Barwell Motorsport has become the first BTC Production class team to announce its graduation to the Touring class in 2002. The Surrey-based outfit will run the only new 2002-spec Vauxhall Astras that will be built by factory team, Triple Eight Race Engineering. Barwell will enter as a privateer team in the 2002 BTCC series, and has pulled off one of the major coups of the winter season by securing the Astras, which have dominated the 2001 season.

Barwell will be bringing an exciting new young driving talent into the BTCC, in the form of T-Cars star, Tom Chilton. Tom will be 17-years-old only two weeks before the start of next year's season, thus making him the youngest ever BTCC driver in history. The team is in discussion with several top-flight drivers regarding the second seat, but is hopeful that one of its 2001 BTCC race-winning stars, James Kaye and Simon Graves, will be able to secure the drive. Chilton brings backing from Bluesure insurance, and the squad is likely to be backed again by existing major commercial partners Kaliber, Ideal Hardware, La Manga Club and Barwell Leisure.

The team will be aiming for outright victories next year, and hopes to confirm the full driver line-up before Christmas. Chilton will shake his car down before the end of this year, and Barwell will then be conducting an intensive test programme at the Cartagena circuit in Spain towards the end of January 2002. The team will then move on to Magny Cours for further testing at the beginning of February.

"We are absolutely delighted about our graduation to the highest level of British Motorsport, and have put together an incredibly exciting package," comments Barwell MD, Mark Lemmer. "Tom is a very promising young driver, and with an experienced team-mate to learn from he should be fully up-to-speed by the first round."

Barwell is also working on continuing its successful relationship with Honda in 2002, by teaming up with Swindon Honda factory employee outfit, Synchro Motorsport. The Synchro/Barwell partnership is likely to field a pair of new Civic Type Rs in the Production Class. One car will almost certainly be driven by either Kaye or Graves, depending on the final Vauxhall Astra line-up. "Joining forces with Synchro and placing a pro driver in a car as good as the Civic Type R," says Lemmer, "will mean that Barwell Motorsport will once again be in the hunt for the BTC Production title."