- World famous British Touring Car season starts in two weeks time
- Epic racing all day makes it a fans favourite
- Affordable, easy to access and thrill-a-minute action
For many people, when the word motorsport is uttered, the first thing that comes to mind is Formula One. But there’s a wealth of racing across the world, and particularly in the UK that should also be included in your viewing consideration, and pretty high up that list should be the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).
British Touring Cars is famous across the world for its supremely close, all-action racing. It’s cracking value for money too; for the cost of a Sunday Lunch, you can take the entire family to a full day of top drawer motorsport up and down the UK, with most circuits offering free entry for children.
The series is going through a proper golden period too, with some of the best drivers the championship has ever seen, massive variety of manufacturers and teams, and full accessibility thrown in. What other sports offer you the chance to meet the stars of the show within minutes of the action finishing?!
The 2021 season starts in two weeks time, and the BTCC held its traditional season launch event at Silverstone earlier this week.
No fewer than 29 drivers will take part each weekend, with eight different manufacturers represented on the grid.
That means that the UK’s best racers will be competing in BMW 3-Series, Ford Focus STs, Toyota Corollas, Infiniti Q50s, Cupra Leons, Vauxhall Astras, Hyundai i30s and Honda Civic Type Rs at eight different circuits.
Normally, such a variety of machinery comes at the expense of close competition. But the BTCC regulations are cleverly devised, with the most successful cars at each event then having to carry ‘success’ ballast at the next race, while the cars themselves are designed to a tight set of rules. So while they look rather different to each other, the levels of performance are almost identical.
It’s rare for the top-25 cars to be separated by more than a second in qualifying. This week’s official test at Silverstone was a case in point, just over a second covered the first 27 runners and 1.2 seconds spreading across the whole field.
The driver line-up is rich and diverse too. There are series legends such as Jason Plato, who has been involved with the category since the 1990s. Gordon Shedden, Colin Turkington and Ashley Sutton are all multiple champions, and over half the field have claimed race victories.
Lewis Hamilton’s younger brother Nicolas is a regular contender, and he’ll have his best opportunity so far in the series as he takes to the wheel of a brand new Cupra Leon. There’s even a rockstar in the field; Rick Parfitt Jr, son of the Status Quo member with the same name is making his series debut this year in a Hyundai i30. He’s quick too, entering the category as a former champion of the British GT Championship.
Each event is catered to the fans. There are big screens everywhere to ensure none of the action is missed while trackside. Funfairs, trade stalls, exhibitions and manufacturer displays provide plenty of off-track excitement, and the stars of the show can be found in regular autograph sessions. But at most races the paddock is open anyway, the equivalent of leaving the dressing rooms open for a big football match.
Spectators weren’t able to attend the races last year due to the Covid pandemic, but free to air live TV coverage is always available on ITV4. Series and circuit bosses are expecting to open the gates to fans once more from June onwards, and with races in Hampshire, Norfolk, Kent, Cheshire, Fife, Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, it visits nearly every corner of the UK. If you get the chance, we’d seriously recommend you give it a go!
It’s not all about the touring cars either. Equally spectacular racing is on offer from youngsters aspiring to make it in the world of F1, competing in the British F4 Championship. There are sports cars in the form of the Porsche Carrera Cup, Ginetta GT4 SuperCup, and more youngsters in the Ginetta Junior category. The MINI Challenge also appears on the race card, and offers plenty of drama too.
Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.