It didn’t look promising…
In the early part of the BTCC off-season, I wasn’t desperately optimistic about 2013. My interest waned over the course of 2012: it was great to have a new champion in Gordon Shedden, but there was too much amateurish behaviour going on.
A couple of early announcements didn’t exactly convince me that 2013 would see a return to, you know, proper racing. Switching turbo boost adjustment from car type to individual teams smacks of penalising not mechanical advantage, but success – which success ballast already does. And I’m not convinced that the soft compound tyre, to be used in one of the three races each weekend, will see much variation in strategy.
…but as the winter went on (and on and on, in the UK)
Things got better, starting with news of a new grid penalty after any three driving offences. And the picture only got brighter.
Team and driver announcements came, if not thick and fast, then consistently at least – more so than in previous years. And with them – sponsors! Look at the entry list, and there are sponsors all over the team names. This is healthy – if a little confusing in the case of ‘PPCGB.com / Kraftwerk Racing’, run by Rob Austin Racing, and nothing to do with the German electro-pioneers.
Those daring (young?) men in their racing machines
Jason Plato and Matt Neal remain the big hitters on the grid, but after Gordon Shedden’s success last year, and the very welcome return of Colin Turkington, there are four champions on the grid. For my money, at least three other drivers should be aiming to take the fight to them: Tom Onslow-Cole, Mat Jackson and Andrew Jordan.
Those seven drivers alone, spread over six teams, will be racing five different makes of car. The grid as a whole features 11 makes and 13 models. That’s a great achievement for a national championship, and hugely encouraging for the NGTC regulations.
There are plenty of other drivers to watch among that capacity 32 car grid: young race winners (Frank Wrathall, Aron Smith); not-so-young race winners (Rob Collard, Dave Newsham); fan favourites (Rob Austin); promising newcomers (Jack Goff, Sam Tordoff).
I’m a little surprised by the Jack Sears Trophy for S2000 cars though. It would have been nice – and made sense, to my mind – to see the ‘business class’ drivers step aside a little and concentrate on the lesser prize. Though some have – Liam Griffin for example – with so few entrants, it would appear that the Trophy is one of the less successful changes to the championship.
Ooh, look at the pretty colours
Perhaps the best news from the BTCC media day last week was that MG KX Momentum Racing – or ‘MG Tesco Tesco Racing’ as I prefer – have changed their livery. Last year’s was borderline offensive, but clearly over the winter an adult noticed what they did and made them change it. The new eBay Motors BMW 1 Series was the other livery highlight.
Glued to the box
The most encouraging news for the future of the BTCC was the extension of the ITV broadcasting deal to at least 2017. The current health of the championship is founded on the remarkable seven hours of live coverage of every meeting on ITV4, giving the BTCC and its support series virtually unrivalled exposure on free-to-air television.
It works for both sides: it gives ITV an audience it struggles to attract elsewhere – men; and it gives sponsors a large population of eyeballs. That it will continue ought to give teams and sponsors confidence to invest in the series.
Incidentally, British Formula Ford strikes me as an excellent addition to the support bill – for that championship, and the TOCA package.
And finally, a prediction
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