PRODUCTION GTI LINES UP FOR 2019 AT SILVERSTONE
This season, the Teekay Couplings Production GTi Championship looks set to enjoy one of its best seasons in recent years, with a superb influx of new drivers and newly built cars hitting the track to take on the established drivers. This Sunday’s opening two rounds at Silverstone on the National circuit will certainly give the drivers their first chance to see how they stack up against one another after a very competitive 2018 season.
Last year, the ever-increasing Mk5 entry was eligible to score points in their own class for the very first time and as such crowned its very first champion in James Colbourne. Heading into the new season, an impressive entry is ready to line up for their first races of the season spearheaded by defending champion Colbourne. James only won two races all season, but what helped him to the class title was a multitude of 2nd place finishes that kept the points rolling in until the end. Indeed, two of them came at the final rounds at Donington Park to get the job done. His closest challenger was Simon Hill, a former Mk2 hotshot that ended up missing two rounds mid-season, but made up for it by taking a clean sweep of wins in the last four races, all with the fastest lap to boot to claim a maximum of 88 points. Even so, he had to settle for 2nd place just five points back but 2019 will be the season Simon pushes to take the crown for himself this time.
Adam Hance did very well to finish every single race last year but only found the podium three times towards the end of the season. Nevertheless, he proved that consistency is key in a championship campaign and he will be keen to keep up that run of form this year. The paddock is delighted to welcome back Paul Blackburn after a nasty incident at the Donington Park finale saw him recuperating over the off-season. Now Paul is just about back to fighting fitness and keen to improve on the 4th place he managed in the points in 2018, which saw him pick up a long overdue race win at Rockingham for his troubles. Fifth-placed John Mawdsley was also able to put in a string of solid results including winning the opening race of last season in the wet at Oulton Park. Perhaps if more precipitation arrives on Sunday, it may work to his advantage.
Others who are certainly ready to take up the fight include Martyn Walsh, a proven race winner and perennial rival to Simon Hill. Usually when one is on track, the other is never too far away! He will be keen to resume this friendly rivalry and make his intentions clear with a victory if possible. James Howlison is another regular podium visitor and was hardly out of the top 5 in every race he contested in 2018. Richard Marsh also looked strong when he appeared in the second half of the season and even picked up two 3rd places at Castle Combe and Brands Hatch, leaving him a good foundation to build on this year. Plus, Ryan Sayer did well in his first season of racing and was another driver to bank points in every race he started, as did Peter Elliston.
The new season also brings a welcome influx of new drivers to the Production GTi paddock, most notable of which is Dawn Boyd, a vastly experienced club racer with many years of front wheel drive racing in her racing CV. She joins the championship looking for a new challenge and she could be on course to surprise a few people if she gets to grips with her new Mk5 Golf GTi quickly. Other new drivers include Simon Vercoe (who sampled PGTi at the final rounds last year), John Beale and Brett Wallace. Welcome to the grid, one and all!
The contest over in the Mk2 Championship should be just as interesting. After maintaining a grip on the #1 for the past two seasons, double champion Chris Webb had to come second best in 2018 as Tim Hartland stepped up to the plate and came out on top come the end of the year. Tim now gets the honour of carrying #1 on his car, but all this will do is motivate Chris to push harder in a bid to reclaim it for himself. Hartland’s chain of race wins through Rockingham and Castle Combe helped cement his place at the top of the pile, despite Webb coming good at the end of the year with two wins at the Donington finale. This will certainly be a rivalry that will swing back and forth as the season progresses.
One driver who could become the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons is Pete Milne, who upstaged both Hartland and Webb at Snetterton by steering his way to a double victory that day. After that, all but one of the races he finished was either a podium or top 5, giving him confidence that his pace is going in the right direction. Chris Webb’s father Ian is back to give the championship another go racing alongside his son, while Luke Haberman and Matthew Eccles make a switch from their usual 8V Class up to the slightly more potent 16V Class this season. Spencer Beale is another new driver to the paddock hoping to make an impression in his first weekend.
Production GTi remains as one of, if not the most cost-effective way to race one of the best and most iconic hot hatchbacks of all time. With strong entries across both the Mk5 and Mk2 contingent and the premise of more new and familiar names lining up throughout the season, 2019 looks set to be a memorable year for the championship for so many reasons.