Speedworks Motorsport is ready to take a ‘sizeable step’ up the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship grid in 2015, after inking a deal with widely respected and experienced engineer Geoff Kingston.
With standout rookie Tom Ingram behind the wheel of its Hughes Safety Showers-backed Toyota Avensis, Speedworks concluded the 2014 BTCC campaign placed a solid ninth amongst the 21 protagonists in the overall teams’ standings and seventh out of 19 in the Independents’ Trophy, with 19 points-scoring finishes from 30 starts – 13 of them inside the top ten.
In evidence of its rather loftier ambitions, however, the season was barely over before the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit recruited Kingston from Team BMR, where as chief engineer, he had played a significant role in both enticing two-time champion Alain Menu back to Britain’s leading motorsport series and turning the squad from a midfield competitor into a consistent front-runner and race-winner.
There is a general sense within the paddock that Speedworks is knocking on the door of a very big result. With a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the BTCC as well as other motorsport disciplines from Formula 1 to sportscars, the arrival of the highly-rated Kingston could be just the right key to unlock it.
“From the outside looking in, I think Geoff has done a fantastic job this year,” affirmed team principal Christian Dick, “and he has a long history of success both within and beyond the BTCC. If you look at some of the teams he has worked with, his credentials speak for themselves.
“We are already there-or-thereabouts and regular contenders for the top ten, and Geoff has lots of interesting ideas that he wants to try out that will hopefully move us into a race-winning position. We have no intention of merely making up the numbers, but by the same token, we have a fairly limited budget, so it’s all about maximising our resources and really extracting the very best out of what we have at our disposal. We are optimistic that our combined efforts will enable us to take a sizeable step up the grid.
“We are building a new shell for the Avensis for 2015 and have a lot of development work ahead and plenty of upgrades in the pipeline, with a particular focus on weight-saving, weight distribution and making the car’s cooling system more efficient. We will also be looking closely at the bodywork and aerodynamics and doing a lot of testing with the dampers, which were a bit of an Achilles’ heel for us during the second half of this year and affected tyre life over a race distance.
“Geoff has started at the workshop and is already spending my money, which I will interpret as a positive sign! He is on the same wavelength as us and has settled in seamlessly. He is very easy-going and gets on well with all the guys – and most importantly of all, he is as determined to win as we are!”
Those sentiments are echoed by Kingston, who aside from working for some of the biggest teams in the BTCC over the years, was instrumental in helping to drive Jaguar to the World Sportscar Championship crown and Le Mans 24 Hours glory in the late 1980s, before contributing to Benetton’s race-winning success with Michael Schumacher in Formula 1 in 1993.
“I was looking for a fresh challenge like this, and when it came up, it just seemed like the perfect fit at the right time,” he explained. “So far, everybody inside the team has been a real joy to be around and work with – there’s a good atmosphere and they’ve all made me feel extremely welcome.
“The one thing Speedworks have perhaps lacked until now is a little bit of experience – which is what I can bring to the table. The differences between these cars are so minimal that the skill is in finding the limit from what’s available; that can be pretty elusive – but the beauty of the NGTC regulations is that everybody has the same opportunity, which means it all comes down to how you use it.
“Every race engineer’s brief is to provide a platform – the car – to enable the driver to exploit the available grip from the tyres over the appropriate period of time. In the BTCC, this means two different situations – qualifying, where outright performance is required without too much thought to durability, and then of course the races, where we are looking for both performance and durability over a longer distance.
“Tom is clearly a driver out of the top drawer in terms of talent; I was enormously impressed by him this year and I genuinely believe he is a champion in-waiting. With a season’s experience under his belt, if he stays on-board in 2015, I think in an improved car he can be right up there.
“Quite simply, if Speedworks can begin finishing races in the same position as they start them or even higher – rather than slipping backwards from strong grid slots, as they have tended to do – it will transform the team’s results. I feel very positive about the future. Ultimately, Christian and I share the same goal, and I still have a very competitive streak inside me – even after all these years, I still want to beat everybody else!”
*The immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised BTCC is commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series and counted amongst its 2014 crop no fewer than seven former champions and 14 race-winners.