Why you should watch… BTCC

The BTCC field charges into turn one at Thruxton

The BTCC field charges into turn one at Thruxton

Looking for a racing series to fill the F1-free weekends before the Spanish Grand Prix? The British Touring Car Championship is racing on the next two Sundays. Guest writer Allan Mooney tells you why you should tune in.

Get ready to rumble! The BTCC is Britain?s best motor racing championship and this weekend the battle rages on.

There are 24 drivers competing for the championship and together they cause enough panel-bashing and overtaking to give F1 stewards a heart attack.

A busy weekend?s racing

Thirty races are held over ten rounds, stretching from April to October on some of the best British Circuits: Brands Hatch, Croft, and Silverstone to name a few.

The 2010 season is shaping up to be one of the best yet. Although there are only three manufacturer teams, seven car makers are represented through manufacturer and independent teams.

Ticket prices are reasonably wallet-friendly: a weekend ticket purchased in advance costs ??28 and children under 15 get free entry. The BTCC is much more fan-friendly than F1 with dedicated autograph sessions and pit lane tours.

The race weekend runs from Saturday morning with two 40-minute free practice sessions followed by a 30-minute qualifying session in the afternoon.

There are three races on Sunday, all of equal length and with no mandatory pit stops. The grid for race two is determined by the finishing order of race one.

Unusually the grid for the third race is partly decided by a lottery. The winning driver of race two picks a number from six to ten at random. The number he chooses determines how many cars have their places reversed on the grid.

For example if number seven is picked, the driver who finished seventh in race two takes pole position for race three, sixth place starts second and so on, with the rest of the grid remaining in the order they finished.

The BTCC race weekend also includes action from other championships such as the Porsche Supercup and British Formula Renault. It?s an entertaining support bill which provides great racing.

The next race meeting is at Rockingham this weekend, followed. For those in the UK, ITV4 is showing the race weekend in two parts: 11:00am – 3:15pm and 8:30pm ?ǣ 10:00pm.

Then the weekend after that the cars are racing on the glorious Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, scene of 14 F1 races between 1964 and 1986.

Then and now

The championship?s heyday came in the 1990s in the ??super touring? era. The cars used 2.0-litre engines and were based on road-going models, but spiralling developmental and technology costs meant manufacturers were no longer willing to put up the multi-million pound budgets needed to be competitive in the series. They quit en masse in 1998-9.

New rules were introduced in 2001 to cut costs. Development in aerodynamics was restricted, engines remained 2.0 litres but were limited to 270bhp. Suspension had to remain faithful to that found on the road-going version and all cars carry standard six-speed sequential gear boxes. This successfully cut costs from ??6-10 million per car per season to roughly ??1.5 million.

The BTCC suffered a slump in popularity from 2000-2003 while new series boss Alan Gow set about rebuilding the championship. His first move was to allow WTCC-spec cars from 2004. Although only SEAT joined as a manufacturer entry, the rules meant a number of manufacturers returned to the sport via independent teams with cars purchased from WTCC teams.

In recent years the BTCC has begun to recover its popularity and race day crowds are getting larger each year.

ITV now broadcast the series with several familiar faces from their F1 coverage team including Steve Rider and Louise Goodman.

Ordinarily they show all BTCC and support races live on ITV4. This weekend?s coverage is a rare exception to that ?ǣ the third race will not be shown live ?ǣ but full live coverage will resume at Brands Hatch.

BTCC in pictures

BTCC video

Steven Kane hits the lead as Matt Neal and Rob Collard collide in race three at Thruxton.

What motorsport would you recommend other F1 fans to follow? If you want to put the case for your favourite non-F1 category write a guest article and send it in. More information here: Write a guest article for F1 Fanatic

Why you should watch…

Images (C) BTCC & Peter Still Photogrphic

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57 comments on Why you should watch… BTCC

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  1. Marc Connell said on 24th April 2010, 9:04

    I went to watch the BTCC at knockhill last year. Really enjoyed it especially the support races it has!! tonnes of over taking, off roading, Every car has an advantage on one of the tracks they race in which makes it a different winner every time.
    I could continue for every saying why i love watching the BTCC. Its a good series to watch and keep up with.

    • MigueLP said on 24th April 2010, 19:35

      btcc in my opinion is more interesting than wtcc great to watch on tv or at the field

      • Rob B said on 25th April 2010, 21:03

        I went to Donnington and Oulton Park last year. Fantastic. Donnington was freezing cold and wet.. had g’stand tickets for redgate. Oulton was scorching hot, general admission tickets to go wandering about.

        Even the support races were good, My mate and I nearly got wiped out by a rolling Ginetta G20 at oulton, but it was all good! Just watching the highlights now as had to go to the round folks house for tea and missed out.

  2. Christian Briddon said on 24th April 2010, 9:07

    I love the BTCC. After F1 is it my favourite motorsport. Lots of close racing and overtaking. It is an example of what F1 would be like with less aero!

    Don’t just watch the touring cars though. The support races are also excellent, especially the Genetta Juniors.

  3. Karan said on 24th April 2010, 9:07

    I know most people on this site are from the UK, but you should check out the V8 Supercars series in Australia. In my opinion it is better than the BTCC in all respects.

    There are 2 main manufactures, Ford and Holden, the racing is very close and fast, and the drivers are blood thirsty.

    Usually some spectacular racing in this series.

    • ConcedoNulli said on 24th April 2010, 10:20

      I agree the racing is great but in the UK we need to scour the TV listings to find it. Last year it was on Five (I think, possibly C4) in the small hours and you couldn’t guarantee the EPG to make a recording.

    • The genuine Jim said on 24th April 2010, 13:36

      I love the V8 Supercars, although with my history I could never choose between Ford and Holden (Vauxhall) like I was supposed to. It used to be shown in the wee small hours on Channel 5 in the UK, but they dropped it. Does anyone know where I could watch it online?

    • i used to love the btcc back when i was younger, not so much anymore. I am looking forward to the V8’s super carnival though on the gold coast, would love to go and get Dixon’s signature.

    • Brake Bias said on 27th April 2010, 7:52

      Especially The Bathurst 1000. Is truly a great race.

      Mind you Karan, I preferred the Group C days to the current V8 series.

  4. Ben said on 24th April 2010, 9:11

    I remember watching the Supertouring days on Wide World of Sports here in Aus. Wacthing the likes of Tarquini, Mansell, Menu, Cleland. The Volvo wagon (estate, was it the V50, 650, something like that?) experiment sticks in my mind, there’s a reason no one has raced a wagon before or since!

    Back in the old days it did produce some mega racing, but I have to say, without seeing much of it recently to really be able to confirm my opinion, it seems to have dropped behind V8 Supercars and DTM as the best touring car category. (Although I have to say, I don’t really rate DTM on a racing level, its just up near the top based on technology and speed).

    Something does have to be said about the attraction of an engine note though, those S2000 cars sound awful.

    But if I lived in the UK, I’d be out watching BTCC for sure. Great category.

    For the Australians, it does (or at least, did last year) get shown on ONE.

    • Torg said on 26th April 2010, 16:55

      850 estate woohoo. Probabaly one of my fav BTCC cars of all time. TWR said they would of used it instead of the Saloon in 1995/96 if it wasnt for the new rules that stated cars were allowed front spitters and run rear wings. A shame!

  5. Dave said on 24th April 2010, 9:11

    I was considering going to Rockingham tomorrow and watched some prev clips on YouTube to whet my appetite as to what to expect. What area / grandstand would be the best to view oncoming cars into the 1st chicane heading to the infield ?

    • Invoke said on 24th April 2010, 10:51

      Rockingham is great for spectators. Because it’s an oval track the main grandstand runs along the start finish straight along part of the oval and from it, you can see almost the entire track.

  6. irishlad (@irishlad) said on 24th April 2010, 9:33

    i love the BTCC myself, its a much rougher sport to any other, where the leader can be out in a flash.

    free pratice on now , live timing here http://www.tsl-timing.com/toca/LiveTimingTOCA.html

  7. Nixon said on 24th April 2010, 10:07

    Are the BTCC cars faster than most super cars on the track, lets say the Bugatti Veyron.

    • The genuine Jim said on 24th April 2010, 13:38

      I’m going to say no, although they are certainly rapid.

    • Dave in NZL said on 25th April 2010, 7:59

      No – the super car would be faster. These are 2.0L 270bhp racers, and while quick on the short courses wouldn’t stand a chance against a full size super car.

      Even an F1 car isn’t as fast as a Bugatti Veyron in a straight line.

      V8 Supercars, in Aus, on the other hand, had a race with a BMW M5 and cleaned it up. The F1 car came from a 30 second handicap and wiped the flower with both around Albert Park.

      • Matt said on 25th April 2010, 13:39

        V8SCs are around 450kW (600hp) I believe.

      • Rohan said on 25th April 2010, 17:57

        I wouldn’t be so sure. The aero package, race trim and tires make a huge difference. The current cars are faster than the monster 500-600bhp Cosworth touring cars from the late 80s. I suspect a race between a touring car and a Veyron would look somewhat like early turbo vs normally aspirated F1 – one car hugely quicker in a straight line the other hugely quicker round the corners where mechanical or aero grip is needed.

  8. George said on 24th April 2010, 10:16

    Im going to rockingham tomorrow and can’t wait. I went to donington last year and it was a brilliant day and if thats anything to go by, rockingham should be even better (there tends to be more crashes haha!) Every race is great to watch and my favourite other than the btcc is the formula renaults because they are like f1 cars and they have wheel to wheel racing. However, all support races are fun to watch. Personally, i think that the porsche supercup is a bit dull, but that might just be me lol!

    • George said on 24th April 2010, 14:30

      That’s a coincidence, I’m going to Rockingham tomorrow as well (should really change my screen name).

      I started watching BTCC in the mid 90s, was also watching rallying and F1 back then, it was an exciting time to be a British motorsports fan. I only got back into BTCC last year, it’s a pity there isn’t more money in the sport at the moment but for racing and driver’s personalities it’s hard to beat.

      Oh, and Ginetta Juniors is an awesome series, I cant believe how young those guys are.

  9. ConcedoNulli said on 24th April 2010, 10:34

    It’s a pity that last year’s champion and multiple Independents’s champion Colin Turkington didn’t get a drive. According to Autosport, series leader Giovanardi hasn’t got a drive (http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/82969).

    I suppose this leaves the way clear for the demolition derby twins (Plato and Neal) to win the championship. Just watch them continually tapping the BMW rear ends to force passes, or in particularly Neals case side swiping other racers to make passes on the inside!

    • steph said on 24th April 2010, 10:41

      I quite like Nash but wish Giovanardi had a longer deal, he was my fave out of the BTCC. It’s quite a good, fun and plucky sport but it’s nowhere near as good as it used to be in my opinion.
      Also, I have to say well done to Allan Mooney. I loved the article and in particular, you explained the series really well. :)
      I really like the guest articles right now!

    • George said on 24th April 2010, 14:32

      Turkington had a great championship last year, lots of sweet clean passes and annihilated his team mate.

  10. Doofer said on 24th April 2010, 12:18

    The driving standards in the BTCC are shocking, as that video of Matt Neal proves. I’d rather watch paint dry.

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 24th April 2010, 14:52

      Matt Neal gives BTCC a bad name. He’s a very dirty driver.
      The majority of the drivers are much better and fairer than him.

  11. I love the BTCC and will be watching all of ITV4’s coverage tomorrow. Looks like there’s going to be rain showers too, which should spice it up even more.

    I care not about driving standards, it’s great to see the drivers banging doors and bumpers and then see them fight about it in interviews afterwards… at least these guys seem human compaired to some F1 drivers.

    I’m kinda glad Giovanardi has lost his seat, Didn’t want another season of the only non-British driver in the BTCC winning all the races again.

  12. The genuine Jim said on 24th April 2010, 13:57

    The BTCC was the best racing series in the world from about 1992 to the end of ’98. I went to the final round of ’98 at Silverstone and still have the programme guide, with signatures from Jason Plato, John Cleland, Nigel Mansell et al. It’s probably my most precious posession (how sad is that!) I even sat in the Jordan F1 car.
    The 90s were great times for the BTCC: top line drivers, many of them of international standard, going hell for leather round some of the world’s best circuits. Manufacturer involvment, and technologically advanced cars made it a joy. Now, alas, it is a shadow of its former self, although it has been on the way up again the last few years. I suppose I should stop being a snob about it, but it just doesn’t have the international renown and standing it used to have, and it makes me sad. Most of the drivers are just wealthy middle-aged men who fancy a bit of racing. That said, the racing is usually spectacular, though I think the F1 stewards would black-flag them all. But they’re tin tops, they can take a bit of rough and tumble, and drivers all give as good as they get.

    The BTCC used to be a national series of international renown, and now it most definately isn’t, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching.

    P.S. here is a video you absolutely have to see, if you want to know the greatness of the BTCC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXkWUCBoe4k

    Plus, how good is Charlie Cox on commentary? Should replace Legard I think.

  13. James_mc said on 24th April 2010, 14:20

    I went to Knockhill many years ago, a great spectator experience. No big screens but perhaps due to it’s size you always knew what was going on, but a lot of it is in a natural depression so you can see a good portion of the track from wherever you stand.

    Really affordable to IIRC

  14. George said on 24th April 2010, 14:52

    does anybody know where the best place to sit or stand is??

  15. Calum said on 24th April 2010, 14:54

    I was struggling to choose between the British Touring cars, Superbikes and GT cars at knockhill this year, but lack of Ducati motorbikes made me decline the BSB, and the chance of seeing Ferraris racing made me choose GT cars!

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