For those who do not follow the British Touring Car Championship, racing in West Surrey may not be a familiar name, but their reputation precedes them. Although the WSR has been in the close racing of British touring cars for more than two decades, their story has spread far beyond that.
West Surrey Racing (WSR) was originally created by Dick Bennetts in 1981 under the umbrella of West Surrey Engineering to compete in the British Formula 3 Championship. The example of future success was well and truly established when Jonathan Palmer won his car debut, winning the championship title that year. Since then, the WSR has been instrumental in the success of many notable drivers who have raced (and won) Formula 1. Jonathan Palmer, Ayrton Senna, Mauricio Gugelmin, Mika Hackinen, Rubens Barichello and Nigel Mansell all spent time with him. Car driven by WSR.
As seems common to motorsport-based companies, the exterior of the building is fairly underestimated compared to what happens behind closed doors.
Making your way through the entrance, the first signs of this success are obvious. The trophies lined the wall from floor to ceiling behind the F3 car – now sympathetically recovered – that led Jonathan Palmer to the driver’s championship.
The adjoining sub-assembly room has been designated for gearbox, engine, suspension and damper work. Although these components are part of the controlled list, the WSR has a damper dynamometer and engine / gearbox building facilities to fine-tune their setups for each corresponding circuit.
As you walk through the vast expanse of the main workshop, you will first see the current three BTCC cars. WSR designs, builds and promotes three vehicles, two under the Team BMW banner and one under Rocket MB Motorsport. In addition, WSR has designed and built two identical customer cars for Ciceley Motorsport.
Each of the three vehicles had its own bay, with enough work surface for any work. You’ll note the absence of the car elevator, one of the times. There’s a very good reason for this – WSR mechanics need to feel comfortable working in the same car all the time, whether on the side of the track or in the workshop.
In addition to the three current vehicles, several other works were at different stages. The first is a BMW 1 Series hatchback whose body shape was promoted between WSR 2013 and 2018 before returning to a more traditional sedan. This shell is an extra thing that fortunately was not needed.
The open nature of the body shell gives an idea that chassis-specific items fall under the remittance of shared components controlled by TOCA. Although this car will eventually be built and sold for racing in a series other than BTCC, this is a good indication that the team referred to it as ’24 hours ready ‘. If a structurally-serious accident occurs, a shell in this state can be backed up to a fully moving vehicle within a full day.
Next to it was Colin Turkington’s 2021 BMW 330i, where he won the 2019 BTCC Championship. This car was in the process of being rebuilt, after which it will take place in a private collection.
This shell starts race cars that are pulled from the assembly line before any large assembly.
Following an outing for the first test date of the season a day earlier, a race truck was parked inside, a car unloaded. With two trucks for three cars, they not only serve as car transporters but also serve as a mobile workshop, brake room and team command center on a race weekend. Drawers on the drawers of each conceivable extra part that may be needed on either side of the center aisle, including an external locker for larger items.
And then there’s the tire – Lots The amount of tires. Goodyear supplies the series with various compounds as control tires, and the WSR team took a large supply to test before the competitive season.
The ‘patch’, it is affectionately known, sits in its own dedicated room under a large mezzanine. This 15m2 solid steel piece weighs over 10 tons and is perfectly set. The purpose is to ensure that the suspension and chassis setup is completely accurate, as well as to detect any differences in a chassis after an impact. To get the cars on the patch, the team uses a forklift with extremely long forks.
If the entrance display doesn’t indicate the winning nature of racing in West Surrey, the huge expanse of the workshop wall certainly does. Dozens of trophies, three levels long line on the back wall. Carl – the team manager – joked that these were left after the drivers and manufacturers selected them. The trophies are the result of 15 Outright Championship titles, nine individual crowns and over 100 race-winning labors that promote the BTCC program for BMW, MG, Honda and Ford.
By the time my time at WSR was over, the building was terribly quiet and most of the team had left by this time. Seeing cars sitting quietly was the complete opposite of a crazy and intimate car racing on a BTCC race weekend.
If anything but my brief insights into internal work, WSR is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season. In a follow-up feature, I will explain in more detail the 2022 BTCC BMW 330e and how the hybrid series was developed.