by Andy Stobart

British Touring Car Championship team VX Racing recently announced its driver line-up for 2006 with Italian former Alfa Romeo WTCC driver Fabrizio Giovanardi joining British hotshot Tom Chilton at the Triple Eight Engineering-run Vauxhall squad. Crash.net Radio spoke to Triple Eight's principle, Ian Harrison, to find the motives for the selection.

It was no secret that the team had wanted to retain the services of Frenchman Yvan Muller, who had driven for the squad in the BTCC after joining Vauxhall in the series following his debut driving for Audi, and took the 2003 drivers' title for them. Muller, however, decided for a fresh challenge, both for himself and television commentators, as he has opted to move to SEAT in the WTCC, making three drivers with the surname Muller in that series.

"We obviously lost Yvan Muller, he decided to go off and do something else and we wish him all the best for that, he's been with us a long time so he's sort of part of the family," said Harrison on the loss of his lead driver.

The replacement, Giovanardi, comes to the squad after taking third place in the drivers' championship behind the BMWs of champion Andy Priaulx and Dirk Muller, making Giovanardi the lead front-wheel-drive driver in the series.

"We're really chuffed to get Fabrizio on board," says Harrison. "He came along and did a little test for us down at Pembrey a couple of weeks ago and I think he liked what he saw and we liked what he saw, so we're very pleased to get him."

After the exotic and warm locations visited by the Italian driver in the WTCC, the Welsh circuit of Pembrey, not noted for being a location where sunscreen is required, must have been quite a shock, especially in November.

"We obviously thought if he likes Pembrey, if he went there and signs for us then everything else on top of that's going to be better," quips Harrison. "He went to Pembrey and the weather was terrible and all the rest of it, and got on really well with the guys and clicked straight away and vice versa and I'm pretty excited about that."

Partnering Giovanardi will be the man who currently holds the record of being the youngest ever British Touring Car Championship race winner, Tom Chilton.

"Tom, we're very excited to get him on board," says Harrison of the driver who moves from the Arena Motorsports Civic he has driven in his hard charging style for the past two seasons. Chilton clearly has pace, but Harrison reckons that's now tempered with a result getting maturity.

"He's turned a corner I believe," Harrison explains. "He's a very youthful bloke, he's always been quick and now he's quick and consistent and safe and does a good job."