(Photo from: en.wikipedia.org)
For me, the British Touring Car Championship has always been one of the best race series in the world and currently, the championship is witnessing a golden age of teams, drivers and action. With five manufactures competing and a maximum 32 car grid, you will be hard pressed to find any championship in the world with support like this, support that other championships could only dream of.
Alan Gow must be given all the credit for this high standard of competition for masterminding regulations which give us the close and highly competitive action we see today and as 2017 shapes up to be another classic let’s look at what is in stall for the new season.
What is new for 2017?
Honda, BMW, Subaru and MG have been joined by a fifth manufacture Vauxhall, who return to the series for the first time since 2009. Vauxhall will field two Vauxhall Astras run by Power Maxed Racing with returning Tom Chilton and rookie Senna Proctor piloting the cars. Chilton returns to the series for the first time since 2011, while Proctor graduates from the Renault Clio Cup.
In addition to new manufactures there have also been a whole host of driver changes in top teams with Andrew Jordan switching from Motorbase to WSR and Colin Turkington leaving Team BMR. In addition to this 2016 runner up Sam Tordoff has left the BTCC altogether to race in British GT so we are bound to see some new names in the fray.
As well as Senna Proctor there are some very competitive rookies entering the series this year with 2016 Renault Clip Cup champion Ant Whorton-Eales graduating as well as Will Burns and Luke Davenport, who will driver for AmD Tuning and Motorbase respectively.
However some things never change and that is that reigning champion Gordon Shedden will return with Honda to try and retain his crown in the hope of becoming only the second driver to win the BTCC four times. He will once again partner Matt Neal, who will also be gunning for a fourth title, having last won in 2011.
Technically there have been very few changes with the main one being the introduction of thicker tyres, however other than that the rules have remained the same. This is all part of cost cutting measures which ensure the grids remain as full as they do.
Can Shedden make it three in a row?
There is no doubt that Shedden will go into 2017 as the favourite for the title, having won the previous two however the competition is strong as it has ever been with other teams developing over the winter, we could see a few new names at the top and some others returning. The likes of Plato in the Subaru and Jordan in the BMW will be desperate to give there manufactures a title success, and after the Subaru’s amazing second half to the season, Plato must be one of the favourites heading into the new season.
Other drivers outside of the manufactures who will be fancying their chances as well including Motorbase’s Mat Jackson, who finished second in 2016, the highest he has been since 2008. With fresh backing from cereal brand Shredded Wheat, Jackson will be full of confidence as he hopes to become the first driver to win the series in a Ford since Alain Menu in 2000.
What makes the BTCC so good then?
With three races a day as well as a packed support package full of close competitive racing you certainly get your money’s worth. Furthermore with the race 3 grid being reversed, so that the winner of race 2 has to start from between sixth and tenth, there is always plenty of action. Add success ballast into the equation and constant entertainment is a guarantee with the majority of the field often lapping within a second of each other.
However for me the best part of the BTCC is that these are all cars that can be bought by the public at any time. There are no major aerodynamic aids which improves the racing and keeps it real. Couple this with very accessible and very friendly drivers who are always happy to sign an autograph and have a chat and you have one of the best series’ in the world.
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