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Following this morning’s confirmation that Thruxton will host two race meetings in the 2019 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), the series’ leading drivers have expressed their excitement at travelling to the UK’s fastest circuit not once but twice next year – for the first time in more than a decade – totalling six breathless, high-octane races.
An annual fixture on the calendar of Britain’s premier motor sport series since 1968 – the year the circuit opened in its current configuration – Thruxton has always been a popular stop amongst competitors and fans alike, with its high-speed layout and flat-out sweepers generating superb slipstreaming scraps and no shortage of spectacle. Next year, fans will be able to enjoy that action twice – on 18/19 May and again on 17/18 August.
Over the years, many of the biggest names in the BTCC have tamed Thruxton’s formidable challenge to climb onto the top step of the rostrum in Hampshire – amongst them the likes of Andy Rouse, Steve Soper, Gabriele Tarquini, Alain Menu and Jason Plato, tin-top legends all.
“Thruxton is a completely unique circuit,” acknowledged 1992 BTCC Champion-turned-ITV4 commentator Tim Harvey, who came within a whisker of scoring Peugeot’s breakthrough victory in the series there in 1997. “The layout has gone largely unchanged over all these years, and as a driver, it remains mightily challenging. I have many happy memories of going there and I always love going back. Thruxton invariably produces great racing – and long may that continue.”
Three-time title-winner Matt Neal – gunning for a record-equalling fourth drivers’ crown in 2018 – is one of the most successful of the current BTCC crop around Thruxton, achieving his 62nd and most recent career win at the track last month.
“I think it’s brilliant we are going to Thruxton twice – it means double the fun!” he smiled. “It’s an awesome place to go and one of my favourite circuits on the calendar because it is unspoiled, challenging and heart-in-mouth – a proper old-school, balls-out track that really rewards the brave, and as a driver, that’s exactly what you relish. It’s also like a home grand prix for us, with Honda’s UK manufacturing base just up the road in Swindon, so the fact we will be having two events there will be absolutely fantastic and I cannot wait.”
Hailing from Bath, Vauxhall ace Josh Cook counts Thruxton as his local circuit and the 26-year-old stormed through the field to register his second BTCC victory on ‘home’ soil earlier this year. Like Neal, he is thrilled to be returning twice next season.
“I love Thruxton!” Cook enthused. “Winning there last month was an amazing feeling, to get to stand on the top step of the podium in front of family, friends and sponsors who have supported me for so long. It’s a wonderful place to go racing – a proper white-knuckle ride the whole way round, and a case of ‘he who dares, wins’. It’s the kind of track where you really get to push your car to the limits – and to have chance to do that six times in 2019 is hugely exciting.”
“Thruxton is a phenomenal circuit,” echoed fans’ favourite Rob Austin. “It’s somewhere that has always been close to my heart, and with HMS Racing being based in Swindon, it’s our ‘local’ track too. The effort that has gone into the venue in recent years to improve facilities for fans and competitors alike is tremendous, and for Thruxton to be given another event on the 2019 BTCC schedule is just reward for Bill Coombs and his loyal, hard-working team. I think it’s brilliant news!”
The investment to which Austin alludes is part of a long-term plan designed to keep Thruxton firmly at the forefront of the national motor racing scene. Earlier this month, the state-of-the-art new Thruxton Centre was officially inaugurated by Nigel Mansell CBE and Murray Walker OBE at the circuit’s 50th Anniversary Celebration – just the first stage in a multifaceted improvement programme over the coming years.
“Thruxton is in the midst of a multi-million pound development,” explained Thruxton Group Managing Director Coombs. “We have worked hard – and continue to work hard – to enhance the safety aspect to ensure our venue conforms to the most exacting of standards, and the new Thruxton Centre has shifted the goalposts in terms of our corporate offering at and away from race weekends.
“There are further exciting plans in the pipeline to significantly upgrade facilities for competitors, spectators and media, and we are delighted to see that hard work repaid with a second British Touring Car Championship visit next season. As the country’s foremost car racing series, the BTCC always draws huge crowds and delivers outstanding entertainment – so there’s more to look forward to than ever at Thruxton in 2019!”