By the time you read this, the motorsport season’s curtain-raiser event, Autosport International, would have been and gone. But at the time of writing, the whole team is busy making sure everything is ready for the show and the season ahead.

We’ll be showing two cars at the NEC this year, but as we write this the cars are far from show-ready! That’s because, after the Dunlop test a few weeks ago the cars have been completely stripped back to bare shells before a meticulous rebuild process could begin. This may seem extreme, but it’s actually fairly standard practice; after a hard season of racing every nut and bolt will need checking over and many parts will need replacing ahead of another full season. With three races in a single day, reliability is key in the BTCC. Plus, as we’re all ultra-competitive, we’re constantly looking at ways to make tweaks to improve the on-track performance too, and completely stripping the cars helps us when it comes to packaging components and making aero tweaks.

The cars will be back together in time for Autosport, but after that we’ll embark on a rigorous pre-season testing schedule (hopefully, this year, not taking the cars all the way to Spain only for it to snow!) to iron-out any niggles and fine-tune the cars ready for the BTCC season opener at Brands Hatch in April.

One thing we will be announcing at Autosport, but we can share with you here, is our new driver line-up for the 2019 season. BTCC stalwart, last-year’s 3rd place overall and runner-up in the Independents championship, and all-round nice guy, Tom Chilton will return for another year behind the wheel of the Focus RS. Tom’s excited and quietly confident about the season ahead: “Looking back, when I started at Sebastian Loeb Racing in the World Touring Cars in my first year, I thought I’d done the best that I could possibly do. It was my first year in the team, first year in the car and we could only finish 2nd in the Independents championship. I needed to stay there for the second year to actually get the best out of the car and the team, where I thrived and went on to win my Championship and class.

“I think that people forget what it’s like coming into a team for the first year. You have to learn not just every single thing about the car from scratch with all the little key changes, but also everyone in the team, and it’s such a big learning curve in that first season. I’m very excited to have some consistency going into 2019 and I do believe that we can go in for the title fight, especially with the developments we’ve made to the RS.”

Alongside Tom in the sister Shredded Wheat Racing car we have secured the services of Ollie Jackson. Ollie raced for the team back in 2009 and 2010, winning the Carrera Cup Pro-Am championship in with us. And having been a regular in the BTCC for the last few season he’s now ready to challenge for regular podiums and race-wins in a front-running car. Ollie said: “Having had the relationship with David (Bartrum), I was lucky enough to test the Focus at the end of last season, and being in a more competitive car proved that I was ready to make the step-up into a race winning team with a proven track record of success.”

So, the drivers are clearly ready for the task ahead, we’re confident the Focus will be the fastest and most competitive it’s ever been, and everyone is chomping at the bit to get going in 2019. Roll on Brands in April…