The eBay Motors team will seek to maintain its title challenge when the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Silverstone this weekend for the penultimate meeting of the season.
Going into the latest three rounds of the year, eBay Motors man Colin Turkington sits third in the championship standings and is just 33 points away from top spot in his first season in the series since 2009, when he won the championship.
Team-mates Rob Collard and Nick Foster meanwhile will hope to move towards the top ten in the championship standings having also shown their speed on track over the course of the year in the all-new NGTC-spec BMW 125i M-Sport.
Colin’s performance in particular has been one of the main talking points of the year, with the 2009 title winner having won no fewer than five times to put himself firmly in contention for a second championship crown.
Amongst those impressed by what he has seen this season is former BTCC race winner Paul O’Neill, who has raced against all three eBay Motors men on track and now works with ITV as part of its broadcast team.
“At the start of the season, when I saw who would be driving the cars and with the knowledge that West Surrey Racing has, I knew the team would be strong,” he says. “I put it in writing on Twitter that I felt they would be battling for silverware during the season.
“However, if I’m being honest, I didn’t think that we’d be going to Silverstone with the team still in the running for the championship title. I thought there was a chance that Colin could maybe finish in the top four in the standings, but didn’t expect him to be such a contender.
“For me, the eBay Motors team is right up there with Pirtek Racing as the team of the season.”
Part of the reason why former factory Vauxhall driver O’Neill has been so impressed with the performances on track this season is because of the fact that he feels the eBay Motors team has had to ‘rewrite the rules’ when it comes to getting the most from its rear-wheel drive BMW.
“Everyone could see that the NGTC rules weren’t designed for a rear-wheel drive car,” he said, “but that was the way the team decided to go. They’ve almost had to rewrite the rules to make a car that is usable for the drivers.
“For example, the rear splitter on the NGTC car doesn’t generate much downforce, which is what a rear-wheel drive car like the BMW needs. On paper, NGTC in a rear-wheel drive car shouldn’t work, but the team has turned things on their head. I can’t really put into words what they’ve done to produce the car they have, and if they don’t manage to win the title this year, I’d put them as one of the favourites to do it next year.”
Turkington’s performances in putting himself in contention for honours come despite the fact that recent seasons have seen him only taking part in limited events around the world, with outings in Scandinavia and in the WTCC having followed his title-winning BTCC campaign.
In O’Neill’s eyes however, it’s almost as if the 31-year-old Northern Irishman has never been away.
“You have to remember that Colin had never driven a car built to these rules and didn’t have much testing before the season, yet he’s still one of the drivers who could win the title,” he said. “He had a bit of trouble early on as he got used to the car, but once he got into his stride, he hasn’t looked back.
“You don’t win a championship title in the BTCC without having a lot of talent and in my eyes, Colin is the best driver on the grid at the moment. He has the whole package. He is quick, clean, respects his competitors on track and he only seems to get caught up in incidents that aren’t his fault. In fact, I think its fair to say that the only reason he isn’t leading the championship is because of other drivers this season.
“Rob and Nick have had their fair share of problems, but they are also quick drivers on their day. In the second half of the year in particular, Rob has shown that he can be just as fast as Colin and that’s despite the fact that he’s had to deal with everything that followed his son’s karting accident, while Nick qualified as the best BMW at Brands Hatch, which showed what he can do. Luck just hasn’t always been on their side.”
Alongside his commitments with ITV, O’Neill will join Colin, Rob and Nick for a special Q&A session at the eBay Motors Hub Live, which makes its second appearance of the season in the Silverstone paddock.
As well as seeing Paul grill the three eBay Motors drivers, fans will be able to see how the compare to the three racers on the team’s simulators, have their picture taken with a BTCC winners trophy and get their hands on the new range of eBay Motors BTCC merchandise, which will be available to buy at the circuit for the first time.
“It’s great for the fans to have things like Hub Live,” Paul concludes. “When you look at the BTCC, it is probably the most accessible championship there is for fans. Where else can you get up close to the drivers for a chat and where else would you be able to actually get your hands on a winners trophy?
“The BTCC is a fantastic championship, but it is the fans that make it what it is, so it’s great for them to be able to get something back from it.”
Colin Turkington and eBay Motors Team engineer Drew McDonald preview the weekend below: