Peugeot confirms BTCC return

Peugeot is returning to the British Touring Car Championship in 2001. The long-expected move from the Anglo-French manufacturer was confirmed this morning (Friday) when Peugeot Sport director Mick Linford announced a two-year programme

Peugeot confirms BTCC return

"It's great to be back - and on a level playing field as a leading player, in at the start," said Linford, who acknowledged that in its previous BTCC involvement (from 1992 to 1998) Peugeot had: "always been playing catch-up, and it's no secret that we never did catch up."

Peugeot has still not decided which car to use for its assault, but the only possible choices are the ageing 406 and the 307, which replaces the 306 next year.

The all-new 307 is a hot favourite for the two-car works effort, which will be run as a full factory project by Vic Lee (who ran Will Hoy and Tim Harvey to the 1991 and 1992 titles) and his Bowman Racing crew from their base within Peugeot's Coventry factory. Peugeot aims to build at least two more cars in addition to the works machinery.

Drivers have not yet been chosen, but Linford admits that his current works National Saloon Championship drivers Toni Ruokonen and Dan Eaves are: "in a strong position." Linford also accepted that he will consider hiring one of the many big-name drivers currently on the market. It seems that his ideal solution would be to reach a deal with another well-funded team which would run another two-car outfit and allow each squad to run both a big name and one of Peugeot's young lions.

Independent kings Team Dynamics have been linked with the programme, as has former Grand Prix boss Mike Earle's Arena International Motorsport outfit, but Linford is still considering a number of options and no decision on drivers or team is expected before the end of this month.

Peugeot's move brings a big boost to the BTCC after a run of withdrawals, and series prime mover Rob Bain, a director of its promoter British Motorsport Promoters, gave it an enthusiastic welcome. "It's great to see," said Bain, "and I believe it reflects the huge amount of effort that BMP has put into the future of the championship. We are fully committed to recreating a sustainable series that provides the enthralling action that made the BTCC such a success in its heyday in the mid-90s."

Rover is believed to be close to committing to a BTCC challenge with MG-badged cars, and with both Alfa Romeo and Volvo believed to be considering programmes, the series is taking its first steps back to full health, after the run of manufacturer pull-outs which left only Vauxhall still in the game.

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