Howard Fuller will make a return to the British Touring Car Championship for at least the first three rounds of the 2020 season with Team HARD in place of Mike Bushell.
Bushell was set to pilot one of the team’s Volkswagen CCs during the season ahead but has been forced onto the sidelines by Myocarditis, a cardiac issue that causes inflammation of the heart muscle.
“I’m extremely frustrated to have yet another hurdle put in front of me in my pursuit of success in the BTCC,” Bushell said. “I had a good feeling about the development of the Volkswagen CC for 2020 and was excited to get behind the wheel. I’ve been in close contact with the team with the winter upgrades and was keen to start from where we left off in 2018.
“Unfortunately, there is still some damage and residual inflammation of my heart after falling ill at the start of February. It means that I am unable to hold a race licence, but more importantly, I’m not physically able to race at the moment and I have to put my health first.
“I will have to postpone my return the BTCC grid once again and focus on getting back to full health. I wish the team and Howard all the best for the start of the season.”
Bushell’s health will be re-assessed in May, with team boss Tony Gilham saying Fuller as an obvious choice to fill the void having has a long relationship with the team.
“Howard has been an integral part of the team for ten years now and even when he wasn’t racing with us, we have remained in close contact and tried many times to get him back on track,” he said. “Our journey together began back in 2011 and led to his BTCC debut in 2012. Being totally honest with myself, whilst Howard was ready as a driver, we weren’t ready as a team at the top level at that point. Howard is an amazing talent and up until now, there has always been something lacking with us as a team which hasn’t allowed us to extract everything from his potential. However, 2020 will finally see what we can achieve together where we are both more than prepared at the same time.
“Whilst we believe Howard has the potential to go to the very top, we all know that it is very important to build a career on solid foundations. So, the decision was made to hit the reset button and essentially relaunch Howard as we look to take him back up the racing ladder. Howard brings a wealth of experience and will be a great ambassador for us both on and off-track, so we are very much looking forward to what we can achieve this season.
“Naturally, I’m devastated for Mike; we’ve been in contact throughout his recovery and we wanted to keep him in the car, but health must come first, and we wish Mike well. He is still a vital part of the team and we will continue working with him during the opening rounds of the championship until we reassess his health in May.”