The Cupra brand will make its debut in the British Touring Car Championship in 2021, as Team Hard Racing replaces its ageing Volkswagen CCs.
The Kent-based team, which is headed by Tony Gilham, has announced that it intends to build at least two Cupra Leon cars to compete for the Independents championship in the 2021 BTCC.
The program will be the first time the Cupra badge has raced in the BTCC since SEAT separated its performance division into a standalone brand in 2018, though SEAT Leons did compete in the series as both manufacturer and independent entries between 2006 and 2013.
Since Cupra was launched as a distinct brand, the Cupra Leon has been a major entry in global TCR racing and the Cupra was also the first car built for the new ETCR electric touring car championship.
Team Hard has already begun development of the new cars and has been in consultation with Cosworth Electronics, which will be responsible for the introduction of hybrid drivetrains into the BTCC in 2022.
The team has campaigned the Volkswagen CC cars since 2013, in addition to running other brands. In 2020 three of the Volkswagens are being driven by Jack Goff, Ollie Brown and Nicolas Hamilton, while the team is also running a BMW 125i M Sport for Carl Boardley.
Gilham believes the Leon Cupra will make a highly capable BTCC entry. “We have done a lot of research and we believe that the dimensions and overall shape of the Cupra Leon will work perfectly with the current NGTC regulations that are in the BTCC,” he said.
“A lot of hard work and countless hours lie ahead, but we are confident that we can turn this new car into a competitive beast that will be mixing it at the front from the get-go next season,” Gilham added.
BTCC chief executive Alan Gow has welcomed the arrival of another new brand into the championship, following the arrival of Hyundai which ExcelR8 Motorsport has debuted in the series this season. “We set out the NGTC regulations to allow for great diversity and having the Cupra Leon on the grid is further proof of the strength of those regulations,” he said.
“It’s no secret that the Volkswagen CCs are one of the oldest on the grid but credit to Tony and his team for sticking with them and keeping the cars as competitive as possible – I look forward to seeing the step forward Team Hard Racing can make with completely new cars from next season.”