Template:Infobox motorsport championship The British Touring Car Championship is a touring car racing series held each year in the United Kingdom. The Championship was established in 1958 as the British Saloon Car Championship and has run to various rules over the years – "production cars", then FIA Group 1 or 2 in the late 1960s and 1970s, and then Group A in the 1980s, when in 1987, the series was renamed as its current name. (A lower-key Group N series for production cars ran for most of the 1990s). The championship was initially run with a mix of classes, divided according to engine capacity, racing simultaneously. This often meant that a driver who chose the right class could win the overall championship without any chance of overall race wins, thereby devaluing the title for the spectators – for example, in the 1980s Chris Hodgetts won two overall titles in a small Toyota Corolla prepared by Hughes Of Beaconsfield, at that time a Mercedes-Benz/Toyota main dealer when most of the race wins were going to much larger cars; and while the Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500s were playing at the front of the field, Frank Sytner took a title in a Class B BMW M3 and John Cleland's first title was won in a small Class C Vauxhall Astra.
After the domination (and expense) of the Ford Sierra Cosworth in the late 1980s, the BTCC was the first to introduce a 2.0 L formula, in 1990, which later became the template for the Supertouring class that exploded throughout Europe. The BTCC continued to race with Supertouring until 2000 and has since adopted its own BTC Touring rules. However the Super 2000 rules will now be observed for the overall championship from the 2007 season onwards.
Type of carsEdit
Currently, the cars used are 2.0 L saloons, based on models from a variety of manufacturers, using both BTC Touring and Super 2000 regulations (the technical regulations used in the World Touring Car Championship). Cars built to the different regulations are made as equal as possible by the use of weight equivalency formulae. From 2007 BTCC-spec cars will be replaced by cars built to Super 2000 specification, but with a provision for independent teams to continue using their old cars. This move is intended to encourage more manufacturers back into the series, as the same car would be eligible for many national championships as well as the WTCC.
BTCC teams are a mixture of "works" teams from manufacturers (currently only Vauxhall and SEAT) and independent teams such as Team RAC, Team Dynamics, and Team Eurotech. In 2005, Team Dynamics became the first independent outfit to win the BTCC drivers and team championships; Matt Neal won the overall and independent drivers contests in his Team Dynamics Honda Integra. He also claimed the extra achievement of finishing all 30 championship races that year. This ended Vauxhall's run of 4 victories in the championships for drivers, teams and manufacturers between 2001 and 2004. Team Dynamics also achieved the first overall independents race win in the 'Supertouring' era when Matt Neal won a round of the 1999 BTCC at Donington park, earning the team prize-money of £250,000.
There are strict limits to the modifications which can be made to the cars, which are intended to reduce the cost of running a competitive team, which had become prohibitive in the final years of the Supertouring rules. These cost reductions have seen a rise in independent entries – teams or individuals entering cars purchased from the manufacturer teams when they update their chassis. These so called "ex-works" cars have enjoyed some success. To further keep costs in check, the BTCC uses a "control tyre", with Dunlop the current supplier of rubber to all the teams.
The rules allow for a variety of different fuels in a bid to encourage more efficient cars: in 2004 Mardi Gras Motorsport independently entered a Liquified petroleum gas powered Super 2000 Honda Civic Type-R (which was subsequently replaced by a more competitive BTC-Touring Peugeot 406 Coupé, still LPG powered), and in 2005 Tech-Speed Motorsport converted an ex-works Vauxhall Astra Coupé to run on bio-ethanol fuel. In the middle of 2006, Kartworld's owner-driver Jason Hughes converted his 4 cylinder MG ZS to run on Bio-Ethanol, soon followed by the West Surrey Racing cars of championship contender Colin Turkington and Rob Collard, and for the final event at Silverstone, Richard Marsh converted his Peugeot 307 to run on bio-ethanol fuel. The regulations also permit cars to run on diesel; attempted first in the 2007 season by Rick Kerry in a BMW 120d E87 run by Team AFM Racing . For 2008 SEAT Sport UK have entered two Turbo Diesel Power SEAT Leons - the first diesel powered manufacturer entered cars.
- Main article: 2008 British Touring Car Championship season
In 2008 the races take place on weekends during the British spring and summer. Previously there have been three-day Bank Holiday meetings, but for 2008 all of the events take place on a Saturday and Sunday. There will be ten racing weekends at nine different circuits, including Brands Hatch, Rockingham Motor Speedway and Oulton Park in England and Knockhill in Scotland. Brands Hatch will host more than one weekend's racing. Silverstone has returned to the calendar after an absence of a year. Each round comprises three races, making a thirty round competition in total.
On the Saturday of a race weekend there are two practice sessions followed by a 30-minute qualifying session which determines the starting order for the first race on the Sunday, the fastest driver lining up in pole position.
Each race typically consists of between 16 and 25 laps, depending on the length of the circuit. The result of race one determines the grid order for race two (ie the winner starts on pole). For race three, a draw takes place to decide at which place the grid is 'reversed'. This means drivers finishing 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th or 10th in race two could take pole position for race 3 depending on the outcome of the draw. For example, if position 7 is chosen in the draw, the driver finishing in 7th position in race two starts on pole, 6th place starts in second place, 5th place starts in third etc. Drivers finishing in 8th place and beyond would start race three in their finishing order for race two.
Previous to 2006, the driver finishing in 10th place in race two took pole position for race three. This initiated deliberate race 'fixing', whereby some drivers attempted to finished in 10th place during race two to gain pole position in race three. This "reverse grid" rule polarised opinion: some fans enjoy the spectacle afforded by having unlikely drivers on pole position while faster ones have to battle through the field; others feel it detracts from the purity of the racing. For example, some drivers might decide to slow down and let others pass them, thereby improving their own starting position for the "reverse grid" race, which is contrary to the spirit of motor racing – which is to try to come first in every race. This factor contributed the rule change for the 2006 season.
Points are awarded to the top ten drivers in each race as follows :
- 1st = 15 pts
- 2nd = 12 pts
- 3rd = 10 pts
- 4th = 8 pts
- 5th = 6 pts
- 6th = 5 pts
- 7th = 4 pts
- 8th = 3 pts
- 9th = 2 pts
- 10th = 1 pt
An extra point is awarded to the driver who sets the fastest lap of each race.
A bonus point is awarded to each driver who is classified as leading a lap, though no driver may collect more than one point per race no matter how many laps they lead.
A bonus point is also given to the driver who lines up on pole position after the qualifying session.
In the UK, ITV has covered the series since 2002, with commentary from Ben Edwards and former champion Tim Harvey. In 2006 this included highlights from the first and second race of the day and live coverage of the third and final race. This returned in the second half of 2007, after the first five meetings had been on ITV3 (a satellite channel with less viewers), with a half-hour late-night highlights show. ITV1 also has a Sunday night show called Motorsport UK, featuring many of the supporting races. In 2008, the races are being screened live on ITV4, along with the support races. ITV1 has a one-hour highlights programme on the Monday night following the race.
Prior to that, the BBC used to screen highlights of every race, from 1988 to 2001. The F1 commentator at the time, Murray Walker used to do the commentary. From 1997, some races were screened live with Charlie Cox joining Murray Walker in the commentry box. After 1997 the commentry team was Charlie Cox and John Watson with Murray Walker dedicating his time to Formula 1.
The series is also screened in other countries. In Australia, Fox Sports Australia have been covering the BTCC championship since 2000. The coverage is minimal though. Speedvision also used to screen highlights in the USA. Motors TV, a subscription channel, used to show all the races, including some support races, live both in the UK and across Europe. . In 2007 Setanta Sports showed all the races live including the support races, although this has not continued in 2008.