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BTCC Round 1 - Brands Hatch - Preview

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  • BTCC Round 1 - Brands Hatch - Preview

    BTCC Round 1 - Brands Hatch - Preview
    VX Racing is champing at the bit to regain its place at the top of the MSA Dunlop British Touring Car Championship time sheets for 2006.
    In the last five years the team has won 13 of the 15 BTCC titles but its perfect record was brought to an end last year when Matt Neal snatched the drivers' title and Team Halfords took the teams' championship.
    If putting the rest of the grid back in their place is not incentive enough, VX Racing has the tantalising prospect of securing Vauxhall's 100th BTCC race win at Brands Hatch this weekend.
    The marque was thwarted in the last three race meetings of 2005, but with an all-new driver line-up and a revised car, the Luton manufacturer is confident Brands Hatch will see its landmark victory.
    "We only need one more win to complete the century," said VX Racing brand manager Stuart Harris. "It would certainly get the season off to a bang, and we've got the champagne on ice."
    Any of VXR's three drivers could be the one to clinch the prestigious win.
    Six-time touring car champion, Fabrizio Giovanardi, has been touted in the press as the greatest active touring car driver in the world. But the 39-year-old has never raced in Britain and admits he faces a steep learning curve with nine new circuits to get to grips with.
    "I've been practicing on my computer and I'm confident," said Giovanardi. "I needed a new challenge and I'm not shy of some hard work."
    There is no such disadvantage for British touring car prodigy, Tom Chilton, who has already racked up six race wins in the BTCC and is a veteran of four years despite being only 21-years-old.
    Chilton is confident going into this weekend's race. Brands Hatch is only a stone's throw from his home town of Reigate, and he claims to know every nook and cranny of the exciting circuit.
    "I've probably done more races around Brands Hatch than any other circuit," said Chilton. "The racing is so close that every little bit helps. You have to know every bump and turn and twist - and I do."
    Hopes are also high for VXR's third driver, 28-year-old Irishman Gavin Smith, who by the end of last season was regularly finishing races in the top six. Smith is now keen to cross the threshold from challenger to victor.
    "There's no pressure," said Smith. "I'm just going to give it the best shot I can and see what comes of it. I know Brands Hatch well but not compared to some of the other guys. I don't feel at a disadvantage though. The car is up to it and I'll find the speed."
    > Should one of the VX Racing drivers win at Brands Hatch this weekend, it will be Vauxhall's 100th win in the British Touring Car Championship.
    > John Cleland scored the first win on May 27, 1991 at Thruxton in a Vauxhall Dealersport Cavalier GSi. Vauxhall currently has 99 wins.
    > Of the 100 race wins, 36 wins are attributed to Yvan Muller - the most successful ever Vauxhall driver in the BTCC. Vauxhall legend John Cleland scored 18 wins in his ten years in the championship.