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Thompson forced to stand down for Crees at Team Hard in BTCC

Highly rated British Touring Car Championship racer Bobby Thompson has been forced out of the series for the rest of the 2023 season.

Bobby Thompson, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils Cupra Leon

Bobby Thompson, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils Cupra Leon

JEP / Motorsport Images

The reigning Jack Sears Trophy champion has relinquished his seat at the Team Hard Cupra squad to Michael Crees, who returns to the squad with which he contested his rookie BTCC season in 2019 at the wheel of a Volkswagen CC.

Thompson has occasionally mixed it with the big guns this season with the minnow Hard operation, scoring a second place at Brands Hatch in May and qualifying fourth at Oulton Park last month, before a collision in race two of that event ruined his weekend.

“It’s the ever-growing costs in touring cars up and down the grid – what we’re going through in the real world in the moment, it’s hard to bring that money in,” Thompson told Autosport.

“I knew halfway through this summer break that something was going on – I knew it was going to be an expensive summer break, and the money doesn’t magically come out of anywhere.

“Being the weakest money-wise, I knew I’d be the first to go.”

Thompson was at pains to stress that he was fulfilling his financial obligations set out, but that the increasing costs had forced Hard to find a driver with more budget for the remainder of the campaign.

“It’s not that we ran out of money,” he added. “I was paying for a subsidised drive, which I really appreciate from Team Hard.

“I fought tooth and nail to find more money, to go above and beyond, but the team couldn’t afford for the car to do the second half of the year unless they found a large sum.”

Thompson had been enjoying his most competitive season to date, under the watch of engineer Barry Plowman, the famed former Team Dynamics Honda technical chief.

Thompson has been forced to step down

Thompson has been forced to step down

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“I feel that touring cars is unfinished business – it was David and Goliath, but I finally got a car and a team around me where I could attack for wins, and now it’s gone,” he said.

“The trouble is I’m a poor man doing a rich man’s sport, but we see how quickly things can turn around and how options can come up.

“Maybe I could do a different series, but touring cars is where my heart is.”

After his rookie season with Hard, Crees went on to win the Jack Sears Trophy in 2020 with the BTC Racing Honda squad, then returned to the BTCC in 2022 in a Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall.

“I’m so excited to be returning to Team Hard,” said Crees, who has been racing in the GT4 class of the British GT Championship this season.

“I have missed the family feel and even though I’ve been at other teams, they have always made me and my family feel welcome.

“The team has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years. I’m super-excited to jump in the Cupra, dust off some cobwebs and give it my best shot!”

Team boss Tony Gilham added: “We are delighted to have Michael back on board. He is a talented driver with a proven track record and shares our passion for the BTCC.”

Thompson’s departure and Crees’s arrival in time for next week’s round at Croft is the second switcharound in the six-car Team Hard line-up during this summer break.

Crees returns to the BTCC to take over from Thompson

Crees returns to the BTCC to take over from Thompson

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

With Jade Edwards returning to the One Motorsport (formerly BTC) Honda squad, she has been replaced by 17-year-old British-Filipino Daryl DeLeon following his impressive outing in the Goodyear Tyre Test at Donington Park this month.

DeLeon has won races this season in Radical sports-prototypes, including on the BTCC support package.

He has also been successful this season in the British Endurance Championship with Team Hard – he drove an ex-BTCC Audi S3 in the opening round, before taking three consecutive class wins in a Porsche.

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