Team HARD has announced that Ollie Brown will be the replacement driver for Mike Bushell in the 2020 British Touring Car Championship when the season kicks off at Donington Park this weekend.
Bushell was taken ill during the winter with Myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle – and had been set to miss the start of the season as he recovered, with Howard Fuller initially announced as a temporary stand-in driver.
Although Bushell has now recovered, the economic impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic have forced Bushell onto the sidelines again, and his seat is being taken by Brown.
Brown has not raced competitively for 20 years when he competed in karting, although he has worked as a driving instructor for the well-respected Palmersport organisation.
In January this year Brown won the 2020 RCIB Insurance Racing scholarship, run by Team HARD, despite never having entered a competitive car race previously. Since then he has been competing in various events since lockdown eased, in order to obtain the licence necessary to race in the BTCC.
“To say I’m overwhelmed with joy to be in the BTCC is an understatement,” said Brown. “I have been watching the BTCC as a fan for the last 20 years whilst working with some past and current drivers as a driver coach and I’m buzzing to join them on the track this year.
“This opportunity would never have been possible without my best friend of 25 years entering me into the RCiB Insurance Racing scholarship last year. A shot in the dark has become one of the best moments of my life!
“I cannot wait to get started at the weekend after experiencing my first BTCC action at Snetterton a few weeks ago when I tested the car.
“Naturally, I’m gutted for Mike and Howard and I’m sure that without COVID-19 they would have completed the season in the car, I wish them all the best.
“It has been a whirlwind already just to get to this point, I didn’t even have a licence five weeks ago!
“I would like to thank Tony [Gilham] and the team for having faith in me for this season and I will be going out there and giving as good as I get. Bring on Donington!”
Bushell admitted that it was ‘gutting’ to have once again missed out on a drive in the BTCC due to budgetary reasons.
“I’m gutted to have been dealt two blows this year,” said Bushell. “Firstly ill health followed by the economic implications of COVID further delaying the start of my season. It really feels that with these two unforeseeable situations that it just wasn’t to be for 2020.
“I must say thanks to Tony and the team for getting me out in the car at the recent tyre test and also delaying this decision for as long as realistically possible to see how things unfolded on my side.
“I’d like to wish Ollie good luck for the season ahead; he seems a very talented and capable driver and I’m sure he will be right in the mix throughout the season.
“For me, it’s time to focus on my family and business as we start to recover from lockdown.”
Team HARD Managing Director Tony Gilham is hoping that fans will warm to the outfit’s latest driver over the course of the 2020 season.
“This is a bittersweet announcement for me,” said Gilham. “I’m gutted for Mike and Howard who have been fantastic for the team for a number of years now.
“The world is in a funny place at the moment and this BTCC season is proving to be no different. As other teams and drivers have proved getting onto the grid for 2020 is very tricky and unfortunately Mike and Howard have had to miss out.
“On the other hand, Ollie is a fantastic replacement to drive the RCIB Insurance with Fox Transport car this season and I’m proud of my team that we are able to source a replacement and not just withdraw the car.
“Ollie was among a very competitive scholarship programme in January and he stood top of the pile and was magnificent throughout.
“In previous years we have experienced some negativity for driver changes, but I have full confidence that nobody will be doubting our faith in Ollie by the end of the season.
“People outside of the Motorsport circle may have never heard of Ollie but within the industry Ollie is well known and has the potential to mix it with the best in the business.
“To get to this point Ollie has taken multiple wins and podiums over the last month as he has raced to get the required license to race in the BTCC against some very respectable opposition. He is a real dark horse for this season and certainly one to watch.”