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

  1. Great racing weak coverage

  2. polishboy808 said on 24th April 2010, 15:20

    Does anybody know how to watch this in the US? I know Speed plays it 1 season slow and they go on in random order. Could anybody please help me as I love the BTCC but I cant quite seem to catch it.

  3. I’m thinking of getting into the Le Mans series but it’s all on Eurosport 2. Big problem if you have freeview….

  4. MouseNightshirt said on 24th April 2010, 18:29

    BTCC is great! Loved it back in its heyday and now as well.

    I saw this accident live on TV a few weeks back. Makes great TV no?

  5. Icthyes said on 24th April 2010, 18:50

    BTCC, like the WRC, has seen better days, but a lot of sports suffer slumps like this, motorsports seemingly in particular. It looks like it’s getting better though, so it’s a shame I have no access to coverage!

    • Torg said on 26th April 2010, 14:09

      I strongly beg to differ and have been left wondering if you actually watch it in depth every race weekend?? Back in the early 00’s the championship was in a slump but since the middle 00’s upto present its back at its best. The last few seasons of having Giovanardi racing for Vauxhall has seen some of the best action i have ever seen in motor sport (if you want to see a masterclass of racecraft watch him in the season reviews)The season finale at Brands last year saw the closest ever BTCC finish in history and had Colin Turkington winning the BTCC crown after an incredible drive in the last race of the day while being bullied by the Vauxhalls. The BTCC is back to its best imo and i still rate it above F1 for sheer entertainment!

      P.S Cleland should of been 1992 champion!! Credit to F1 fanatic for getting your hands on a large photo of the Cleland/Soper incident. Not seen that on the web before.

  6. I’ve followed this series since my early days with racing in the early 1990s, as I just enjoy some good touring car stuff. No live coverage of the races in Germany, of course, but highlights segments were shown on a regular basis.

    The variety of what the British circuits have to offer is something I greatly appreciate. Especially in the post-Ford Sierra Cosworth Turbo era with the cars without wings, it was impressive to see how drivers struggled to quickly get around a circuit like Oulton Park.

    Another thing I’ve come to like over the years was that they haven’t kept elevating the series in terms of the cars all the time. The S2000-type cars might not be the most spectacular ones possible, but as long as there’s close, interesting racing with them, I think it’s just the right combination.

  7. TrueF1Grit said on 24th April 2010, 22:58

    Im off to Brands Hatch on The weekend of the 1st May to watch the BTCC, Anyone Else? Funny, its my first weekend visiting BTCC and this gets posted :D

  8. ChrisyuRhee said on 25th April 2010, 0:27

    They used to show BTCC in Korea. It IS the best racing to watch. Bumper cars at speed!

  9. PeriSoft said on 25th April 2010, 3:39

    Ahh, weight penalties – We’re going to have a motor race, but whatever you do, don’t win too much! That would be unfair, and we’ll have to do something about it!

    That, combined with a series racing style that makes public Need For Speed servers look like gentlemen drivers’ leagues from the ’60s, renders BTCC more of a half-assed MTV reality show than actual motorsport.

    Still, though, there’s a lot of bangin’ and bumpin’ and passin’, and that’s what racing is all about, right? At least, if the comments here are anything to go by. I’m guessing that half of the the giddy “BTCC is wonderful racing” commenters here would pass up a fifty dollar steak for a big mac and a half-pound bag of sugar cubes, too.

  10. Nutritional said on 25th April 2010, 6:51

    By any chance is there someone contributing to f1fanatic who possibly has say in the TV rights for BTCC? I live in Canada and I was able to watch the champship on Speed TV. However, it was in the off-season during the winter when the series was long over. I found the series to be extremely exciting and I’d love to be able to watch the series as it was being decided rather than months after it’s over.

  11. civilianY said on 25th April 2010, 10:16

    Somebody got a live stream please?
    I’m from Belgium and we can’t get ITV4

  12. Phil said on 25th April 2010, 12:18

    You should watch it because they drive like maniacs and there’s a lot of hilarious collisions. That’s about it really. Think Leeds council estate on a Saturday night for the quality of the overtaking some of them attempt. The very worst used to be Frank Sytner, the BMW dealer. He had a team with himself and a pro as drivers. He was a ‘gentleman amateur’, i.e. rubbish, and once took out his own pro so ridiculously that I think he finally took the hint and quit.

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 25th April 2010, 20:12

      Frank Sytner! Now there’s a memory I relish. Brands Hatch BTCC sometime in the late 80’s with Frank Sytner driving a BMW.
      The race hadn’t even started, on the warm up lap all the cars were zig-zagging like mad to get some heat in the tyres. But unfortunately for Frank, he zigged while somone else zagged. Crunch, and Sytner was out before the start!
      I’ve never heard so many people laugh so loudly in my life. I was told that Frank was made even more furious by the fact that none of his pit crew could stop giggling.

  13. Bendana said on 25th April 2010, 15:57

    I don’t know if anyone is still looking at this, but the live races and support races are being streamed on the ITV4 website, since they’ve been shunted out of the way for the IPL final:


  14. PeterG said on 26th April 2010, 9:55

    Isn’t TCC about getting a weight penalty for each win?

  15. For me the wierd grid orders make it a bit silly. Touring cars are a good formula and I used to watch a bit back in the 90’s.

    But the fact that there are 3 races a weekend with random grids in the last two make it a bit of a chore to watch. Sure the actions good, but its sort of a little bit pointless isn’t it?

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