Gilham reflects on tough BTCC season
Gilham reflects on tough BTCC season

As British Touring Car Championship seasons go 2018 was probably one of the toughest for Kent’s very own Team Hard Racing.

Run by Tony Gilham, the team are one of the best known teams on the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship grid.

Kent Sports News has caught up with Tony to look back on the season and ahead to the 2019 campaign.

Speaking about last season and the ups and downs, he said: “Looking back it was a very tough year for a number of reasons and one that was without doubt full of highs and lows.

“Although, it was arguably the most important year in our relatively short history as it has shaped us for the future and put us in by far the strongest position we have ever been in. That is both on and off track and as a business as a whole.

“We have once again learnt so much and taken all of the experiences and turned them in to a positive moving forwards in to 2019.”

One of the highs of the 2018 season for the team and Tony was the performances of Kent’s Mike Bushell and the fact he pushed towards the front end of the grid in the second half of the season.

He added: “Mike is a very special talent and I have never worked with a more dedicated, capable and educated driver. He is also a key part of our engineering programme and has been a driving force behind our upturn in pace.

“The second half of the season we had a package as quick as anyone else out there and after losing so much ground in the first half of the season, we focussed heavily on development for the future and have unlocked some real genuine pace in the car. Mike belongs in the BTCC and this year will be his third and also by far his best to date.”

Unfortunately for the team they had a few drivers racing in the car during the season which is quite frustrating for Tony.

“It is very frustrating for so many reasons and also from the outside sometimes the fans don’t quite understand why there has been changes and how it effects everything both on and off track.

“We never want to change driver’s mid-season but some things are out of our control and unfortunately these changes are forced upon us. However, it is also great to be able to give upcoming drivers the opportunity to sample the best racing series in the UK and also compete at the pinnacle of British Motorsport.”

Jake Hill last season achieved the team’s best result of the season with a second place, which is something that Tony hopes can be repeated in 2019.

He said: “Without a doubt this is our ambition for 2019 and we would like to push for silverware on a more regular basis. We have sampled it over the years but we need and want to be towards the front on a more consistent basis.

“It’s such a competitive grid with great drivers and very small margin for error, so we all need to be on to of out game to be at the sharp end.”

Team Hard were one of the first teams on the grid to complete their line-up for the 2019, which allows the team to focus on getting the cars built and out on track.

“100 percent that was very important for us and our plans and we wanted everything in place and confirmed before the end of the year. We have done exactly that and we have already carried out a good amount of winter testing to base our 2019 preparations and updates on.

“We will hit the ground running and are already four months ahead of schedule compared to last year. That is a massive bonus for everyone involved and we should see the benefits come April at Brands Hatch.”

Next season Tony and Team Hard will have four very different drivers on the grid, with two returnees from last season’s BTCC team and two new drivers who are familiar to the team but not the BTCC.

Giving his thoughts on the driver line-up, Tony said: “We had a short list of drivers very early on and we made it our priority to sign and work with people that understand Team HARD and their family values as well as our long term plans.

“For me, we have the perfect driver line up with Mike (Bushell) and Bobby (Thompson) returning for another year with us in BTCC after completing all of last year and showing some incredible pace at times as well as two other familiar faces and also great drivers in Carl (Boardley) and Michael (Crees).

“Carl came so close to winning the Ginetta Supercup title last year and will be a solid performer in the BTCC and Michael has already impressed the whole team with his raw pace out the blocks in the VW CC. So we are ready and excited for the year ahead and looking forward to once again proving lots of doubters wrong.”

We asked Tony about the teams testing programme ahead of the new season and being ready to hit the ground running for round one at Brands Hatch in April.

He added: “We have already carried out six days of winter testing with more already planned over the next few weeks.

“We will be leaving no stone unturned as we push to be a top team in the BTCC for years to come. We have an extensive test programme planned and we have a very detailed schedule in place.”

With a few changes of teams and drivers on the grid for the 2019 season as well as a new title sponsor for the series, we get the thoughts of Tony on the changes and whether the season will be even more competitive.

“We believe that the 2019 season will be very open and will once again see multiple race winners and lots of teams having both great weekends and also some frustrating and bad weekends.

“That is the nature of the BTCC but we are in confident mood ahead of what we believe will be a very successful campaign for us. There have been a few changes up and down the grid and with still more to come and be announced it will be a very interesting year that’s for sure.”

Finally we asked Tony for his highlights from the 2018 season and any races that stood out for the Team Hard team principle.

He said: “Obviously Jake’s P2 and independent win at Brands Hatch at the first round was a highlight and perfect start to the season but after that it was a tough few months before we made some big changes and regrouped ready for the second half of the season.

“We then had more regular pace and learnt a lot about ourselves and the cars which lead to an amazing drive by Bobby at Rockingham and also Mike topping the times in FP2 at Silverstone. A few highs but not enough for what we wanted so onwards to 2019 to achieve just that.”

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