by Series Director Gow
The return of both the Arena International Motorsport team and the Ford name to the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship has been warmly welcomed by BTCC Series Director Alan Gow.
Arena announced earlier today it will join the 2009 BTCC with a team of independent-entered Ford Focus ST hatchbacks, one driven by multiple race-winner Tom Chilton (pictured right).
Mike Earle's squad previously ran Honda's factory BTCC campaign from 2002-05 for drivers such as Andy Priaulx and Matt Neal.
Arena's announcement also means a return to the BTCC of the Ford name for the first time since the company won the championship as an official manufacturer entry in 2000. Ford has been synonymous with the BTCC right back to the championship's earliest days in the late Fifties - its cars have won ten outright titles since 1959 and also achieved the highest number of race wins, 219, for any make in the championship.
"I'm delighted to welcome both Arena and the Ford name back into the BTCC," said Alan Gow. "Having had a close insight on this programme, for many months, I have no doubt that Arena's expertise and superb attention to detail will enable it to quickly turn the Focus into a front-running car in the BTCC, just as it did with Honda's Civic earlier this decade.
"And of course the Ford name means so much to so many motor sport and motoring enthusiasts across the UK and around the world. Although an independent entry, the fact the Ford name is back on the grid and being run by such a skilful team is sure to gain this project a tremendous following.
"This is more great news for the BTCC and all of our fans, after the championship enjoyed yet another rise in trackside attendances and unheard of levels of live television coverage from ITV in 2008. With an ever-increasing variety of cars competing in the BTCC, I'm extremely excited by how our 2009 season is shaping up... no doubt we will see some iconic battles between all these great marques."
The 2009 BTCC season will start at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent on Sunday 5 April.