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BTCC Rule Changes: Now There’s A Thought…

The 2014 season of the British Touring Car Championship ended in traditionally spectacular form at Brands Hatch on a weekend dictated by the cruel mistress of Mother Nature. Just as the lights went out on another amazing year, the flood gates for 2015 have already started to open. In what seemed like a mere blink of an eye, we were treated to the announcement that Infiniti were to enter the championship alongside ‘Support Our Paras’ Racing, a whole new direction for the BTCC. Soon after that we were told that Aiden Moffat and Laser Tools Racing were set to enter a Mercedes A-Class for the 2015 season following a successful test session. The next juicy little nugget comes following the annual end of season meeting held between TOCA and the participating teams within the series. The result of said meeting has been a selection of amendments made to the sporting regulations of the championship. Up until this point, all the articles I have read on the matter have gone into analysis about the effectiveness of these changes and how it will impact the sport next year. Have you wondered why you are yet to read an article that questions whether these regulation adaptations have gone far enough, what else could be done to the championship for the future? Could the championship change any further?

Well, it is time to wonder no further, for I present to you my own take on how the BTCC can change the sporting regulations to better the championship for the future. I wish not to present the following words as hard facts, yet I aim to inspire the minds of the masses. What would you do if you had the chance?

The amended 2015 regulations aim to add yet more excitement to an already action packed grid. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The amended 2015 regulations aim to add yet more excitement to an already action packed grid. Image Credit: BTCC.net

But first, I may as well give you a quick overview of my thoughts on the official changes:

  • Increased Success Ballast – I have been waiting for this change for quite some time now. For many years I have noticed and very often commented that the success ballast has not had that much of an effect on the cars. Increasing the weight penalties to the point where there is a noticeable hindrance to performance will make the racing much closer and more fascinating to watch.
  • Independent Analysis of Start-Line Performance – I am honestly still a bit baffled as to why they are making such a fuss regarding the irregularity between RWD and FWD cars. In my view variety merely adds spice to proceedings; if they want everything as equal as possible why not put everyone in the same car? Or give RWD a weight penalty like they used to get back in the 90s.
  • Set Boost Level for the Season – I have always found the whole boost debate to be one of interest to me. Setting the boost level for the season instead of per round is better for the regularity of the championship as a whole. However, I do believe this issue will be visited again on multiple occasions as it is such a new addition to the BTCC.
  • Soft Tyre Use across all Three Races – Making the drivers use the soft tyre a certain number of times in each race throughout the season will add an extra layer of thought into the process of race planning. No more will drivers be able to have the optimum strategy for tyres repeatedly, but will have to find a way to work the strategy across the season. All very clever stuff this.
  • Fastest Lap in Race 1 to decided Race 2 Grid – Using race 1 as essentially a qualifying race as well the traditional points race I think is nothing short of genius. I can remember a certain Rob Austin a few years ago at Snetterton when he was still towards the back end of the grid who managed to set his car up to work perfectly, for about 2 laps. He set the fastest lap and then conked out. That took balls. Hopefully it will encourage more balls to appear throughout 2015.
  • Jack Sears Trophy to be awarded to ‘Top Rookie Driver’ – As long as enough new drivers enter the championship, this will give the new talent a genuine prize to work for; especially as they may not be adjusted to the championship enough to challenge for the overall wins. As with the other changes, it will layer up the excitement across the grid, giving both drivers and audiences more to enjoy across the season.

Well, now that is out the way, how about some other suggestions?

New regulations may see new names at the top end of the grid for 2015. Image Credit: BTCC.net

New regulations may see new names at the top end of the grid for 2015. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Re-Introduction of a ‘Feature Race’

Towards the end of the 1990s and the early part of the new millennium, the race format within the BTCC saw each weekend with one sprint race (similar to that we are graced with today) and one feature race. The feature race would be a significantly longer race with a mandatory pit stop that would bring in the whole team into the battle for the top positions. Some of my fondest memories of times gone by was watching the interplay of pit strategies; pitting early and racing on a clear track or saving it late to distance yourself from the pack. There were often times where races were won or lost in the pit stop, or drivers would enter the pits only marginally ahead of the other potential winner; they would have to defend like crazy on stone cold tyres against a guy with perfectly warmed up rubber bullets ready to pounce. If it was not for the feature race format, Matt Neal would never have won his first race in such spectacular style at Donington Park in 1999 (you want to watch this video, it is something wonderful) and given touring car audiences one of the best races it had ever seen. Not only did that win him his first race, but he became the first independent to win a race outright, which is rather commonplace these days. It had to start somewhere, ey?

My plan envisages an extended final race that accommodates the feature race format that sees the need for pit stops. My logic also combines with the use of the soft tyre; teams could then decide on using the soft tyre at the start or post-pit stop. In my minds eye the racing dynamic would change somewhat and give audiences another level of motorsport not seen in the last few years. Instead of three races of the same format, the race day would build up to its spectacular conclusion with the longer race at its climax. As I mentioned before it would add in the ‘team’ aspect to the race recipe as well as some great new racing that the championship has not seen in some time.

Return of the ‘Crown Jewel’ of the BTCC Calendar

In Australia, the V8 Supercar season peaks (almost literally considering the mountains) at the Bathurst 1000 event. One might even call it a showcase to the world to prove in one event just what the series is about. There have been multiple times in the history of the BTCC where the season has had one special race too spice up the usual championship. In the late 80s when the championship still ran a class system, each year there would be an endurance race with mandatory driver changes. In 1988 for example it pitted the usually unstoppable Andy Rouse in his Ford Sierra Cosworth against a temporary new challenger in Win Percy in a Nissan. The joy of this type of event is that it would attract competitors to enter on a one off basis and upset the balance somewhat. Next up was the infamous TOCA Shootout that had reverse grids and an ingenious system where the slowest car each lap towards the end of the race would be black flagged, with £12,000 for the winner. It was at this event in 1993 where Nigel Mansell made his first appearance in the touring cars, before crashing out spectacularly.

Win Percy and Andy Rouse battle it out at the 1988 Endurance Event at Donington Park. Image Credit: performanceforums.com

Win Percy and Andy Rouse battle it out at the 1988 Endurance Event at Donington Park. Image Credit: performanceforums.com

Even towards the end of the 1990s TOCA introduced the night race at Snetterton, which was then extended to Silverstone to conclude the Super Touring Years as well as the 2000 championship. Whatever the event may be, there was always a special event every year that characterised the entire series in one special race. I imagine that one of the criticisms to my feature race idea is one of finance and television coverage, which is understandable. Some of the smaller teams may not physically have the people power to perform an efficient pit stop; this goes against the NGTC regulations which makes the championship affordable yet still contestable for teams. As a result, I am willing to compromise on my original feature race concept by bringing back the annual ‘showcase’ event. Working as a one off event, the finance increase would not be too uncontrollable and the television coverage could market the event throughout the year. I would love to see the return of the TOCA Shootout format, or even the Endurance driver change event. The former would bring about a true balls to the wall attitude of racing, while the latter could see other names from other disciplines getting their own introduction into the sport.

Change Overall BTCC Season Format

This next proposed change is much more of a personal opinion more than a genuine request. In my view, the highly repetitive nature of the championship in terms of season format has started to drag for me in the last few years. First of all, the tracks are run in the same order every year, with 10 tracks all hosting 3 races each. This does make the season fly by all rather quickly with only 10 race weekends to spread between March and September. I would very much love to see two races over 15 weekends as a preference to save the rather common and almost annoying gaps in the season. However, I am fully aware that this would ramp up the costs as well as demand a change in the television coverage.

This does not mean on the other hand that TOCA cannot mix up the round order slightly just to keep everyone on their toes, instead of having the same tracks in the same order every year. It may not be a massively game changing adaption, but it does retain the dynamic feel that the BTCC has become somewhat famous for. Speaking of dynamism, it would be great to see a few new tracks appear on the calendar, such as a return to Mondello Park, Pembrey or maybe even Castle Combe. There are so many amazing racetracks that span the UK, it would be a shame to not utilise them for all that they are worth. The proposed street circuit around the ring road at Coventry has definitely wet my appetite recently, I just hope the plans come to fruition; the BTCC can then see a return of a street event like that of the Birmingham Superprix in the late 80s.

Increase In Reverse Grids

My final suggestion is one that I believe can increase the racing spectacle, prove who the true fast drivers are while giving rookies a genuine shot at glory. In 2014, the field consisted of a mind staggering 31 cars, a number never before seen in the modern championship. However, when it came to reverse grids for race 3 only the top 10 drivers would benefit. When the grids were smaller this would be a satisfactory number, but with 31 I believe more people deserve that shot at pole position. Of course the unpredictability through random selection of the actual reverse grid position would remain, but I believe the upper end should go as far back as 20th. As it stands, it is usually only the top teams that have been benefited by the current regulations while the smaller teams have remained towards the back.

If this change was put into action, we could be seeing more names like Jack Clarke, Simon Belcher or Dan Welch starting on pole for race 3. Furthermore, if the big names were relegated even further back down the grid, they would have to prove their metal by having to fight their way right up to the top positions. The BTCC has become the mecca of unforgiving, hard and fast tin top motorsport; there is no better way of proving such a title than watching drives similar to that of Alain Menu or Jason Plato from this year where they came right from the back of the grid to a top 5 or 6 finish. Instead of having this as an isolated affair, it could become a common occurrence that wows audiences across the country and proves the position of the BTCC as the best touring car series in the world.

Changes in current regulations would give some of the lower teams such as the Protons of Dan Welch a shot at high positions. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Changes in current regulations would give some of the lower teams such as the Protons of Dan Welch a shot at high positions. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Of the changes I have proposed, many of them would of course come with a raft of complications that may make them unfeasible within the parameters of the NGTC regulations. However, as I stated before I merely wanted to lay these down to inspire some thought and maybe some communication to discuss the future direction of the sport. I would love to hear your ideas for how to change the series if you had the chance. My words are nothing if just my view. The best way to forge forward with real change is through multiple views and serious communication. And well, it has to start somewhere!

The BTCC will always hold a special place in my heart as my favourite racing series, and I wish for nothing more than to spread that animalistic joy that grips my very soul to the masses. Maybe it is time to embrace change and move onwards and upwards. The future is bright.

Let me know what you think!

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Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

 

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