Large and growing grid bucks the trend for the VW Racing Cup
With 23 firm registrations already with five weeks to go before the start of the Volkswagen Racing Cup season, the Hankook-backed championship is all set for a recession-busting 2009.
Six of last season's race winners are to return for another tilt at the title and there are several new drivers also, as well as an impressive diversity of models spearheaded by the svelte new Scirocco.
The more than healthy state of championship entries delights Melissa Wright, director of championship promoter RacingLine: "I remained confident throughout the winter that the championship's unique blend of cost-effectiveness and competitiveness would help it prevail, and it is a great boost to have 23 confirmations with more than a month to go. Excitingly, there are at least a further six drivers I know of who are firming up their plans and who hope to be at Oulton Park on Easter Monday."
The latest drivers to confirm their plans include Adrian Dziurzynski, who won 2008's final race and who has built a new car for '09, and James Walker, son of truck racing legend Richard.
Dziurzynski, 25, is to forsake the venerable Mk II Golf GTI which he has campaigned for four seasons and will instead race a freshly built Mk IV Golf. He tested the new car for the first time on Saturday, at Castle Combe: "It's a phenomenal car. the quickest I have ever driven. The engine is exactly as in my old car, a 16-valve 2-litre, but the handling with the new shell is something else again. I'm a little heart-torn to be leaving the Mk II behind but I'm so pleased with the new one that it's making up for it!"
Twenty-two-year-old Walker will return at the wheel of the Slidesports-prepared Golf with which he claimed championship sixth, and one race victory, in 2008. The Golf was converted from diesel power to petrol at the end of the season, helping James net a third-place finish at Donington Park, and he believes that further developments should help him to be a podium regular.
"I'm really looking forward to coming back," said Walker. "It's been a struggle because sponsorship has been hard to find, but we've dug deep to return because it's such an enjoyable championship. We did well with the petrol engine at Donington and since then we've made a lot of upgrades, which should make a big difference. The problem is the level of competitiveness is so high: there are a lot of good cars and some handy drivers."
The other race winners returning are 2006 champion Paul Taylor with his Golf R32, Golf GTI pilots Steve Wood and Jamie Perry, and Mike Kurton, who will handle one of the exciting RacingLine-built Scirocco GTs.
The other Scirocco will be in the hands of Liam Griffin, who made his racing debut in the Volkswagen Racing Cup in 2008. The Addison Lee Motorsport team will field Liam's old Golf GTI for his elder brother, Kieran Griffin.
The Golf GTI will be numerically the most popular car on the grid: others planning to race the Wolfsburg favourite include old hand Michael McInerney, ex-Clio racer Peter Felix and championship newcomers Anna Walewska, Tim Snaylam and Aaron Mason. Five Beetles are expected on the grid at Oulton: RSIs for Darren Blumson, Martyn Culley, Nick Dunn and 2008 podium regular Steve Chaplin, plus a Beetle TDI for Andrew Smith.
The irrepressible Peter Wyhinny will be back with the spectator-pleasing Caddy TDI and further diversity is added by the return of Doug Ross's Polo, the Vento VR6 of Barrie Culley, Tony Harberman's Golf VR6 and Steve Walker's Mk IV Golf.
Milltek Sport have been active sponsors of the Volkswagen Racing Cup since 2004 and many of the teams use Milltek exhausts on their racing cars.