one to run in the country.