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The British Touring Car Championship is a touring car racing series held each year in the United Kingdommarker. 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 took on 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 for 2001 adopted its own BTC Touring rules. However the Super 2000 rules have now been observed for the overall championship since the 2007 season. The 2000s have seen cheaper cars than the later Supertouring era, with fewer factory teams and fewer international drivers.

Type of cars

Currently, the cars used are 2.0 L saloons, based on models from a variety of manufacturers, using Super 2000 regulations matching those of the World Touring Car Championship. The series launched its own BTC Touring specification for 2001, a year before the WTCC began in its current form, however car counts were low. Super 2000 cars were allowed to enter from 2004 to encourage cars to be built for both championships, and became the only cars eligible to win the main title - although several independent teams still run BTC Touring-spec cars.

BTCC teams are a mixture of "works" teams from manufacturers (currently only Vauxhall) and independent teams such as Team RAC, Team Dynamics, and Motorbase. However in 2010 there will no longer be any works teams following Vauxhalls decision to pull out of the series. 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. This included finishing all 30 championship races that year, something no other driver has achieved before or since. This ended Vauxhall's run of 4 victories in the championships for drivers, teams and manufacturers between 2001 and 2004. Neal and Dynamics were also victorious in 2006, before Vauxhall won the 2007 title with Italian Fabrizio Giovanardi. Team Dynamics also achieved the first overall independents race win in the 'Supertouring' era when Neal won a round of the 1999 BTCC at Donington park, earning the team prize-money of £250,000.As a result of Matt Neal's championship victories, and the fact that Team Dynamic's were designing and building their own S2000 Honda Civic Type R, they were no longer entered into the Independents category and were classed as a "works" team.

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 Super Touring 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. Only Hughes continued on this fuel in 2007 and 2008.

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 . In 2008 SEAT Sport UK entered two Turbo Diesel Power SEAT Leons - the first diesel powered manufacturer entered cars.

Latest season

In 2009 the races take place on weekends during the British spring and summer. Previously there have been three-day Bank Holiday meetings, but for 2009 all of the events take place on a Saturday and Sunday. There will be ten racing weekends at nine different circuits, including Brands Hatchmarker (for two different weekends), Silverstonemarker, Rockingham Motor Speedwaymarker, Oulton Parkmarker in England, and Knockhillmarker in Scotland. Brands Hatch will host more than one weekend's racing. Each round comprises three races, making a thirty round competition in total.

Race format

Championship contenders Jason Plato (SEAT) and Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall) collide at turn one of a BTCC race at Snetterton in July 2007.
The BTCC is known for being a high-contact series.
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 wheel is spun 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 the spinning wheel stops at position 7, 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. The draw is normally conducted by the winner of race two, unless this driver is competing for the championship at the final meeting.

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. It also led to some safety concerns as drivers would slow dramatically on the approach to the finish line, with cars behind forced to take evasive action to avoid collecting slower cars ahead. These factors contributed the rule change for the 2006 season.

Points system

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.

Television coverage

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 digital channel with fewer 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 commentary box. After 1997 the commentary 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. From 2009 the ITV coverage has screened on ONE HD[113190]. Speedvision also used to screen highlights in the USA.

Motors TV, used to show all the races, including some support races, live both in the UK and across Europe.[113191] In 2007 Setanta Sports showed all the races live including the support races, although this did not continue in 2008.

Previous champions

Currently, 5 championships are awarded per season. The overall driver's championship is the driver gaining the most points overall throughout the season. Since 1992, the Independents driver championship has also been awarded to the leading non-manufacturer-backed driver. There are also awards for the best overall team, leading manufacturer and, since 2004, the top independent team. Previous championship titles were awarded to the leading "Production" (or "Class B") driver and team between 2000 and 2003. Since 2001 (the beginning of a new era for the series) five drivers from two makes have won the BTCC driver's championship:

Yr. Championship Independent Production
Drivers champion Manufacturers champion Teams champion Driver Team Driver Team
2001 Jason Plato Vauxhall Vauxhall Motorsport none Simon Harrison HTML
2002 James Thompson Vauxhall Vauxhall Motorsport Dan Eaves VLR James Kaye Synchro Motorsport
2003 Yvan Muller Vauxhall VX Racing Rob Collard Collard Racing Luke Hines Barwell Motorsport
2004 James Thompson Vauxhall VX Racing Anthony Reid West Surrey Racing none
2005 Matt Neal Vauxhall Team Halfords Matt Neal Team Halfords none
2006 Matt Neal SEAT Team Halfords Matt Neal Team Halfords none
2007 Fabrizio Giovanardi Vauxhall SEAT Sport UK Colin Turkington Team RAC none
2008 Fabrizio Giovanardi Vauxhall VX Racing Colin Turkington Team RAC none
2009 Colin Turkington Vauxhall VX Racing Colin Turkington Team RAC none


See also

External links

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