Touring Cars

Opinion | The BTCC needs to decide what it wants to be

The fallout from the recent Silverstone rounds of the 2017 British Touring Car Championship isn’t going to go away. ESM’s Editor gets stuck in to the debate.

Things should be perfect in the BTCC world right now. The grid is packed, fans are flocking to circuits, and ITV is broadcasting the entire race package live and free from subscription. It might not have the same number of manufacturers throwing huge budgets around like the peak of the 1990s, but all that aside, the British Touring Car Championship should be in rude health. But it’s not.

If you’ve read the report from our BTCC Correspondent on the events that took place at Silverstone last weekend, you’ll know that driving standards are a subject nobody can escape from. The fact that Mr. BTCC himself – and Series Director – Alan Gow had to wade in and release a statement specifically addressing the issue, suggests how serious this mess is. However, Silverstone wasn’t the only rounds which saw driving that could be classed as poor and unprofessional.

Both Snetterton and Knockhill saw races ended for drivers thanks to contact from other competitors. Andrew Jordan’s statement at the weekend that some drivers lack ‘spatial awareness’ may be true, but the carnage created by his mistake at Knockhill means that nobody on the grid can take a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude on this issue.

BTCC 2017 (C) BTCC

Gow asserts that the drivers themselves are the root cause of the problem which, of course, is the obvious assumption to make. Nobody but the 32 individuals out on track can decide whether to ‘bung an optimistic pass up the inside’ or perpetually nudge the back bumper of the car in front to unsettle it. Only they cause those actions, and there is only so much the race organisers and stewards can do. Yet if drivers are doing this, surely it’s because of the situation that has been allowed to fester. For some on the grid, the chance of being penalised seems low, and in many respects the BTCC likes to make hay from contact and controversy. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Thruxton – What did we learn?

The British Touring Car Championship returns this weekend, with the action taking place at Oulton Park. Our BTCC Correspondent recaps what happened last time out at Thruxton.

BTCC 2017 Thruxton

Thruxton may be home to the fastest corner on the BTCC calendar, but the latest rounds won’t be remembered for being a classic. Other than the incidents of a farcical second race, it was, in truth, a fairly processional affair. However, what else did we learn?

First of all, for how many years have we complained about the tyres at Thruxton and, in particular, punctures? This year, there were no major incidents, which ironically meant it perhaps wasn’t as entertaining as we’ve become accustomed to. Whether the tyres will ever be good enough to allow a soft option tyre here remains to be seen, but great credit must go to Dunlop for this season’s tread. A slight change in the compound make-up and width seems to have made all the difference, which is great if the drivers can now concentrate on driving without the worry of punctures.

Another thing we have become used to seeing at Thruxton is front wheel drive cars at the front, especially the Hondas. Saturday’s qualifying and the opening race seemed to continue the form guide as the evergreen duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in the manufacturer Hondas and Eurotech’s Jack Goff held the top 3 positions. An astonishing point to note is that it was Neal’s first pole in nearly five years. However, from the second race onwards, it was the BMW show – helped by the sunny conditions, which in turn helped their tyres.

BTCC 2017 Thruxton

Wins for Rob Collard and Colin Turkington handed BMW their 100th outright BTCC win. It’s a great achievement by one of the stalwart teams of the series.  Following the BMWs’ performance at Thruxton, supposedly one of their weaker circuits, they must be seriously confident for the rest of the season. Turkington is now less than 20 points behind leader Tom Ingram and must be feeling confident that title number 3 could be on its way if his and BMW’s form continues. (more…)

Friday Photo – BTCC Audi A4 quattro Super Tourer with Frank Biela

Twenty years ago the British Touring Car Championship was reaching peak popularity with global motorsport fans. On track, the 1996 season was being dominated by an all-conquering silver machine.1996 BTCC Audi A4 quattroFull disclosure – the Audi A4 quattro Super Tourer is, without doubt, the favourite BTCC machine of ESM‘s Editor. Ever. He even has the t-shirt, although it’s a little tight after nearly two decades… So the news that Audi Sport legend Frank Biela is going to be reunited with the A4 quattro this weekend is a big deal.1996 BTCC Audi A4 quattroIn 1996 the BTCC was one of the most competitive championships on the planet. To turn up and take both Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles at the first time of asking, was a huge achievement for Audi Sport, and a massive marketing boon for the Audi brand. Using all-wheel-drive gave the A4 a big advantage over two-wheel-drive rivals, resulting in Biela winning eight races in addition to taking another twelve podiums. Weight penalties in 1997 meant Biela could only fight to second in the championship, whilst for 1998 all-wheel-drive was banned from Super Touring.

Although the technical ability of the A4 quattro was immense, Frank Biela’s own personal talent cannot be understated. Along with the BTCC title, his career highlights include: five outright Le Mans wins (2000-2002, 2006, 2007), two American Le Mans Series wins (2003, 2005), 1991 DTM champion, 1993 French Touring Car champion, and 1995 Touring Car World Cup winner. For many racing drivers, winning one of the above would be immense, but to do all of them is off the chart. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, all those titles were taken behind the wheel of an Audi. Cut Biela open and you’ll probably find his veins arranged in the shape of the Audi badge, such is his association with the brand.

So it’s fitting that he’ll be driving the A4 quattro BTCC racer this weekend at Knockhill, doing parade laps as part of the David Leslie Super Touring Car Festival. It probably wouldn’t have been fair on everyone else to let him actually race, we imagine. To celebrate, Audi UK have shared a host of photos from that successful 1996 season. Enjoy:

BTCC 2016 – Knockhill – Reviewed and Rated

The annual trip to Scotland produced some fantastic racing, especially amongst the front runners, which hopefully now means we can forget about the driving standards furore of Snetterton.2016 BTCC Knockhill (C) BTCCThree of the most experienced drivers on the grid came to the fore with a win apiece, demonstrating outstanding defensive driving and a classic charge through the field. At the front, consistency was the key for Sam Tordoff as he regained the championship lead from Rob Collard.

Race One (1st Plato, 2nd Goff, 3rd Turkington)
Jason Plato started his 500th BTCC race from pole position after an incredibly tight qualifying session. Tom Ingram took 2nd ahead of Tordoff, Jack Goff, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan. The championship leader, Collard, once again qualified poorly, down in 18th.

As the lights went out, the top 6 all got away well from the line, but there were echoes of Snetterton at the third corner as Matt Neal barged Adam Morgan off the track, which left Morgan well down the pack and Neal with a post-race verbal warning. This allowed the top 6 to pull out a gap on the rest of the field. Jordan was looking competitive in the opening laps and he was soon ahead of Turkington after a sweet move at the hairpin, but Turkington kept pace and re-took the position mid-race.

Ingram found himself under immense pressure from Tordoff and Goff, before the pair switched positions over the start-finish line. Goff continued his pursuit of Ingram and after a long, late lunge on the brakes into the hairpin, he succeeded in taking 2nd. Tordoff then set about Ingram too, but his challenge was halted by a safety car to recover Warren Scott’s stricken Subaru following an incident with Dan Welch.2016 BTCC Knockhill (C) Subaru UKAfter the safety car period ended, it was a quick sprint to the finish, but it was just enough time for Turkington to make a couple of brilliant moves to jump from 5th to 3rd. His first victim was Tordoff, who was almost overtaken by Jordan too, and then Ingram at the hairpin. However, it was Turkington’s teammate, Plato, who celebrated his 500th race with his 95th victory and he also became the 11th different winner of the season, equalling the BTCC season record. (more…)

BTCC 2016 – Donington Park Reviewed and Rated

The second meeting of the season saw the BTCC return to Donington Park. The three races produced some exciting racing, but at the end of the day, the championship had a familiar look to it. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent passes judgement. 

2016 BTCC Donington Park

Race One (1st Jackson, 2nd Cook, 3rd Ingram)
Ashley Sutton secured pole in only his second-ever BTCC qualifying session that was made livelier by a drying track. Teammate Josh Cook secured a MG lockout with Mat Jackson 3rd and defending champion Gordon Shedden 4th. Sutton’s joy was short-lived on Sunday as he made an awful getaway from the line, allowing Jackson to squeeze through between the MG duo for the lead. Jackson never looked back as he secured victory despite a couple of safety car periods at the beginning and end of the race. The race saw the Subarus struggle, Martin Depper off and missing wheel, Jack Goff in the thick of the action and Dan Welch and Matt Simpson in an avoidable collision that sent polystyrene everywhere. Simpson later admitted responsibility. The safety car was called for to recover the stricken cars, but the drama was only just starting as a well alight Subaru of James Cole pulled up at the end of the pit lane. Cole managed to escape the barbecue, but the race ended with a red flag and Cole’s weekend immediately.

Race Two (Collard, Jackson, A Smith)
Jackson made a good start off the line with Ingram moving up to 2nd but, as in the opening race, the safety car was needed at the end of the lap to recover Ollie Jackson’s Audi from the gravel at the first corner. As the race resumed, there was plenty of close action down the field, as it was almost 6 abreast over the finish line at the beginning of lap 6. However, as Turkington became sandwiched at the end of the lap, he spun off at the chicane and needed rescuing under another safety car period. As the race re-started, Jackson didn’t quite have it all his own way at the front as Ingram, Collard and Goff were in close attendance. Collard moved forward and took the lead with a few laps remaining, as Ingram fell well down the pack and Goff less so. That allowed Aron Smith to move up to the podium, despite Shedden’s best efforts.

(C) Honda 2016

Race Three (Neal, Shedden, Tordoff)
Sam Tordoff nearly secured a lights to flag victory after being drawn on pole, but his soft tyres gave up with a few laps remaining, allowing Matt Neal and Shedden to take full advantage to secure a Honda 1-2. The race contained plenty of passing moves up and down the field, with Goff notably overtaking Neal for 2nd on the 2nd lap. The BMW pair looked to make the most of their early soft tyre advantage, but the early hard pushing ultimately proved their downfall as the Hondas eventually clawed them back and secured the top positions. The race changed just after the half way point as the many cars running on soft tyres started to suffer. That allowed the cars on the medium tyres to take full advantage and it resulted in various drivers dropping down the field. Neal’s win meant that we’ve now had 6 different winners in the first 6 races of the season.

Like Brands Hatch in the preceding rounds, this certainly wasn’t the worst action we’ve ever seen at Donington. This bodes well for the remainder of the season. We’ve always been accustomed to close racing, but this season seems closer than ever with more cars seemingly closely matched. I watched the third race of the day, especially, with great intrigue as the cars on the soft tyres made a great start, but fell away badly. Some will argue that this forced running of soft tyres is interfering with the racing too much, but I think it adds great excitement to the championship. We will certainly need as much excitement as we can get further down the field, as Honda continue to dominate the standings.

(C) Honda

No prizes for guessing who’s on top, of the leaderboard.

Championship Standings after Round 6 of 30: (more…)

New – Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR Racer

Volkswagen Motorsport doesn’t just do rallying. It also churns out touring cars like this Golf GTI TCR.

2016 VW Golf GTI TCRVW’s dominance of the World Rally Championship may be the jewel in the crown for the German company’s motorsport arm, but it’s also quietly confident about this new tin-top racer. Let’s qualify the ‘new’ statement a little bit first, however. You’re not mistaken about the fact it looks very similar to the Golf Touring Car Concept we featured last year. In short, it’s the same car but with extra honeycomb grilles and GTI badging.

2016 VW Golf GTI TCR 00

Volkswagen points out that the car which was used in certain rounds of the 2015 TCR International Series, was there to evaluate how competitive a Golf racer could be. Given that the ‘concept’ car took a win in only its second race, it’s fair to say that was sufficient to convince Volkswagen to go for a full campaign in 2016. The GTI branding is to commemorate on-track the 40th anniversary of the Golf GTI, whilst we’ve already seen the GTI Clubsport,which upholds honours on the road.

2016 VW Golf GTI TCR 00

(more…)

BTCC 2015 – Silverstone | Reviewed and Rated

The title race is almost over. So just how does our BTCC Correspondent feel about another Shedden championship?

2015 BTCC SilverstoneFollowing the latest rounds of the championship at Silverstone, you would suggest that it’s now Gordon Shedden’s title to lose. He has secured a 23 point gap at the top of the standings with only a possible 67 points remaining. The likelihood of Jason Plato, or even Colin Turkington, overturning that gap seems far-fetched.

Plato or Turkington, or even more unrealistically Matt Neal or Andrew Jordan, could complete that extremely rare situation of winning all three races. But, it would seem a near impossibility that Shedden would be so far back that his 23 point gap would be eradicated and then overturned. Shedden, of course, will be nervous and Plato and Turkington will be hopeful but it seems an unlikely event that we’ll see a Team BMR driver crowned as champion.

Whilst we talk of who will be champion, let’s not forget there are other drivers out there competing for victories. Matt Jackson has taken the championship by storm since he returned at Snetterton and he will be hoping his form will continue after securing another win at Silverstone this time out. So, even if Plato and Turkington wanted to secure three, unlikely, victories they obviously won’t just be facing competition from each other.

2015 BTCC SilverstoneAs previously mentioned, the power of Motorbase’s Ford Focus is phenomenal and it was put to good use yet again on the long straights of Silverstone. Jackson took pole for the second meeting running and secured a lights-to-flag victory in the opening race. Jordan took 2nd after a good move on Shedden on the second lap. Shedden held onto 3rd throughout the race, despite seemingly hold up many cars, especially in the early stages. The opening race felt fairly processional with not many overtakes, although late on, as some of the soft tyres ran out of grip, there was slight excitement. However, probably the biggest talking point was a puncture for Plato on the final lap. It hadn’t been the best of races for Plato, but he was in the lower reaches of the top 10. At that moment, it felt like the championship momentum swung firmly towards Shedden. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Rockingham | Reviewed and Rated

As the 2015 British Touring Car Championship heads into Autumn, the action at Rockingham has set up a two-way fight for the title. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent analyses it all.

BTCC 2015 RockinghamGordon Shedden now leads the British Touring Car Championship by 6 points following the latest rounds at Rockingham. Shedden had a superb weekend with a 1st, 2nd and 8th while previous leader Jason Plato was left struggling after 3 cars into 1 corner didn’t go, in the opening race, leaving him playing catch-up. It’s been a poor couple of rounds for Plato following dramas at Knockhill last time out too and Shedden has taken full advantage. However, the momentum may have turned back in Plato’s favour as a final race victory ensured he left Rockingham with only a 6 point deficit, having been 20 behind after race two.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

It’s hard to see Andrew Jordan winning from 5th in the championship now, as he’s 46 points down and while Matt Neal and reigning champ Colin Turkington are 27 and 33 points down respectively, it would seem very unlikely that Shedden and Plato would both drop that many points to allow them a sniff of silverware. I have said for a long time now that the title will be between Shedden and Plato, with me slightly favouring Plato, and I still have no reason to change that opinion.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

Rockingham’s entertainment value grew as the day progressed with a modest first race, a second race that came alive at the end and a highly entertaining final race. The first race was deservedly won by Mat Jackson who controlled the race throughout for a lights to flag victory. It is astonishing that Jackson found himself at the front of the grid with Motorbase’s first ever Saturday pole position. Motorbase’s cars have generally performed so well over the years; it is hard to fathom how they haven’t had a pole before. Following Knockhill, I commented on how impressed I was with this Focus package and after another strong display, goodness knows where Jackson would have been in the standings had he competed in the opening 15 races of the season. He already has 105 points from just 9 races. I’m not saying Jackson would be challenging Plato or Shedden for the outright title, but I’m sure he would have been in the top 6 mix, easily.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

While Jackson is perhaps classed as an ‘old’ pro in the BTCC now, I find I’m regularly commenting on some of the younger drivers after each set of races. This time is no different as I once again praise Josh Cook and Tom Ingram. Cook had an amazing charge through the field in the second race as the action climaxed at the end, with Cook taking the last podium position from Adam Morgan at pretty much the final corner on the last lap of the race. Ingram has shown flashes of brilliance this year, but I’ve often found he’s ended up finishing further down than his performance has deserved. Not on Sunday. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Croft | Reviewed and Rated

With the British Touring Car Championship at ESM’s home circuit, there was never any doubt as to whether we would be in attendance. But, would it be a Sunday to remember, or another snooze-fest like Oulton Park? Our BTCC Correspondent tells the story below:

BTCC 2015 Croft Race One Podium

After Oulton Park, things could only get better for the BTCC and they certainly did at a BMW dominated Croft. There was a win apiece for each of the WSR members and a historic 1-2-3 for the team in the opening race. The championship lead has changed hands following the weekend’s action and Gordon Shedden heads the way into the summer break. However, it was the return of ‘racing’ that meant it was a good day for BTCC fans.

BTCC 2015 Croft

Race One saw the winner from last time out on pole, Sam Tordoff, followed by his teammate Andy Priaulx, Gordon Shedden, Rob Collard, Colin Turkington and Matt Neal. The championship leader going into the weekend, Jason Plato, was down in 12th. Unbelievably, it was the first time since Silverstone 2006 that Plato hadn’t qualified in the top 10. By my rough calculations, that’s about 90 meetings which I find astonishing. However, Plato wasn’t happy with his position and he came up with a cunning plan, within the rules, to set himself up for a better weekend.

2013 Champion Andrew Jordan had a tough weekend

2013 Champion Andrew Jordan had a tough time at Croft

Plato came into the pits at the end of the green flag lap to re-join the race from the pit lane in clear air to set a fast lap for a good grid position in the second race. Another advantage of his plan was that he’d lose his weight as well, leaving him with a good grid positon and no weight. You could say his plan worked as he ended up third for the second race. However, we can, of course, question the morality of it all. Technically, he did nothing wrong, it was within the rules, but do we want drivers doing this every weekend? No, definitely not. As a one off, I think we can just about justify it and hope that Alan Gow can find a way to stop this loophole.

BTCC 2015 Croft

Rob Austin had his best weekend for what seems a very long time.

Race One saw Tordoff get away cleanly as the BMWs roared into the first 3 positions in a race that started under dark clouds. However, on lap 6, Priaulx was able to take the lead from Tordoff with a move up the inside of him at Tower. Priaulx held on for the race win and was followed home by Tordoff and Collard after the latter failed in his bid to get past Tordoff despite good pressure. It was amazing to see an all WSR podium! (more…)

BTCC at Croft 2014 – EngageSportMode Photo Gallery 2

If you’ve seen our first gallery from the British Touring Car Championship at Croft, then you’ll be ready for the second. This one features a controversial race three, and our off-track highlights from around the pits and paddock.

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Race Three

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Atmosphere / Pits and Paddock

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A great day, no rain and for once no sunburn. Compared to our experiences at Thruxton, Croft was a fantastic reminder of how great the BTCC is when done right. Check back later in the week for the full race report.