Team RAC has kick-started its winter testing programme ahead of the 2009 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship season with a day of running at Brands Hatch.

Regular drivers Colin Turkington and Stephen Jelley were joined by former single-seater ace Ricardo van der Ende for the test, which gave the 29-year-old the chance to stake a claim for a possible race seat next season.

van der Ende, who took victory in the popular Formula Ford festival back in 1999, managed to lap under the time that have Jelley pole on BTCC Finals Day last month, with team boss Dick Bennetts admitting he was impressed with how the Dutchman had performed.

"Colin shook down the car and set a benchmark time," he told the official BTCC website. "Ricardo took over and eventually got underneath Stephen's pole time by about a tenth of a second. He then went quicker again in the afternoon. Colin also worked with Ricardo on getting the tyres up to temperature and also the conditions were nice and cool for the engine.

"If we can generate the sponsorship then...let's say he's doing a very good job so far, hasn't put a foot wrong and we're very impressed with him."

Bennetts added that another test was planned with a European driver in the coming weeks before focus turns to preparing the cars for the start of 2009.

"We hope to hold another test in the coming weeks with another driver from Europe who would be new to BTCC," he said. "But that would be the end of our testing programme as we need to start work on the cars back at base."



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