Rough and tumble
Touring cars. Not.
To us, the title touring cars conjours up hot summer days, driving along dusty foreign roads in something sporty, roof down. But add one more word to that title and it’s a whole different ball game. That word is British. The name of the game BTCC. Or the British Touring Car Championship.
Although it’s been going since the 1950s, it really took on a whole new lease of life when renamed in its current guise back in 1987. In 1988 it exploded onto the TV with everyone’s favourite motorsport commentator, Murray Walker, providing the soundtrack to what looked, to all intents and purposes, to be a new form of stock car racing.
Within five years the drivers were amazingly becoming household names. Cleland, Gravett, Harvey, Hoy. Then later more exotic sounding names; Tarquini, Winkelhock, Biela and Menu burst onto the scene as well. And the action got more frenetic than ever. Gentleman racers they weren’t. And have never really have been.
Truth be told, BTCC has got so rough and tough at times that the riot act has been read more than once in order to prevent all out war between drivers. Nevertheless penalties are still handed out like tickertape, despite the many warnings issued. But that of course is a big part of the appeal. And what the fans want. Close, hard racing.
With the world of Formula One becoming so corporate, there is little room for driver personalities to emerge. But in BTCC it’s all about the men who battle it out for honours. It’s also more accessible because the cars themselves still bear a more than passing resemblance to those in the showroom. Let’s face it, no one in their wildest dreams would ever have thought that a Renault Laguna be thought racey and therefore desirable. But BTCC and the antics of Alain Menu made it so. And so it continues.
This year it sees 18 teams battling it out with the biggest grids ever, so big it’s almost turning into the UK equivalent of NASCAR, albeit they are travelling somewhat slower and of course there are a lot more corners!
Catching up with the action is easy as all the rounds are being covered by ITV who this year have signed a five year deal for exclusive coverage. Confirmation if it were needed of how popular the series has become.
For news and race dates visit the BTCC website.