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Onslow-Cole was forced to play second-fiddle to Chilton at Silverstone
In the first two races at Silverstone yesterday, Tom Onslow-Cole moved over when leading to allow Aon/Arena Ford teammate Tom Chilton win the races, despite Onslow-Cole being ahead of Chilton in the standings going into the weekend. Despite some poor attempts from T-O-C to cover it up, these were clearly team orders. But why, you might be wondering, would the team favour one Tom over another?

The answer is easy. The operation is bankrolled by Tom Chilton's multi-millionaire father Grahame, who is vice-chairman of Aon Corporation, who lends its name to the team. Putting it simply, it is likely that Grahame (who is a big motorsports fan) has a large influence on what goes on at the team. Although he may not own the team, he probably has a larger say on what goes on than anybody else. He and Aon could be offering financial benefits to Arena for everytime Chilton Jr gets a victory. Alternatively, Grahame could just decide to take Tom and Aon's money elsewhere if he isn't happy with the Arena operation.

Thus, it makes complete sense for Arena to favour Chilton over Onslow-Cole. Onslow-Cole should just put up with it. He had to sit out the beginning of last year because he didn't have enough funding to get a drive, despite strong performances for WSR and Triple 8 in previous seasons. Team Aon picked him up later in the year and retained him for this year. Without Grahame Chilton's money, he wouldn't have a drive, and that's why he just has to accept being the number two driver.

The situation could be compared to the Red Bull Racing team in Formula 1, who were at the centre of a favouritism storm earlier in the year. There, the biggest influence on the way the team is run is owner Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull. He has funded Sebastian Vettel's career from very early on, so he is entitled to favour him over teammate Mark Webber. Any driver from outside of the Red Bull scheme entering the team should be aware of that.

The same can be said of Team Aon, even if Grahame Chilton is not technically a member of the team.

At the end of the day, motor racing is as much a business as it is a sport for many, and such decisions have to me made.

Photo credit: Pete Mainey (www.psmmotorsportimages.co.uk)
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Grahame Chilton (right) was at Silverstone to support son Tom (centre)
 
 
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It appears that double British Touring Car Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi could line up on the grid at Thruxton this weekend. According to Italiaracing.net, the Italian will drive the second Triple Eight Vauxhall Vectra, despite the team losing its official Vauxhall backing at the end of last season.

Giovanardi, who won the title in 2007 and 2008 for the Triple Eight-run, Vauxhall backed VX Racing squad, has been left without a drive after the manufacturer withdrew its support for Triple Eight. He had been rumoured with a switch to GM sister-brand Chevrolet and its WTCC team, but this did not come about. He was also linked with a move to the increasingly popular Superstars Series, based in Italy.

It was looking increasingly likely that Giovanardi would have to sit on the sidelines for 2010, due to the economic climate reducing the number of paid drives available. However, having announced Clio Cup champion Phil Glew last week, Triple Eight look set to announce Giovanardi in the #888 entry tomorrow. This speculation was heightened further when the offical BTCC twitter, @DunlopBTCC, announced this evening "....no news from 888 re its 'top name' driver. All should be revealed tomorrow...".

If Giovanardi does line-up with Triple Eight on Sunday, it'll provide another big name driver capable of stopping Chevrolet's Jason Plato from taking the title, following the news that reigning champion Colin Turkington would miss the beginning of the season due to a lack of funds.

Stay tuned to @Frontofthegrid for the latest.

Photo Credit: Phillip Roberts
 
 
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The 2010 British Touring Car Championship gets underway at Hampshire's Thruxton Circuit on April 4. Despite the absence of 2009 champion Colin Turkington, there is still an exciting lineup of teams and drivers. This season preview takes you through the runners and riders.

Silverline Chevrolet - Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet enters the BTCC as a full manufacturer entry, with Cruzes built and run by RML for the world championship. 2001 champion Jason Plato remains with the team, while teenager Alex MacDowall joins from the Clio Cup. Plato begins as the title favourite, while MacDowall will be a regular in the top eight or so.

Team Honda - Honda Civic
Honda UK puts its weight behind Team Dynamics, with major modifications made to the Civic. Matt Neal returns to his family team, while Gordon Shedden returns having been dropped after the first round of 2009. Neal will push Plato for the title, while Shedden will take race victories in support.

Airwaves BMW - BMW 320si E90
Motorbase aim for the title after taking their first wins last year. Mat Jackson, who finished runner-up in his own privately-run BMW in 2008, moves to the team, and is joined by the returning Steven Kane, who beat teammate Rob Collard in his first year in touring cars in 2008. Jackson will lead BMW attack, while Kane will also win races.

WSR - BMW 320si E90
Due to having no title sponsor, there is no Colin Turkington, for now, and team could lose inter-BMW fight with Airwaves, despite taking their team leader Rob Collard. Andy Neate, a director of team sponsor Ceravision, moves to the series after recovery from life-threatening injury. Collard will win regularly, while Neate will score regular points.

Team Aon - Ford Focus ST LPG
Team made great strides forward at the end of last season, and LPG power could help them to the front. Team has a race-winning lineup in Tom Chilton and Tom Onslow-Cole. Chilton will be looking for race wins and maybe a title challenge, while Onslow-Cole has showed potential for WSR and Vauxhall.

Special Tuning UK - SEAT Leon
After running in the WTCC in association with Sunred, Tom Boardman's team moves to the BTCC as sole SEAT entry. Boardman will be looking to regularly mix it with the bigger teams and be the best of the family-run teams.

Boulevard Team Racing - Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Martin Johnson continues in the 2001 Asta Coupe, and will be looking to add to the two top 10 results he acheived in 2009, but will run near the back most of the time.

sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport - Honda Integra
Team returns for another season with ex-Dynamics Honda Integras. Fan favourite Paul O'Neill remains with the team, while Cornish mobile phone entrepreneur John George replaces Martyn Bell, having previsouly raced his own Integra for TH Motorsport. O'Neill will mix it with the bigger teams, but George will continue to run nearer the back of the field.

Forster Motorsport - BMW 320si E90
Team steps up from racing Minis, buying two ex-Andy Priaulx WTCC-winning BMWs from Mat Jackson. Martin Depper and Arthur Forster will be looking to beat the series's usual backmarkers.

Central Group Racing - Honda Integra
New BTCC team has run driver Lea Wood in club racing as well as the Clio Cup in 2008. Like Forster drivers, Wood will be looking to beat some of the series regulars.

Pinkney Motorsport - Vauxhall Vectra
Having disappointed with Team Dynamics last year, David Pinkney races an ex-works Vauxhall Vectra for his own team. He should beat his finishing position of 17th overall from last season.

Pirtek Racing - Vauxhall Vectra
Mike Jordan returns to the BTCC as a team owner only to facilitate his son Andrew Jordan, who showed promise driving for VX Racing last year. He will be looking to score regular points and be the best of the family-run drivers.

Triple Eight Race Engineering - Vauxhall Vectra
They may have lost manufacturer backing, but Triple Eight continue in the series. Dominant 2009 Clio Cup champion Phil Glew makes his series debut for the team. The team has yet to announce a second driver, but Formula Renault champion Dean Smith tested with Glew for the team two weeks ago.

TH Motorsport - Honda Civic Type-R
Matt Hamilton returns for a full-season after making his debut at the end of 2009. He will be looking for occasional points finishes as he continues to learn touring cars in an older-style Civic.

AmD Milltek Racing.com - Volkswagen Golf Mk5
Essex-based tuning company returns Volkswagen to the BTCC having modified a Golf from the Baltic championship to BTCC rules. Company boss Shaun Hollamby's previous experience comes mainly from VW Cup racing, and will be towards the back of the field in his first year.

Predicted Order:
1. Jason Plato
2. Mat Jackson
3. Matt Neal
4. Gordon Shedden
5. Tom Chilton
6. Rob Collard
7. Steven Kane
8. Tom Onslow-Cole
9. Alex MacDowall
10. Andrew Jordan
11. Tom Boardman
12. Andy Neate
13. David Pinkney
14. Paul O'Neill
15. Phil Glew
16. Matt Hamilton
17. Martin Depper
18. John George
19. Arthur Forster
20. Lea Wood
21. Martin Johnson
22. Shaun Hollamby

Calendar
1. Thruxton - April 4
2. Rockingham - April 25
3. Brands Hatch GP - May 2
4. Oulton Park - June 6
5. Croft - June 20
6. Snetterton - August 8
7. Silverstone - August 22
8. Knockhill - September 5
9. Donington Park - September 19
10. Brands Hatch Indy - October 10

Photo Credit: Pete Mainey
 
 
2009 BTCC champion Colin Turkington (Pete Mainey)
Colin Turkington has said that he will not be able to return to the British Touring Car Championship this year and attempt to retain the title he won in 2009.

Turkington has said that he does not have the necessary funding in place to secure a drive with a team for this season, which begins at Thruxton on April 4. RAC ended their sponsorship of Colin's team West Surrey Racing at the end of 2009, and the team have failed to find a replacement. They have signed Rob Collard to drive alongside Andy Neate, Chief Technology Officer of team sponsor Ceravision. WSR boss Dick Bennetts has said he has a third BMW 320si ready for Colin, should he find the money to pay for it.

There is no doubt that motorsport is an expensive business, but for the champion not to have a drive is insane. No offence to the 'lesser' drivers in the series, but they manage to find the sponsors, so why can't Colin. Sponsoring Colin brings better value for money for brands, with the company name featuring heavily in series promotional material and TV coverage, which includes live raceday coverage of all three races on ITV4 and highlights packages on ITV1. WSR ran a three-car team at the end of last year, so Colin's car should not require any more funding than a one-car independent team nearer the back of the field. Interested firms could have been given the naming rights to Colin's car, meaning he would have been run under a different banner to Collard and Neate, a technique that is often found in other series, such as the DTM and V8 Supercars. Colin's car would continue to be part of the WSR team, and sponsoring his car would offer better value for sponsors, as it has the #1 on the door and is driven by possibly the most popular driver in the series.

Up until now, Colin and his team would have been chasing sponsors by going directly to companies. I anticipate that the media coverage of Colin's plight will show companies that Colin is desperate for backers, and that new companies will be interested in contacting him. It is important that companies are made aware of the benefits of sponsoring Colin.

In order to help generate interest, I have created a Facebook group, which aims to show to companies the interest that there is in Colin being on the 2010 grid. Colin's younger brother has already told me he is impressed with the amount of support it has received from fans. 

Both Jason Plato and Mat Jackson salvaged late sponsorship deals at the beginning of last season, having been left without drives.

Meanwhile, the rest of the BTCC grid is taking shape, ahead of the Media Day next Tuesday. I will publish my 2010 season preview next Friday. Follow @Frontofthegrid for the latest updates.

Photo Credit: Pete Mainey
 
 
Honda will return to the British Touring Car Championship in 2010, partnering Team Dynamics.

Honda UK today launched a limited edition of its Civic Type R road car, called the Mugen 200. In a press release they said that "the limited edition car also celebrate's the launch of Honda's BTCC team for 2010, continuing its long-standing relationship with Team Dynamics."

The release said that the team will race two Civics, which will sport a white and black livery. More details, such as driver lineup, are expected to be announced before the end of March, ahead of the start of the season on April 4.

Former BTCC champion Matt Neal tested one of the team's Civics at Rockingham last week. The car ran with new suspension, revised aerodynamics and new engine developments. The team is run by Neal's father Steve, with Matt expected to race for the team in 2010 following VX Racing's departure from the series.

Whether the team will be a full-works squad or not is yet to be revealed. Steve Neal had said in October that he was hoping to secure more backing from Honda, having lost title sponsor Halfords at the end of 2008. The promise of a semi-works Honda team is good news for the BTCC following the departure of the only manufacturer entry, Vauxhall, at the end of 2009. It is also speculated that Chevrolet could support RML with a semi-works BTCC effort in 2010.

Stay tuned for more on the subject by following @Frontofthegrid on Twitter.
 
 
Ours fears that the RML team may not enter in the BTCC next season have been ended for now after the RML Group posted on its Twitter page that it is already working on plans for a 2010 campaign.

The squad, which runs the Racing Silverline BTCC team alongside the works Chevrolet project in the WTCC, set up a last minute deal for Jason Plato before the season-opener at Brands Hatch back in April. It secured title sponsorship from tools supplier Silverline which allowed them to complete the season with two Chevrolet Lacettis for Plato and Mat Jackson, in addition to running an extra car for touring car newcomer James Nash. Plato finished second in the standings, with Jackson finishing fifth, despite missing the opening round. Nash missed the season finale to concentrate on securing extra funds for 2010.

They could well replace the Lacetti with the stunning-looking Chevrolet Cruze in 2010, particularly if they secure extra backing from Chevrolet, which will help to ensure there is some manufacturer presence after Vauxhall's departure. As we reported yesterday, Honda could also give extra backing to Team Dynamics.
 
 
After Colin Turkington wrapped up the 2009 BTCC title at Brands Hatch yesterday, all eyes began to turn to next season.

What do we know so far? Vauxhall will not return, and Triple Eight have put their Vectras up for sale. Bamboo will return with two Lacettis, with Harry Vaulkhard staying on as a driver. Elsewhere, very little is known so far.

Vauxhall's exit makes it very likely that Matt Neal will return to the family-run Team Dynamics. Father and team boss Steve Neal said yesterday that Matt will test for them at Snetterton on Wednesday. He also added that he is hoping to secure more backing from Honda to allow the team to expand. A decision by Honda is expected in the next ten days. Johnny Herbert and Dave Pinkney will both be looking to stay on with the team.

We can expect Team RAC and Airwaves BMW to return, although RML look less certain to want to run full-time programmes in both the BTCC and WTCC unless a big sponsor is found. That could leave Jason Plato and Mat Jackson joining Andrew Jordan in looking for drives. Hopefully RAC and Airwaves can find the backing to run three drivers each.

Team Aon will also look likely to return with Tom Chilton and Tom Onslow-Cole, and there was talk of them having three cars before this season, so hopefully they could also find the money for a third car.

Triple Eight could of course find another project in the BTCC, although don't expect Neal or Fabrizio Giovanardi to stay without a paid-drive. Tech-Speed has shown promise with the ageing Honda Integra's this season, and have had a good partnership with Triple Eight before, so we could see them running the Vectra's with a stronger driver lineup.

What do you think? Who will go where in 2010? Please share your view by leaving a comment below.
 
 
Colin Turkington has won the 2009 British Touring Car Championship after finishing in second place in the final race of the season at Brands Hatch.

Jason Plato won the race, becoming only the second driver to win all three races on one day, after Dan Eaves at Thruxton in 2005. It meant that Plato beat Fabrizio Giovanardi to the runner-up spot in the standings.

Polesitter Matt Neal lost the lead to Jonathan Adam on the opening lap, only for the two to make contact that resulted in Adam spinning off the track. Just behind, contact between Chilton and Adam's teammate Rob Collard resulted in Collard spinning into the barriers.

Turkington soon found himself in-between leader Neal and third-placed Giovanardi. With Neal backing the field up to assist Giovanardi, Turkington made a move on Neal at Druids to take the lead, with Giovanardi and Plato soon following through. Turkington had suffered minor damage passing Neal, and he found himself under immense pressure from Giovanardi, with the two clashing out of clearways, allowing Plato to take the lead. Turkington and Giovanardi clashed again on the following lap, allowing Chilton to pass the Italian and seperate them until the finish.

Turkington's title is the first overall BTCC title for experienced squad West Surrey Racing. The Northern Irishman also won the Independent Drivers' title for the third year in a row. The race also marked the last in the series for Vauxhall, the sole remaining manufacturer. However, for as long as the action remains this exciting, the BTCC will always have a strong future.

Full Results
 
 
Jason Plato won the second race of the day to lead home fellow title contenders Fabrizio Giovanardi and Colin Turkington, setting up a fantastic championship showdown for race three.

Plato, who had earlier won the first race of the day, lost out to Team Aon's Tom Chilton off the start, and had to wait until the closing stages to make his move at Druids. Giovanardi then also got past Chilton, while series leader Turkington made his way through from eighth on the grid to complete the podium.

The two Airwaves BMWs passed the other Vauxhalls of Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan early on, and Turkington was also able to get past Neal. Neal continued to pressure Turkington, until Paul O'Neill was able to force Neal wide at Druids, releasing Turkington to attack Jordan. He was able to pass Jordan, Chilton and the Airwaves BMWs of Jonny Adam and Rob Collard to finish third.

The result means that Turkington will go into the final race of the season with a four point advantage over Giovanardi, with Plato a further eight points back. They will start in 6th, 7th and 8th respectively, with Matt Neal on pole position. You can catch the race at around 17:10 live on ITV4.

Full Results
 
 
Jason Plato denied Tom Chilton and Team Aon their first win of the season as he passed the Ford on the run to the finish line in the first race of the day at Brands Hatch.

Chilton had led Plato from pole position but was under continued pressure from Plato, until the end of the final lap when he ran wide out of Stirlings, losing momentum to Plato's Chevrolet, eventually resulting in Plato taking the victory by just 15 hundredths of a second, the closest winning margin in championship history.

Fabrizio Giovanardi completed the podium in third, while standings leader Colin Turkington finished eighth after starting tenth.

The result means that Giovanardi is now just 6 points behind Team RAC driver Turkington, with Plato just a further eight points behind, with 34 points still up for grabs in the remaining two races today.

Round 29 of 30 is due to begin at 14:20 local time, with live coverage on ITV4.

Full Results