First, Nico Hulkenberg, now Andrew Jordan: It’s official, motorsport’s ‘silly season’ is well underway.
Yesterday’s announcement that the newly-crowned BTCC Independents Champion, Jordan, has parted company with Motorbase Performance has triggered all manner of speculation as to where the Pirtek-backed driver will find a new home. And of course, wherever Jordan goes, uncertainty for others is sure to follow.
Yet despite his championship winning credentials, there are going to be surprisingly few doors open to Jordan and his father, Mike, as they look for a home that can not only deliver future title ambitions but equally, one that can accommodate the demands of their backers.
Here’s what they said:
“It’s been a great year for Andrew and the team securing our first Drivers Championship and his third,” remarked Motorbase Team Principal David Bartrum. “It’s a real shame that we won’t be continuing together as we really got on well with Andrew and he settled into the team very well but the decision to part ways has not been taken lightly by either party and is based purely on commercial reasons.”
“There are a good deal of things that need to come together to make a deal in the BTCC work,” explained Bartrum. “For a number of reasons, unfortunately a few pieces of the jigsaw currently don’t fit so both we [Motorbase] and Andrew need to look at making that work elsewhere.”
Jordan added, “I’ve genuinely loved my time with the team this year and made some good friends along the way. It’s a shame not to be carrying on but it’s simply a commercial decision and there’s nothing more sinister to it.”
“I think it’s important that people remember that most teams and drivers in the BTCC are commercially funded through sponsorship and all parties need to make sure that our partners get what they need out of the package – I need certain things for my sponsors and David [Bartrum] needs the same for Motorbase – that’s just the way it is.”
In reality, despite the pleasantries, Jordan did not choose to move. His plan for 2017 was to stay with the team and build upon their first year together.
The problem for Jordan
Yesterday’s press releases, (from Motorbase, Jordan, and Pirtek) all allude to the same issue; neither party (Motorbase or Jordan) could reach an agreement that could satisfy Pirtek’s commercial demands. To put this very simply, it looks like David Bartrum has finally secured the title-sponsorship for his team that will underpin its 2017 campaign. With this, I imagine, will come the requirement to rebrand the whole team, rather like in the days of ‘Redstone Racing’, or ‘Airwaves Racing’. And this simply won’t work for Pirtek, who like to see its drivers operate under the ‘Pirtek Racing’ banner.
Here’s the problem for Jordan: The teams that might now serve him best (BMR, Dynamics, WSR), all have firm commercial undertakings of their own (Silverline, Halfords Yuasa, JCT600 /IHG Rewards Club). None of these are likely to be in a position to accept an individually branded car into their garage, unless, of course, the Tordoffs decide to withdraw and focus on business interests outside of the BTCC.
So which teams might find themselves wearing Pirtek’s livery next year?
Place your bets
The first thing that needs to be addressed are the 2017 TBLs (the licences required to run a car in the British Touring Car Championship). Assuming that most are awarded to the class of 2016, then I believe there are six serious options for the Jordans to consider; Triple Eight, Eurotech, Speedworks, Ciceley, Team Parker Racing and BKR.
Each of these is capable of building and developing race winning cars, and each has particular strengths that might appeal to any serious competitor. So, let’s look a little more closely at each.
Triple Eight – in particular, will be looking to embark on a new era of BTCC racing and despite the disappointment of the 2015 campaign, where Jordan (and Jack Goff) struggled with the MG6, Ian Harrison’s squad have proven over and over again that given time, they can turn bad days into poles, podiums and outright wins. Ash Sutton and Josh Cook are very obviously strong drivers but without the right car beneath them, the results enjoyed this year would never have come. Whatever happened last year, Harrison and Mike Jordan are both sensible and experienced enough to put the past behind them, so in terms of where I’d be focusing my effort, Triple Eight would probably be at the top of my list.
Eurotech – having once owned them, there’s championship winning history for the Jordans here. Moreover, the pace that Daniel Lloyd displayed from limited outings showed that its Civics had what it takes this year to mount a credible season-long challenge (had the opportunity arisen). Much, though, will depend on the choice of car, and the time given for testing. The new Civic (if Honda allow Eurotech to use it) might not be race-ready in time for a comprehensive test-programme, and the Jordans will have to decide if they’re prepared to invest in another year where the main title slips out of their reach.
Speedworks – have worked wonders with Tom Ingram, consistently delivering a rapid, race-winning car. They also enjoy a strong family culture, a value that wouldn’t be lost on the Jordans, and of course, they also know how to successfully run semi-autonomous units; another key plus point.
Ciceley – are perhaps the outsiders, despite a season filled with great results. We know Russell Morgan’s outfit build really good cars, but I suspect they’ll want to focus on forwarding the careers of Adam Morgan and Aiden Moffat, especially as Morgan, in-particular, is clearly developing into a potential champion of the future. On paper, Jordan and the Mercedes would be a great combination, and it would clearly work for Pirtek too (with Ciceley’s transport background), but in reality, I think the potential clash of priorities is too strong for anything serious to emerge.
Team Parker Racing – might look an outside choice, but when you consider what they’ve achieved this year with the Bentley Continental GT, and the countless victories in Porsche Carrera Cup, Stuart and Andy Parker’s squad have everything needed to build and prepare a touring car capable of taking-on the best. Their European GT programme might also attract Jordan who seems likely to want to participate in a number of other one-off, outside of BTCC, outings.
And finally, BKR – newcomers to the BTCC in 2016 but already demonstrating a level of performance with Árón Smith that justifies their inclusion as serious contenders. Despite the age of the Passat, there’s still a little more to come from its chassis, and with some behind-the-scenes development help from Warren Scott’s Team BMR, anyone partnering Smith for 2017 can expect to enjoy a strong car and the support of a young, ambitious crew.
So, plenty of good options for Jordan to explore, but he’ll need to move quickly before the best seats are firmly taken.
As for Motorbase, Jordan’s departure, whilst regretted, will probably not be mourned. David Bartrum and Olly Collins know they have an outstanding car, and that with serious backing behind them, and the likelihood of Honda having to develop the new Civic, they have a better than ever chance of success in 2017.
Furthermore, the opportunity to partner Mat Jackson and to learn from him will be a huge attraction to any serious (and well-funded) young driver, and with Motorbase and BMR looking like the teams most likely to shine in 2017, for the first time in many years, I suspect that Bartrum enjoyed a good night’s sleep last night, unless, of course, his phone never stopped ringing.
But back to Jordan. He’s a winning driver, brings the support and backing of Pirtek and he’ll undoubtedly receive some great offers from good teams. But the decision that he and his father, Mike, must now make will be compromised by the strength of their main sponsor relationship. Can they overcome this to find a competitive seat? Only time will tell, but it might be a struggle to achieve this in time for the 2017 season.