Wednesday, May 09, 2007

BTCC + Thruxton = a good laugh

This picture illustrates two things: first, that the British Touring Car Championship is good again; and second, that Thruxton is a fantastic place for racing.

The BTCC has had its fair share of ups and downs, and each "down" has seemed to precipitate a switch of basic regulations. In the late 1980s, when spectators got confused about mid-pack drivers winning the overall title, the series switched to 2.0 litre engines that formed the basis of the massively popular Super Touring rules package. By the end of the 1990s, that package had attracted manufacturers in droves, who drive up costs to the point where it was no longer financially viable for them to be there and hence left, leaving a few shabby privateers. Rules changed again to a proprietary set of "BTC Rules", primarily aimed at bringing in smaller cars and less expense. It was never as popular with fans as the Super Touring rules, and manufacturers for the most part stayed away.

With the FIA's new Super 2000 ruleset, essentially an updated, more tightly controlled Super Touring spec, the BTCC saw a chance to satisfy two goals: to bring in more manufacturer interest as well as continue to keep the series affordable for the all-important privateer cadre. This year is the first proper year of S2000 rules, and although there are no significant new teams in the championship, the racing is tighter than ever and attendance is up.

Last year Team Dynamics and SEAT were easily the best of the bunch, but this year Vauxhall and Team RAC are both showing equal levels of competitiveness, whilst a number of privateers in ex-works machinery are able to get into the mix - Mike Jordan and Mat Jackson are good examples of this.

Back in the 90s the series had factory involvement from Audi, Volvo, Ford, Renault, Nissan, Honda and Alfa Romeo. Given two or three years, I don't see it unlikely that we'll see a similar amount of manufacturer interest.

And so onto Thruxton... When I was growing up in the UK, Thruxton was the second closest race track to me (after Castle Combe), yet we didn't often go there. It seemed like there just weren't many events worth checking out, and we'd sooner see touring cars at Silverstone. Thruxton had limited facilities and somewhat of a lack of atmosphere. However, after watching the British Superbikes and BTCC at the track, it's clear that there's plenty of people who disagree with my previously-held opinions. I'd like to go back there on a big race weekend to see how it might be different. One thing is for certain: it's a really fast track with loads of passing places, plenty of run-off, and no annoying "mickey mouse" sections brought in to alleviate safety concerns.

1 comment:

patrick said...

Never been, Oulton Park was the nearest circuit to me as a kid (these days, only Knockhill is within sensible travelling distance). It looks like it might be better on TV, as all the most interesting parts of Thruxton are off-limits to spectators.