Inverness racer Dave Newsham optimistic of BTCC return in 2018 with BTC Norlin
BRITISH Touring Car driver Dave Newsham admits he is raring to go for next year – even though the season has just finished.
Newsham completed his maiden season with BTC Norlin Racing at Brands Hatch last weekend and is hopeful of a return to the team for a second crack at the championship.
The 2017 campaign has arguably been one of the Inverness racer’s most enjoyable in BTCC. He recorded his first podium finish since 2014 at Silverstone – BTC’s first – and notched up his highest points-tally in four years.
Returning for a second season under the BTC Norlin banner would present Newsham with his first opportunity to continue with the same team. In his previous six BTCC seasons, he has always changed teams.
With 10 top-10 finishes this campaign, allied with the late surge in form of team-mate Chris Smiley, Newsham is optimistic of what could be achieved if the team sticks together.
“This year has been a joy. Everyone in the team has been great and we’ve massively over-achieved for a brand new team. Chris is a really good guy to work with; he never complains, gets on with it and is a joy to be around. He’s a young man but eventually, he’s going to be one of the guys to beat.
“I’ve never started a season in BTCC with the car I finished in the year before, which is a massive advantage. If I continue with the same team, I can hit the ground running and have an advantage over guys that have switched teams.
“I can’t wait to get back in the car – I’m not too old yet! It would be nice to have a couple of months off and chill out but I’m raring to go and get stuck in. If we all come back in next year, it’ll be my best chance of success.”
The move to BTC at the end of last year came at a time when the Norscott Vending managing director was seriously considering a drive away from BTCC. Financially, he was struggling to put together a package that would net him a team.
However, BTC Norlin bought the licenses of the two Chevrolet Cruzes owned by Newsham’s previous team Power Maxed Racing, presenting the 50-year-old the chance to race in a car he was familiar with.
After starting last season in PMR’s rallycross team, Newsham was presented with the chance to get back into BTCC as their championship driver Kelvin Fletcher went on paternity leave.
His performances obviously caught the eye of BTC boss Bert Taylor, who paired him with Smiley for 2017.
“Normally the finances are so tight it’s stressful but this year it’s been great,” he said. “I’ve not had that and I’ve been able to get on with my driving. I’m fairly pleased with my driving – I haven’t made that many mistakes.
“I dabbled in rallycross last year and was gifted a couple of rounds in BTCC and that’s basically the car I’m driving now. That stood me in good stead for this year.
“If I start the season well, it gets the confidence up and keeps momentum going. If we can keep the same personnel, it’s going to be a good year. I can feel it.”
If you look at BTC’s results, from Knockhill onwards they improved markedly. Newsham puts it down to a mid-season test at Snetterton.
“We were tuning up each round and testing as we go. We didn’t often get it right and had two days testing to iron out what wasn’t working. It was really enjoyable driving the car and that makes a big difference.
“We had a really good weekend then a brilliant weekend at Silverstone getting on the podium. I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve driven; a lot of circumstances come into play. At Silverstone we had a really good car and found some pace. I held off Tom Ingram for the whole race.
“We should have had a similar weekend at Brands Hatch but a few gremlins crept in. I was P8 in race one and the pace was there, then the diff exploded on the car in race two. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“The team were really up against it and got it fixed for race three and I was making really good progress. I went from 29th to 10th, when I got a tap from one of the other drivers and ended up in the gravel. It was partly my fault – it was an ambitious move that spoiled my race.
“Chris (Smiley) did an awesome job to finish in 11th from P28. Me and him had a really good fight and we said before the race, whoever got beat gets the first round in at the bar.
“We had a celebration at the hotel that night with a few guys from the team and he beat me, so I got my hand in my pocket.”
In the meantime, Newsham will be accompanying son Callum in the final rounds of the North of Scotland Karting Championships.