The 2013 British Touring Car Championship season has so far been an intriguing one. The balance of power between the Hondas and MGs has been the main talking point, along with the emergence of a new title challenger in Andrew Jordan and the improving pace of the WSR BMWs.
But perhaps a little forgotten among many BTCC followers is the Jack Sears Trophy. It may only have six entries, but the competition between them has been worth watching since the off. Names that are normally at the back of the pack due to their small budgets, not necessarily their abilities, are being given the chance to stand on the podium for the first time. Unsurprisingly, these drivers are not prepared to let these opportunities pass without a fight. The other aspect of this competition that is worth noting is that unlike the other sub-championships in the series such as the Independents trophy, the Jack Sears Trophy does not use a points-based system. Instead it is the driver with the most wins in the class who will take the trophy, presented by Jack Sears himself, come October. This system brings a new dynamic to the racing between the S2000 cars. There are, quite literally, no prizes for coming second.
In the build-up to the season Lea Wood and Liam Griffin, who drive a Vauxhall Vectra and Ford Focus respectively, were touted as being the favourites for overall glory due to their experience in the BTCC. Wood has always been fast but has never had front running machinery underneath him while Griffin only decided to delay his retirement from the series because he was confident he challenge for the silverware. The pair has been the Jack Sears pacesetters so far, sharing 75% of the victories with Wood leading the trophy with 5 wins to Griffin’s 4 out of 12 races. Add to the mix BTCC veteran James Kaye driving the AMD run Volkswagen Golf, who himself has taken two wins, and you have a healthy little battle. The other half of the JST field is made up of BTCC rookies, but that doesn’t mean they are uncompetitive. M247 racing Chevrolet Cruze driver Joe Girling has shown impressive speed which has already been rewarded with a class victory at Donington Park. Welch Motorsport’s David Nye has also been on the pace this season but is yet to take a victory in his Ford Focus. The final JST runner is BMR Restart’s Warren Scott in his Seat Leon. The team have been blighted with bad luck so far this season, which was at its most obvious at Oulton Park, where apparent driveshaft and clutch problems forced a retirement in Race 1 and meant they were unable to start the following two races. Despite this, however, the ever enthusiastic Scott has managed, to his credit, to keep on smiling and enjoy his BTCC adventure.
There has been a one-off driver change already this season on the cup, with VW Racing Cup points-leader Aaron Mason replacing James Kaye, who had to see to unavoidable business commitments, for the last round at Oulton Park. The 33-year-old is the most successful driver in the history of the VW cup and certainly has aspirations of becoming a full time BTCC driver. He showed impressive pace on his debut, qualifying fourth in class and taking a best race result of 21st, before a driveshaft failure in Race 2 ended his weekend prematurely, as he got to grips with the Turbo engine in the S2000 Golf.
There will be another newcomer this weekend at Croft. Griffin, who lies second in the standings, also has business commitments and the Motorbase squad have worked with the cars primary sponsor, Addison Lee, to arrange a deal for 19-year-old Ginetta graduate Jake Hill to drive the Focus in his place. Hill, the son of ITV commentator Simon, has had a test in the car before with Motorbase at Brands Hatch last year and is also well accustomed to the TOCA package thanks to his time racing Ginettas in both the Junior and Supercup series’. He’ll be determined to prove his worth in the car so watch out for him at the pointy end on the Jack Sears field at the weekend.
So far then, the JST has been a great championship to follow. It’s had the competitiveness, thrills and spills to match the main championship with a fraction of the number of competitors. It’s great to hear series boss Alan Gow mention that he too is delighted with the success of the newly created trophy and has made clear his intentions to keep it going beyond 2013. With the S2000 cars being phased out of the championship completely for next season, however, the focus of the championship will have to change. It could therefore become a championship for rookie drivers or for cars running the standard TOCA engine, for example.