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British Touring Car team Bamboo Engineering look set to enter the World Touring Car Championship in 2010.

Their website carries the message 'Our new World Touring Car Championship website is currently being built'.

The team was only formed during the summer break of the 2009 BTCC season after a fall-out inside the Tempus Sport team. Most of the Tempus team including its driver Harry Vaulkhard moved to form Bamboo to run their Chevrolet Lacetti for the rest of the season.

The team took two cars to the European Touring Car Cup at Braga, with Vaulkhard impressing. The team were set to run two cars in the BTCC this year, but now look set to join the WTCC.

Reports suggest that Vaulkhard will be joined in the team by Canadian-born Hong Kong driver Darryl O'Young, who has experience in the Porsche Supercup and the FIA GT Championship.

Bamboo will become the first independent team to run Chevrolet Lacettis full-time in the WTCC. Currently, only eight drivers are confirmed to drive at the opening round at Curitiba, Brazil in five weeks time. BMW have reduced their program to leave RBM running Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus. Chevrolet have signed Yvan Muller to join Rob Huff and Alain Menu in their team. Stefano D'Aste has rejoined Proteam, while Mehdi Bennani has replaced him at Wiechers. Sunred have signed Michel Nykjaer, while reports suggest he will be joined by Tom Coronel, with reigning champion Gabriele Tarquini and Russian Timur Sardredinov in another Sunred-run team. BTCC champion Colin Turkington has reportedly received offers from Proteam and Wiechers.

Follow us on twitter @Frontofthegrid to keep up to date with WTCC news.
 
 
We've produced a list of dates for all the major international racing series in 2010. Click here to download the calendar.
 
 
2010’s running of the Monte Carlo Rally begins this evening, and for the second year running it is a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC). Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke won the series last year at his first attempt, reviving his career. He returns this year driving the same Peugeot 207 under the Peugeot UK banner, run by the Belgian Kronos team.

Fighting him for the championship will be fellow-Brit Guy Wilks. Like Meeke he has funding from the UK arm of a leading IRC manufacturer, Skoda, and like Meeke his entry is run by a Belgian squad, Rene Georges Rally Sport.

The pair have had a long rivalry in the fight to represent Britain on the World Rally stage. They both came to the fore while racing Ford Pumas in the 2002 British Championship. They both moved up to the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) in 2003, Meeke driving an Opel Corsa and Wilks a Ford Puma. In 2004 Wilks was signed by the works Suzuki team, finishing 3rd in the JWRC standings. Meeke switched to a Citroen at the end of 2004 in readiness for 2005. Meeke won his class on Monte-Carlo, while Wilks won in Mexico. Unfortunately both were beaten by Spanish sensation Dani Sordo to the title, Wilks finishing 2nd and Meeke 3rd. Both returned in 2006 but failed to repeat their success.

In 2007 Wilks competed selected events in a WRC Ford Focus, before both he and Meeke drove Subaru Imprezas on Rally Ireland, Wilks finishing 6th, while Meeke retired after showing good speed. Wilks also took the British Championship driving for Mitsubishi.

In 2008 Wilks was able to retain his BRC crown, while Meeke struggled to find a drive, competing three rounds of the WRC in a S1600 Renault Clio. When Subaru withdrew from the WRC at the end of the season, it was revealed that Guy Wilks was days away from signing for the team for a 2009 campaign. 

In 2009 Meeke managed to get a full-time IRC campaign with Peugeot, beating the series’ established drivers on his way to the title. Wilks meanwhile joined the series mid-season driving a Proton, before switching to a Skoda for Rally Scotland, which he won.

2010 promises to be a thrilling battle between the two of them, but there are many other drivers aiming to spoil the British party. Skoda drivers Jan Kopecky and Juho Hanninen are back, and are joined in the team by ex-Peugeot driver Nicolas Vouilloz. Promising Austrian Franz Wittmann is also driving a Peugeot.

The Monte Carlo has attracted some thrilling one-off entries. Mikko Hirvonen will debut the Ford Fiesta S2000 that the team will use in the WRC next year. Toni Gardemeister, twice a podium finisher on the event in its WRC days, is driving an Abarth Fiat. Last year’s winner Sebastien Ogier returns in a Peugeot, as does Le Mans star Stephane Sarrazin. Also, Renault F1 driver Robert Kubica will drive a Renault Clio R3.

Follow us on twitter for regular updates from Monte Carlo and the rest of the IRC season.
 
 
Renault are still to announce a teammate for Robert Kubica for 2010. Chances are it won’t be Frenchman Romain Grosjean, the team protégé and GP2 frontrunner that stepped in to replace Nelson Piquet following his dismissal following the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix. Before that race, a lot of fuss was made over Jaime Alguersuari, the 19-year old Red Bull Junior who had only ever driven an F1 car in a straight line, but would make his debut for Toro Rosso at the Hungaroring. 

OK, Grosjean was older and more experienced than Alguersuari, and had done a bit more F1 testing mileage, but it seems that he was not given the same allowances as the Spaniard. Expecting Grosjean to be faster than his predecessor Piquet was unfair, as Piquet had raced for the team in F1 for a year-and-a-half previously, and had done considerably more testing before-hand when he was the main Renault reserve for 2007, when the testing regulations were far more relaxed. Also, Piquet had driven the 09-spec Renault for 10 race weekends previously, in addition to pre-season testing, whereas Grosjean had done little more than some roadshow demonstration runs. 

As proven by Giancarlo Fisichella when he moved from Force India to Ferrari to deputise for Felipe Massa, it is very difficult to race a car that you don’t know against the majority that have raced theirs for half a year. It seems Grosjean was not given the time, mainly by the media but also by the fans, to adjust and learn the car. Besides, he was pretty much matching Piquet’s pace, impressive given the facts I previously highlighted. Yes, both were in the lower reaches of the midfield, but maybe this was down to the car. Fernando Alonso was far quicker than his two Renault teammates, but still only managed eight points-scoring finishes. Yes, that’s eight more than Piquet and Grosjean, but this is the 2005/06 World Champion I’m talking about here. The same Alonso that is rated by many as the most complete driver in the field. The same Alonso that Ferrari courted for so long and then paid Kimi Raikkonen so much to leave the team and make way for the Spaniard at the Scuderia. I’m not suggesting that Renault were wrong to get rid of Piquet, for he was clearly not going to become a race-winner anytime soon.

I’m not suggesting that Renault should have Grosjean driving rather than the currently-unemployed for 2010 Nick Heidfeld. What I am saying is that a driver that showed a fair amount of promise in the junior categories should not be forgotten by the Formula One field, and should be allowed to show his capabilities on a level-playing field. Unfortunately most of the top GP2 drives for 2010 have gone now, and he does not have the finance nor the experience required for the vacancies at Campos Meta, Sauber and USF1. It therefore seems that F1 has already seen the last of Romain Grosjean.

The whole case raises the issue of the testing ban on young and reserve drivers, which BBC commentator Martin Brundle raised at Autosport International last week.

What do you think? Does Romain deserve a second chance or not? Leave a comment below.