Tom Chilton believes there is no reason why the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra can challenge for pole position at round one after a strong showing at Donington Park for the 2017 season launch.
Turning a wheel for the first time in the car last week at Snetterton, the 32-year-old wracked up a total of 45 laps around the Leicestershire circuit and clocked the eighth fastest time come the end of the day.
Looking ahead to the opening weekend of the season at Brands Hatch in a fortnights time, Chilton is buoyed with optimism that the car could be a contender towards the sharp end of the grid in the battle for the first pole position of the year.
“Go big or go home is my outlook on it all,” said Chilton to BTCC Crazy. “The last time I raced at Brands Hatch in the BTCC, I won a race, and the last time I raced a Vauxhall at the circuit I stuck it on pole – I’m looking to do the same in a couple of weeks time.
“Out of the box the car has been very good and we were P2 or P3 for a good chunk of the session. Of course it is hard to tell who is running what weight or tyres but we seem to be in a good place. I think Matt Neal was on a race run and I was able to sit there and follow him no problem for at least four laps before we came in.
“The work that all the guys at Power Maxed Racing have put is quite astonishing though and they deserve a lot of credit. They’ve built the cars from scratch and they seem to be running well and more importantly, fast!”
Having not raced in the series since 2011, the landscape of the BTCC has changed with not only the grids being more competitive than ever but also the regulation changes being implemented too.
He explained: “It is good to be back! At the end of last season I ended up speaking to a lot of teams up and down the paddock to see what was available. In the end I picked up the phone to Alan [Gow] and got his opinion on what he thinks would be good for me, he pointed me to PMR and here we are.
“The championship has certainly changed from the last time I was here. The NGTC regulations are very different from what I am used to but it is the same for everybody. Credit must go to Dunlop because the work they have done with the tyres is remarkable, they are so consistent over a race run.
In total, the former Independent Drivers’ champion is set to compete in no less than 50 races across 20 weekends this season due to his WTCC commitments as well – something he has no problem with at all.
“It is fair to say that I have no free time at all,” he joked. “I was at a WTCC test in Monza on Wednesday and then here for BTCC on Thursday. This is what my year is going to be like but there could be far worse things to be doing!”
PHOTO CREDIT: Jakob Ebrey Photography