Although the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship hasn’t gone down the Formula One route of drivers choosing a permanent race number, it isn’t a million miles away, with many drivers choosing to keep a number for their careers, and making it part of their personality.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden eschewed the number one that he earned over the course of 2015 to keep his familiar 52 on the side of his Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R.
“I think numbers are important,” the Scot recently told ITV’s BTCC commentator David Addison. “If you look at MotoGP and Valentino Rossi and the number 46, people know exactly who he is thanks to the number. It is an identity. We are in a closed car in crash helmets so being identifiable by a familiar number certainly helps the fans.”
And why 52? “It was a number I used in karting and I just kept with it. Now, it is associated with me so I want to keep it for good.”
Someone else who brought his number from karting is Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis racer Tom Ingram – whose number 80 adorned the first kart his father bought him and he has kept it – and Josh Cook’s 66 on his Triple Eight Racing MG6 comes from karting, but in a more convoluted manner: “A friend of mine ran number six and I got my kart to look the same so I took 66 and kept it!”
Adam Morgan’s number 33 on his Mercedes-Benz A-Class was the same number that he used to win the 2011 Ginetta GT Supercup title, while Kelvin Fletcher’s 84 echoes 54 on Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet Cruze team-mate Hunter Abbott’s car and happens to be the year of Fletcher’s birth.
Oval racing is a discipline where the number is very much part of the driver’s identity: indeed, some drivers are known by numbers rather than names. So it is no surprise that Matt Simpson wanted to keep his National Hot Rod number of 303 when he moved into the British Touring Car Championship in a Speedworks Motorsport Honda Civic Type R. Where did it come from? Father Jeff was a George Polley fan when he started racin; Polley’s number was 306 and 303 was the nearest one that was available to Simpson Sr…
And what about 2013 champion Andrew Jordan and the number 77 on his Motorbase Performance Ford Focus ST? Well, remember that when AJ first arrived in the BTCC he ran 78 as father Mike had 77 on his Honda Integra, and Jordan senior carried 77 because: “I was a huge Barry Sheene fan and he ran number seven, and a continental-style seven, with the line through the stalk of the number.
“When I started racing my Morris Minor, numbers were allocated by class and I was in the baby class where you had a high number. Seven was out of the question so I went for 77 and ran that until I got into Formula Ford when I could use seven. When I stopped, Andrew took it over.”
Other numbers, like Rob Collard’s 100, are to celebrate BMW’s centenary in his WSR BMW 125i M Sport. Team-mate Sam Tordoff’s 600 is to celebrate the 70th anniversary of his family’s car dealership, JCT600.