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Should the BTCC go International?

Image Credit: BTCC.net

Image Credit: BTCC.net

The BTCC has always been fundamentally been a British institution, despite a considerable overseas invasion throughout the 1990s. However, news has come forth across the oceans from the far off land of Macau. The city circuit that resides there has for many years played host to the action-packed final round of the World Touring Car Championship. The tight, twisty terror represents a true test for any race driver; one wrong move and its not only a position you lose but many of your body panels. However, there now exists a void since the departure of the WTCC. The vacuum left behind can only be filled by a top-class touring car series; it is therefore no surprise that the organisers have approached the BTCC. And with the latest news that the championship is to be aired in the states, one question remains. Should the BTCC go international?

It comes as no surprise to hear that the British Touring Car Championship has always competed on British soil in all of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. But never before has this master of touring car series travelled across the oceans to foreign lands. As a life long lover of the BTCC, this genuinely does come as a bit of a surprise. In the 1990s, the series did undergo somewhat of an invasion for international forces; throughout the Super Touring era the BTCC was undoubtedly not just one of the best touring car series, but one of the best motorsport series in the world as a whole. It made perfect sense then that across the latter part of the 90s name such as Aiello, Tarquini, Kox, Kristensen, Muller, Boullion, Rydell, Morbidelli, Radermaker and Menu began to drive the British driver to near extinction.

Considering the international status of the BTCC, I was always surprised that they never had any overseas races, either as part of the championship or just as an exhibition. In terms of ‘special’ races, the BTCC did have the Snetterton (’99 and ’00) and Silverstone (2000) night races, as well as the British GP support for many years. In recent years, the Australian V8 Supercar Championship has travelled across the water to have rounds in China, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. The CEO James Warburton believes that the strength of the championship lies in keeping an Australian championship mostly in Australia, but having unique overseas events can only compliment the series.

Since the departure of the WTCC as a regular race at the Macau circuit, organisers are searching for another series that would slot in along side the F3, GT and bike races. It has been reported that numerous BTCC teams (that remain unnamed) have been approached about the idea, most of whom have expressed an interest. In addition, another suggested series is the newly formed TCR International, which is run by the FIA. A fascinating thought struck me when I realized that the FIA has lifted the NGTC regulations from the BTCC for use in other national touring car series. Yes you probably are thinking what I am thinking; could there be a one off showcase at Macau that brings in cars from across other national series and the BTCC. The ultimate NGTC touring car event.

TCR International uses the same NGTC regulations as the BTCC. Image Credit: SEAT Sport

National FIA Touring Car series will use the same NGTC regulations as the BTCC. Image Credit: SEAT Sport

Before we go any further, I would now like to play devils advocate on myself, just before my head disappears too far into the clouds. It is all very well in saying how amazing it would be to have either a BTCC event or even a mixed race at Macau, but is it actually a feasible concept? It may be that the crown jewel of the current BTCC may in fact also be the poison dagger. The NGTC regulations were created to avoid the monumental costs of the Super Touring era and make it easier for smaller independent outfits to enter.

The usual Macau event takes place in mid-November, which would fall outside the usual BTCC season. Hypothetically therefore, the race would have to be run as a stand-alone event. It may indeed be a high profile event that acts as a showcase of the British championship, but what about the costs? If the round(s) had no championship worth as it were, would teams want to send their drivers and cars out to compete? What if the cars were involved in a series accident? During the championship accidents are almost par for the course, but to have it happen in a one-off event mean the teams may as well throw their money away right there and then. Just to increase the chances of incident, do remember that Macau is a tight street circuit that is prone to large accidents. For the smaller independent outfits on the grid, it is definitely a financial risk that might even endanger the appearance of the teams in the next seasons’ championship.

Despite my own attempts at shrouding this idea in negativity, I do believe that if the Macau race ever comes to fruition it will be fantastic for both the sport and the spectators. In the last few days, it has been announced that the BTCC will enter somewhat of a reincarnation of previous international prestige; a deal has been made with the CBS Sports network to broadcast hour-long reviews of BTCC rounds. To put that into perspective, in both the US and Canada the CBS network goes out to over 60 million families, a whole new frontier for the all-conquering series. On top of that, TorqueTV.com will be running an ‘on-demand’ style service to re-live the highlights for up to 90 days after each race weekend.

As I have previously stated, the appeal of the championship lies in its British heritage, regardless of its international reputation. I am in no way suggesting that the BTCC head abroad and start invading WTCC turf. In exactly the same vein as the comments made by James Warburton, the strength of the BTCC is retaining the British backdrop. To remove that may remove some of the 60 year old magic that drives the sport. However, considering the overseas excitement, it would be a nice gesture to acknowledge the global fan-base by bringing a motorsport series they love to them. Knowing that any sports series understands and appreciates its fan is a sure-fire way of obtaining lifelong followers. If Macau were to happen and be successful, I would like to see the BTCC competing in one off events at different circuits across the world over different years.

Can you imagine the BTCC field streaming down the infamous Corkscrew at Laguna Seca? Image Credit: Porsche Official

Can you imagine the BTCC field streaming down the infamous Corkscrew at Laguna Seca? Image Credit: Porsche Official

To utilise the obvious advantages (business, financial, sponorship and fan-based) of heading to areas with a high concentration of BTCC fans is almost a no-brainer. Not only would the fans benefit, but it would give the touring car drivers the opportunity to race on circuits that they may not have had the opportunity to based on their limited budgets. On top of everything else I have said in support of such an enterprise, the chance to join forces with the other touring series would be a great way to bring together touring car drivers from across the globe in order to see who truly is the best. Imagine if you will a race event similar to the Formula Ford festivals where there are multiple heats where drivers progress and qualify for the final. A whole weekend of intense touring car action. Personally, I cannot think of a better way to spend a weekend.

If I was therefore to answer my original question then yes, I do think that BTCC should go international. However, they must excercise extreme caution so as not to alienate their British audience in search of exotic glory and riches. Financial difficulties may be a concern, but exposure in new territories may bring with it new business and new opportunities.

What do you think? Should the BTCC consider taking its high octane action overseas?

What circuits would you love to see the field racing on? What about taking on Bathurst supporting the V8 Supercar Series?

Would you want to see a merging of the BTCC series and other touring car championships?

Let me know your thoughts!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69 for all my auto-antics!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

 

2 comments

  1. Dan says:

    I would love to see the NGTC cars at Macau as a one – off, however TCR is NOT using the NGTC/ TCN-1 FIA regulations, they are using their own regs, partly taken from the Seat Leon Supercopa.

    February 9th, 2015 at 5:34 am

  2. Lewis says:

    Thank you for pointing that out, I got my facts confused and its not TCR it is the FIA endorsed national series that are using the NGTC regs. My mistake has been rectified now! 🙂

    February 9th, 2015 at 9:33 pm