Tom Onslow-Cole may think he has his best chance of winning the British Tour Car Championship drivers’ title yet, but the biggest threat to his hopes could come from within.
The New Malden race ace kicks off the new season at Brands Hatch on Sunday in a West Surrey Racing-run eBay Motors BMW – the same team where he started his BTCC career in 2007.
Many pundits are tipping the team’s turbo-charged 320si cars to be at the front end of the grid this term, with the same equipment having taken Colin Turkington to the title in 2009.
Onslow-Cole, who is starting his fifth full season in six consecutive years of BTCC racing, spent much of 2011 in the middle of the pack with AmD Milltek Racing and Team Aon.
The former Brooklands College student reckoned the experience – and that of coming close to the title in 2010 – makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Although team-mates Rob Collard and Nick Foster may have something to say about that.
“I have perhaps my best shot of the outright title since I made my debut in the series back in 2007,” Onslow-Cole said.
“Coming off the back of a championship bid in 2010, the whole game changed for me last year and I found myself in the midfield and barely in points contention.
“Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes in this sport sometimes.
“If anything, my experiences in 2011 made me a more rounded driver and I was able to prove myself as a capable development driver who’s able to transform a car into a potential race winner.
“It’s nice to be back with WSR – with whom I began my BTCC career – and to also switch back to a rear-wheel-driven car because, while there are a few limiting factors with rear-wheel-drive, it also has its advantages in that it’s quick off the start line and kind to its tyres over a race distance.
“The hot topic at this stage is who’ll set the pace. Many are tipping us for great things this season, but it’s simply impossible to know where we stand in the grand scheme of things.
“All I can be sure about is that the eBay Motors team has a strong package and I fear that my toughest challenge will be beating my team-mates, who are both highly experienced and very rapid as a result.”
Onslow-Cole has had mixed fortunes at Brands Hatch in the past and was forced to retire in all three races on the final weekend in 2010, having been in with a chance of landing the drivers’ crown.
But that will be forgotten come raceday.
“This weekend’s event will be huge and, being the first round there will be a great atmosphere as well,” added Onslow-Cole.
“The BTCC is famed for its action-packed racing and nowhere does it get more exciting than Brands Hatch.”
Qualifying takes place tomorrow with raceday – screened live on ITV4 – on Sunday.