Dunlop, the Official Tyre Supplier to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, has once again provided an opportunity for champions from the MINI Challenge to test a race-winning touring car.
MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) Champion Ant Whorton-Eales was the first to earn the test opportunity at Snetterton today, but for him it was a step into familiar territory – he took part in Dunlop’s annual prize test in 2016 after winning the Renault Clio Cup. This launched him into the BTCC, driving an AmD Tuning Audi S3 in 2017, before choosing to tackle the highly competitive MINI Challenge this year.
The Staffordshire racer relished his second Dunlop opportunity, saying: “It was great to test a proven winning car. Motorbase have come a long way in developing this car in the two years since my first test.”
Reflecting on his year in the MINI Challenge, Ant added: “It’s a definite stepping stone to the BTCC. A driver with touring car ambitions should definitely consider it.”
He was joined at the test by MINI JCW runner-up, Nathan Harrison. Like Whorton-Eales, the Oxfordshire driver drove the Team Shredded Wheat with Gallagher Racing Ford Focus RS, and benefited from coaching from BTCC race winner Tom Chilton.
Harrison said: “This was an amazing day, thanks to Dunlop and Motorbase. It’s a great opportunity and I’m working hard on raising a budget to move up to BTCC. The grip and power of the car felt great and I feel that the MINI Challenge has been a good step towards preparing me for this.”
Each driver handled the Focus around the three mile Snetterton 300 circuit. Mickey Butler of Dunlop Motorsport stated: “We are grateful to Motorbase Performance for giving our Dunlop Champions such a brilliant opportunity.
“Dunlop invest heavily in national level motorsport, and this year we showcased talent from the MINI Challenge, which has established itself as a genuine step on the ladder into the BTCC.”
The two drivers used Dunlop’s Sport Maxx Prime tyre in the morning before switching to the Sport Maxx Option Soft for race distance runs in the afternoon.
“Adapting to the different tyres is a skill that top BTCC drivers need to have. It’s a curved ball we like to throw into the test programme so we can coach the drivers on optimising tyre performance.” added Butler.
Oly Collins, Team Manager, Shredded Wheat with Gallagher Racing, explained the importance of the test: “It was a varied day with two drivers of different experience levels.
“With Ant returning to the BTCC we trusted him to start his runs on cold tyres and bring them up to speed quickly. For Nathan, he had the opportunity to drive after Tom Chilton had brought the tyres and brakes up to temperature. He then progressed perfectly to get on to the pace very quickly. Both drivers didn’t over-drive the car and performed impressively.”
Kyle Reid, also a prize-drive winner, will test the Focus in 2019 as he was unable to attend this session.