It was announced at recent Rockingham round of the BTCC championship that the iconic manufacturer, Alfa Romeo, would be returning to the Championship, still running as independent, operating under the Handy Motorsport team. Alfa Romeo have not been part of the BTCC for 10 years, last being run in the 2007 season, with the 156 model, run by two independents teams, Quest Racing, driven by Eoin Murray, and A Tech, driven by Dave Pinkney and Richard Marsh. Handy Motorsport will bring Alfa back to the championship for the 2018 season, running the Giulietta model.
This announcement has got many BTCC fans excited as it sees the return of a popular manufacturer, but also has got fans thinking of other classic manufacturers, and whether it is feasible to see them also make a return. So, in reverse order, I’m going to take a look at 7 ex-BTCC Manufacturers, and suggest current models that could be entered into the championship, with realistic chances of success.
Number 7 – Proton
The first on this list, and probably the manufacturer people remember the least is Proton, running in the BTCC as a manufacturer outfit between 2002 and 2004, and having a return with Welch Motorsport as an Independent outfit between 2011 and 2016, but with little success or points scores. Should another team want to run with a Proton in the future, there are many models that could fit the BTCC mold. The Suprima S and Preve would be comfortable fits into the typical BTCC dynamic of Saloon or Hatchback, even if Subaru have been showing that’s not always the perfect formula.
Number 6 – Lexus
Another manufacturer that won’t be as fondly remembered as some on this list is Lexus, running in 2001, driven mainly by Tommy Erdos under the banner of ABG Motorsport, with the IS500 model. Returning in 2005, the IS500 model was continued to be used until the end of the 2008 season. The modern iteration of the IS500, now just known as the IS, would still be a fantastic fit to the modern BTCC, and would be a strong saloon to go up against the likes of MG and Volkswagen. In the same way, the CT model would be a strong hatchback against the likes of Honda, Ford, BMW and Mercedes.
Number 5 – Nissan
Nissan is one of the most beloved manufacturers of the 90’s era of BTCC, with the iconic Primera model. Whether as a works team, that brought Laurent Aiello the championship in his first and only British Touring Car Championship Season, in a season long battle with Nissan team-mate David Leslie in 1999. The Primera was also the car that established the talent of Matt Neal, who ran the car as an Independent, at a time where the independents were nowhere close to the works teams, Neal was a force amongst the main championship. Having not been in the championship since 2004, Nissan have a car that could be a strong contender in today’s championship in the form of the Pulsar model. The hatchback, like the Lexus CT would be able to perform likewise to those hatchbacks already on the grid.
Number 4 – Peugeot
Peugeot were a staple part of the BTCC in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, with the 406 model. Whether it was the green and gold Esso Ultron 406, driven by Tim Harvey and Paul Radisich in 1998, or the Flourescent Yellow 406 Coupé, by Dan Eaves and Steve Soper in 2001. If BTCC had a Hall of Fame, the previously mentioned Nissan Primera, and the 406 would both be inducted as greats of the sport. In the modern Peugeot line up, there is only two models that would be ideal for the BTCC, being the saloon 508, being the lesser preferred choice, and the Hatchback 308 model, that has all the capabilities to thrive in the NGTC BTCC era.
Number 3 – Seat
The BTCC has only had a few seasons in it’s history with Seat on the grid, all in the last 12 years. Starting in 2005 with the Todelo model, switching to the Leon in 2006, Seat ran as a works team up until the end of the 2008 season. The Leon was still run in the 2009 season, but in the Cartridge World independents team. The Seat Leon was still run in 2010 and 2011, but with Special Tuning Racing. The Modern Leon and Toledo models would still fit the BTCC mold, as would the Ibiza model. Seat is still a highly recognisable BTCC manufacturer, so would be a notable re-inclusion to the championship.
Number 2 – Renault
Now we are getting to the business end of the BTCC manufacturer archives, with arguably one of the most popular manufacturers in the BTCC history, Renault! Although on the current Toca support package, Renault fans can get their fill from the Clio Cup, many fans miss seeing the iconic French brand in the main British Touring Car Championship. The Renault Laguna was one of the main protagonists in the late 90’s, from 1994, where it took over from the Renault 19, all the way to 1999. The Laguna also brought Alain Menu his first BTCC title in 1997. Out of the modern Renault models, the Clio is already on the Toca package, but also doesn’t have the power for the main BTCC championship, so I would suggest it’s big brother, the Megane, as it is of similar build and power to the other hatchbacks, as previously mentioned.
Number 1 – Volvo
And here it is, the one most people thought of when they saw the title of this article, arguably, aside from Vauxhall, Honda and Ford, one of the most popular manufacturers in the history of the British Touring Car Championship, Volvo. Debuting in 1994 with the unmistakable Volvo 850 Estate, the Volvo was always around the fore front of the BTCC in the 90’s. Switching to the S40 in the 1997 season, it only took 2 seasons for the Volvo to reach the pinnacle of the BTCC, with Rickard Rydell winning the 1998 championship. Rydell would come third in the S40 in the 1999 season, before the Volvo would be retired from the BTCC at the end of the season, with Rydell moving to Ford for 2000, and Volvo not being seen in the championship since.
Volvo have three models in 2017 that could be made into BTCC-spec touring cars with a high chance of success. The Volvo S60 and S90 would both be very suitable choices for a saloon car to enter into the championship, with the S90 resembling a similar size to the MGs, and the S60 being closer to the size of the current Audi S3, run by AmDTuning. The other Volvo option that could be used by a prospective team, is the hatchback option of the Volvo V40, resembling a similar size build to the current Focus, A-Class and Astra shapes.
It would be fantastic for fans to see any of these manufacturers to return to the championship, as they would all be able to be competitive in modern-day BTCC, but would also bring back the nostalgia for fans, of seeing those brands back again. Fans can take solace in the fact that Rob Austin and Handy Motorsport are bringing back Alfa Romeo for 2018, but can Austin take his Alfa right to the top, just like Andy Rouse in 1983 and Gabrielle Tarquini did in 1994?