The name Hughes will appear on the side of MG in the BTCC in 2004, but the first name will be different. Jason Hughes and his Kartworld Racing team move from the production class with an MG for 2004 and went to meet him at his Lancashire base to find out more...

After racing in the BTCC for part of 2003, Kartworld Racing have the chance to fight with the big boys this season with a new car, and one that is a proven performer in the championship.

The team were able to put a deal together for an ex-works MG for the new season. Unlike the works cars, which this season are powered by a four cylinder engine, the Kartworld entry will use the V6 six cylinder engine that raced in 2003 coupled with a 2002 chassis.

Team owner, and driver, Jason Hughes is looking forward to the season ahead.

"Last year was a big step for us," he said. "The Nissan was a good car when it was running right, but we suffered from entering half way through the season. We had to spend the rest of the season trying to develop the car rather than using the winter as we are doing with the MG now.

"At the end of the year we made a few calls and through John Bintcliffe [who had run the Nissan previously] we were able to set up a meeting with West Surrey and do a deal for one of their MGs. They'll help us out as much as they can but we are an Independent entry."

Having had the chance to test the car, Hughes says it is a world away from the production car of last season and describes it as "something I've dreamt of driving for years."

"It's a lot faster than the Nissan," he explained. "It's also much easier to drive. It has a proper sequential gearbox and is a lot steadier on the track. In testing we've been trying out various different settings and we are pleased with the performance of the car. There's still more to come, but then again there is more to come from everybody."

Because driver and team are new to the MG ZS, WSR are providing limited help with the car. At the Donington Park test on 16 March, Colin Turkington tried the Kartworld car out during a break from testing his own MG and Hughes admits the input his team has received has been extremely helpful.

"It's been brilliant," he said. "With me not driving the car before I didn't know if it was handling as well as it could or if it was making noises it shouldn't. Colin can get in the car and do a few laps and tell me it's running

"I've known Colin from my days in Fiestas and its good to have someone like him to give advice. He is very laid back and doesn't go overboard saying 'alter this' and 'alter that.' He just drives and gets on with it."

The team will certainly have one of the more eye-catching cars on the grid in 2004. As with the Nissan last season, there is a very prominent Union Jack and the large logo for the title sponsor, Kartworld.

"I've been involved in the car job all my life," Hughes said, "and Kartworld has been going for 18 months now. This building came up and we thought we could put a kart track in it and involve all kinds of racing and it's taken off well.

"The team has been a good way to advertise it, especially with the strong TV package that the series has. We got a lot of interest as soon as we came on the scene at Croft last season from people wanting to find out more, so it's been good."

Kartworld are entering the Independents cup at a strong time, with Matt Neal and Team Dynamics amongst the favourites to challenge for outright honours. However, Hughes is confident that, over time, his team can also be fighting at the front of the grid.

"On the first Sunday there are three races which is a lot in one day," he said. "I've not been to Thruxton since 1995 so it's been a while. Starting and finishing those races is the important thing and we can build from there. As long as we finish each race and are consistent that's the main thing.

"We don't want to go out to race for second but there are a lot of good, experienced drivers in this championship, and there are a lot of independent entries. It's going to be hard."

Hughes could be one of the drivers to benefit from the new rules brought in this year regarding qualifying. With the top ten finishers in race one reversed on the grid for race two, Hughes could find himself near the front of the grid with a strong car and little weight.

"The rules do give us a good chance," he explained, "because you'll get the fast guys starting further down the grid and having to carry ballast. Having
said that, there is no reason why we can't challenge for wins from the middle of the grid.

"We have a good car and a race is a race. This is touring cars and anything can happen, we just have to wait and see. It's certainly going to be interesting."