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News 2007: Motorbase Performance Ready for BTCC action

It's 'all systems go' as the Motorbase Performance team heads to Brands Hatch this weekend for the opening rounds of the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.

The Wrotham, Kent based outfit will field a pair of SEAT Toledo Cupras in the country's leading saloon car championship, which kicks off at the team's local track on Saturday 31 March and Sunday 1 April.

The start of the new season marks the culmination of several months of preparation and testing for the team and its two young drivers, both of whom have won races at the highest levels in British Motorsport.

Gareth Howell, 26, from Beckenham, has spent the past two seasons with Matt Neal's title-winning team, scoring an impressive three wins from five race meetings. In 2007 he gets his first chance for a season-long championship challenge.

Howell commented, "Obviously the last couple of years I've had to try to prove myself when I've had the chance. This is my first full championship effort and while I don't necessarily want to lose the aggression, I need to think about where I finish each race.

"I'm here to win but Brands can be very fraught. If I can come away with a healthy points tally and a healthy car then I'll be pretty happy.

"We'll have plenty of support there at the weekend. Hopefully we can get some good results to give something back to all the friends, family and sponsors that will be there."

Matt Allison, 23, from Norwich, is the reigning British GTC Champion. He makes a return to saloon car racing this year, having previously contested the Renault Clio Cup.

Allison said, "We've had some very productive test sessions. Gareth and I have started to build up a good relationship and I think we will push each other hard during the year.

"I spent all of last year doing one, two or four hour races, so I need to get back into the habit of giving 120% for half an hour. I've done over 80 Clio races though, so I'm used to the rough stuff as well. I just want to get on with it now!

"I want to score as many points as possible. If I could score in every round I'd be ecstatic. If I could come away from Brands with three top 10 finishes, it would be a dream weekend."

The opening rounds of the 2007 BTCC will see a massive 26-car grid, with seven different manufacturers represented. It looks set to be the most competitive year of racing the BTCC has seen since the peak of the supertouring era in the mid-nineties and Motorbase Performance starts the year with a proven race-winning car.

Team Principal David Bartrum added, "It's been hard work and a steep learning curve, but I'm absolutely over the moon with the work everyone has put in to get us here.

"I think we've got two excellent drivers. It's a very young team compared to some. I think Gareth's a star that hasn't has his chance and Matt is a very talented young driver.

"I'd love a podium of some sort at Brands, but I really don't know how realistic that is. We just need to make a good start and go from there!"

Free practice and qualifying takes place on Saturday at Brands Hatch, while Sunday's first race gets underway at 11.30. Live coverage of the races will be available on Setanta Sports 2 (Sky #430) with highlights on ITV1 and ITV3.