Motorbase Performance has been Ford’s leading touring car team for a decade, and for this year it reunited several former Formula Ford stars to form a superteam to attack the BTCC with
If you’re a fan of the Formula Ford single-seater category, then you’re likely to have a favourite era and type of car. When it came to engines there was Kent, Zetec, Duratec and eventually EcoBoost, and in the 1970s FFord 2000 was created and added aerodynamic appendages to what was a wingless formula.
The British FFord championship didn’t go for wings until 2013, 37 years after its creation, and it turned the ultra-competitive series into a comparative snoozefest as Joe Tandy Racing’s 24-year-old Dan Cammish won the first 24 races in his Mygale M12-SJ then skipped the final two rounds with the title already wrapped up.
A year later, in what would be the final ever British FFord season, JTR was the outfit to beat again and Ashley Sutton passed technically through three different teams as he tried to hold a candle to its might. He won five races and came third in the points, and now he’s a three-time British Touring Car champion and driving a Ford-powered car again with Cammish as his Motorbase Performance team-mate and several other familiar names from the pair’s time in a short-lived part of FFord history in his crew.
Cammish’s car racing career started in British FFord in 2009, winning the title in the scholarship classification and coming sixth overall in the standings. Ahead of him was future IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden.
A part-time ADAC Formel Masters campaigned helped the 20-year-old picked up slicks-and-wings experience, but budget decreed he’d stay in FFord for 2010. This time he took two wins and came third in the points in a competitive field, then stepped up to Formula Renault 2.0 UK for a part-season and came sixth in a seriously impressive field. Decent results in a Formula BMW cameo in Malaysia suggested, should he have the budget, that Cammish could be a star of 2012.
He found the money to step up to the FR Eurocup, but on his debut at Motorland Aragon had a monumental crash that ripped his car to pieces, left him with a fractured pelvis and put him out of the rest of the year.
That didn’t seem to slow him down on his return in British FFord, the only single-seater series in his price range, the next year…
“It was an interesting season. It was a changeover in FFord, we’d gone to the new EcoBoost system and engine, and the cars had a degree of wings for the first time,” Cammish recalls.
“We got off to a very strong start, we had Mountune, who power the Fords now that I drive, [they] had done a great job on the engine. As a team, with JTR, we had a really strong package and I had a lot of experience as well. [2011 champion] Scott Malvern did the first round and we had some good races. It was very close between me and him, I actually came out on top at the time, and then he didn’t do the rest.
“Obviously I had a bit more experience than some of the other guys in it, so it was a great season but it wasn’t one that I look back on and think it was my best. I think I’ve had better seasons since, maybe not quite as dominant but I’ve driven better.”
Cammish says he truly made his mark in the series that followed FFord, and he’s not wrong. He won the Porsche Carrera Cup GB title in 2015 and ’16, came fourth in the Formula 1-supporting Porsche Supercup in 2017, then the legendary Team Dynamics hired him to race one of its Honda Civic Type Rs in the BTCC.
In three seasons Cammish won eight races and twice came remarkably close to being champion, but went back to Carrera Cup GB for 2021 and claimed a third title after Dynamics lost Honda works team status and therefore Cammish too. However for 2022 he was swayed back into the BTCC, now in a Ford Focus ST. It has been an incredible career so far, but the 33-year-old did originally have eyes on single-seater success.
“A lot of drivers start out hoping to get to F1. I started very late in my racing career, I was 20 by the time I drove a racing car,” he says.
“So a bit late really to really get going, and ultimately never had anything like the funding. And not only that I didn’t have the funding to move up the single-seater ladder, I was already viewed as relatively old to be on the single-seater ladder at 20 years old. When you consider Max Verstappen was in F1 at 17, and I was only just getting started at 20, I’d already missed the boat to get on any young driver programmes that might have been able to help me.
“I think I had the talent; I’m a professional driver now so I think I had an element of talent to do it, but it’s not always about that, it’s about being in the right place at the right time sometimes.”
Being a BTCC driver may not hold appeal to too many drivers abroad, but its domestic reputation rivals the cultural status the DTM holds in Germany and being a paid pro in the TOCA paddock is both as busy in population and commitments as F1’s would be.
“This championship’s changed over the years. The Super Touring era that everyone looks back on so fondly was big teams with big budgets, and drivers being well paid. That’s gone away a little bit now,” Cammish explains.
“We don’t have those sort of teams and these million-pound contracts that some of the drivers might have been on or some of the teams were on. But we do still have some really big sponsors. Look at the size of NAPA [Motorbase’s title sponsor], huge sponsor in the States [in IndyCar], and now over here, and you can see the amount of infrastructure NAPA have here.
“Myself and Ash, and there’s a couple of others down the pitlane, are here to do a job and our job is to be professional racing drivers. Of course that’s a fantastic opportunity but also comes with pressure – it’s alright saying ‘I wish I had that position’, but we have to work to make sure we stay here, because somebody else wants the job. So with it comes its own pressures. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, and obviously I really enjoy being in this paddock, and if you’re going to race in the UK, this is the place to be.
“The thing is, you look around this paddock and see the amount of sponsors in it, they’re here for a reason. It’s because it’s on TV, eight hours on a Sunday, and there is nowhere else like it in this country. As a driver you can make something of yourself, which you can’t do in any other series. I mean when I used to win Porsche races, quite often I’d win Porsche races on the same TOCA package, and when I joined touring cars people would come up to me in the paddock and say:
‘What did you do last year?’
‘I used to win, quite a lot… on this package.’
‘Oh, we only really watch the touring cars.’
“It’s amazing how many people actually are only really watching the touring cars. The rest of the time they’re off having a cup of tea or a beer. Yes, there’s fans out there of each individual series, but the majority are here to watch the touring cars. And you realise how much bigger touring cars is, you finish mid-pack in the touring car and you’ll get more exposure than winning a Porsche race.”
Carrera Cup GB has been a mainstay of the TOCA paddock supporting BTCC, as was British FFord and now its replacement British Formula 4. The TV coverage is a key sell to sponsors in the junior single-seater series.
Mountune is the engine builder for Motorbase’s Fords, and was also the power behind Cammish’s FFord title.
“It wasn’t as in-depth [then] as this is where we actually have engine people with us all the time and making sure that we’re okay. I think it’s the same people, I think the likes of Dave Engwell and people who are here now with me now were certainly involved back then. But maybe not quite on a hands-on basis as they are now.
“I remember Ash did FFord a year after me, and it’s quite interesting as my engineer is James Mundy who was the boss of Jamun who I spent many years racing against.
“We have a good laugh about that, he’s still getting nightmares about that 2013 season. But it’s good, it’s like coming full circle really, to be back in a Ford with my old sort of nemesis in Jamun is now my engineer. It’s quite nice, really.”
Sutton drove for none other than Jamun during his time in FFord, and has had a similarly wild route to success as Cammish.
In 2010, Sutton made his car racing debut in the Formula Vee championship aged 16. He did well, but was eyeing a touring car career and without the budget to move into Renault Clio Cup UK he joined the Ford Fiesta championship for 2011. A road accident then left him with long-term organ injuries though and put him out of racing until 2014, when just like Cammish the most cost-effective option was British FFord.
“It fitted the budget. It was a way to get onto the TOCA package at the very beginning, and it fitted all the right boxes,” Sutton says. “Touring cars was the target. So to get on the grid in something on the TOCA package was the key bit.”
Sutton did one round with Meridian Motorsport, then joined Mundy’s Jamun team for three weekends and picked up his first win. After that Jamun became MBM Motorsport, and a strong second half to the season put him third in the standings. He wanted to reunite with Mundy for 2015 in British F4, which would have pitted him against Lando Norris and Colton Herta, but was tempted into Clios, and the rest is history.
He won the UK title as a rookie with Team BMR, stepped up to the BTCC a year later with the legendary Triple Eight Race Engineering team in an MG then became a works Subaru driver with BMR and was crowned champion in his second season. Sutton spent three seasons there before switching to Laser Tools Racing and its Infiniti Q50s, which resulted in him winning the 2020 and ’21 titles. A multi-year deal was signed to move on to Motorbase for 2022, and drive a front-wheel-drive car again for the first time since 2016. A car designed in BTCC trim and engineered by none other than Mundy.
“I’ve always chatted to James between when I was with him in 2014 to now, so always stayed in touch to some extent,” says Sutton.
“It was just the very start of what my car career was, and back then he was a huge help and we’re all working together now so there’s no real complaints.”
Sutton’s title defence may only feature one win so far, achieved last time out at Knockhill, but he’s only six points off the championship lead and Cammish was able to pick up two podiums in just the second weekend of his BTCC return.
“Three titles under my name. And obviously still gunning for more,” Sutton states. “I’m still quite young in terms of touring car drivers, so we just keep dicking away and hopefully we get something.”
His full focus is on matching Andy Rouse and Colin Turkington on four BTCC titles, aged 28, and he has a multi-year deal to be driving the Fords. Cammish makes sure he gets an income, as well as trophies, from racing by supporting the career of Australian GB3 rookie Marcos Flack.
“I do my best to guide him as well as I can,” Cammish summarises. “With him it’s very much one-to-one. I mean I’m so busy with him there’s not much time [to coach anyone else], but it’s something I enjoy and at the moment I’m still in the seat and I’ve still got value in the seat. One day that will come to an end, and obviously at that point I want to… I’m not going to leave motorsport overnight, I’m going to be tied to it for a long, long time. So if I can help the next generation, then that’s of course something I’d be interested in.”