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Motorbase could stick with Ford after Audi BTCC plan hits skids

Newly crowned British Touring Car Championship teams’ title winner Motorbase Performance could remain with its current Ford Focus machinery after all in 2023.

Ash Sutton, NAPA Racing UK Ford Focus ST

Three-time champion Ash Sutton finished second in the drivers’ points this year and team-mate Dan Cammish eighth to give Motorbase’s NAPA Racing UK sub-team the title, but with four race wins between them the squad was looking to switch to rear-wheel-drive machinery in 2023.

The top rear-wheel-drive car, the BMW 330e M Sport, took nine wins in 2022, with official BMW team West Surrey Racing gaining the manufacturers’ title for the marque, and Jake Hill and Colin Turkington finishing comfortably 1-2 in the qualifying-based Goodyear Wingfoot Award.

Motorbase initially investigated an Audi S5, but the production model’s 3.0-litre engine is beyond the 2.5 litres for a base car stipulated under the BTCC’s NGTC regulations.

Attentions then turned to the Audi A5, which is available in showrooms in four-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive configuration, but the team needed a tweak to the NGTC rules to allow the race version to be rear-wheel drive.

The rules state that a four-wheel-drive car can only run in rear-wheel-drive configuration in NGTC if the engine is mounted longitudinally, and the A5 has a transverse engine.

The regulation is colloquially known as the ‘Rob Austin Rule’, from when Rob Austin Racing introduced a RWD Audi A4 to the BTCC over a decade ago when the NGTC ruleset was in its infancy.

The matter was recently put to the teams, but there was not a sufficient majority for the rule change to be carried through.

Ash Sutton, NAPA Racing UK Ford Focus ST

Ash Sutton, NAPA Racing UK Ford Focus ST

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“We’ve built a relationship with Audi,” Motorbase team boss Pete Osborne told Autosport.

“The S5 couldn’t come in because it’s a 3.0-litre, and we were fine with that – we agree with the teams.

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“But to let a 2.0-litre A5 in was no different to any other car in my opinion.

“We just wanted to change the rules because we feel it would be for everyone’s benefit.”

One BTCC insider said that the result of the vote was “more or less 50-50 – and we don’t like to have narrow majorities like Brexit in the BTCC”.

Osborne played down speculation that Motorbase is now looking into a Mercedes project – possibly the C-Class.

“We’re looking at every car, but there’s nothing at the moment,” he said.

“We’re now looking at whether we need to park it and go with the Ford, because we’re coming up against time constraints.”

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