Team HARD’s Tony Gilham is looking ahead to his Kent-based outfit to make good progress for the forthcoming British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) season, which gets back in action at Brands Hatch (Indy) in April.
Despite both Gilham himself and Kieran Gallagher scoring just two points combined during the 2015 campaign as an independent entry, he was content of the steps forwards that had been made.
This was even though engine troubles and a major accident for Gallagher at Rockingham caused financial issues for the team, it meant that the former-MMA fighter jumped in the car for both Silverstone and the Brands Hatch finale.
“Getting back in the car was totally unexpected, as I had no kit midday on the Friday, when here was a deadline to announce what we were doing,” admitted Gilham to TouringCars.Net in Birmingham.
He also admitted that he had to rush out and buy the equipment he needed to compete, apart from his spare crash helmet.
“Then I was back in the car, having only done a handful of laps in an NGTC car, so it was very much being in the deep end.”
He was aware that with signing Gallagher, it would be a tough season for all concerned, but he praised the efforts that all the team put in over the course of the year.
“It’s a very difficult series to come into, especially with his relative lack of experience, so it was going to be a tough year for Kieran.
“Some things were avoidable and some things that weren’t, on both the team’s and driver’s point of view, but we’re not pointing any fingers, so what’s done is done.
“There was a lot of damage to the car at Rockingham, due to the big shunt, backwards into a concrete wall. We turned it around very quickly, it was expensive, but we did it very reasonably. For a lot of teams, it would have been a massive expense.”
Team HARD’s focus now switches towards this season, as Gilham explained that they will stay consistent, again opting to use the Toyota Avensis chassis for 2016.
He said that the speed of the car showed at the last race in Silverstone, but was not showcased by themselves, but was proven through the performance that Speedworks’ Tom Ingram had in 2015.
“We are in a very good position, and have got a very quick driver signed,” he stated, explaining that this individual has won titles in the series that he has competed in, as well as taking wins in Europe in a “saloon-based championship.”
“He’s new to touring cars, but he’s probably the quickest driver I’ve ever worked with, and we’re hoping for a stronger year, having taken a massive step forward towards 2016, both on and off track.”
With a lot of the major teams running the new RML standardized parts from the beginning of the year, Team HARD will be starting off with the GPRM package, with a potential to be running the new set-up by the end of the season.
“We’re not going to run before we can walk, we’re not going to have a major testing plan and throw a lot of money together at the RML package,” he admitted, stating that the lighter Avensis will be again be running with a Swindon engine, which the team opted for in the latter part of 2015.
“Because we’re not in the same place as a lot of the teams, but that said, we know we’re gonna run with both a quick driver and reliable car. I’m hoping for a few shocks at the beginning of the season.”
One of the potential frontrunners that could factor into this year’s championship battle is Team IHG® Rewards Club’s newly signed Jack Goff, who made his debut with Team HARD in the Vauxhall Insigina back in 2013.
Gilham admitted that because the High Wycombe driver is so likeable, Team HARD decided to support him.
“It’s a massive achievement. Up until last year, I probably put more towards his racing with us than he and all of his sponsors did combined, so it was frustrating looking back on it.”
However, he said that Goff is deserving of such a chance, running with Dick Bennets’ West Surrey Racing in the same colours as Andy Priaulx did last year.
“Yes, he is a good driver and it was very good to achieve the podium with him in the Insignia, so we know what he’s capable of and what we are as a team. Life goes on.
“You can look back and these things happen, but you learn by your mistakes. There is a reason why we are a fast growing team.”
Now that Gilham has completely ruled out a return to driving duties in the BTCC, he is looking forward to the steps forward that the team can make with their as-of-yet unnamed driver, as well as having complete control and “doing our own thing.”