BTCC: TOCA press release 96-02-19

News from the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship For immediate release: February 19, 1996 THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS... THE countdown has started -- there are just six weeks to go before the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship bursts...

News from the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship For immediate release: February 19, 1996

THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS...

THE countdown has started -- there are just six weeks to go before the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship bursts back into life at Donington Park on Easter Monday (April 8) for what promises to be the most competitive season of British touring car action yet seen. Heading the impressive roster of eight manufacturer teams contesting the '96 championship are newcomers Audi, the German aces planning to add the UK title to the German, Italian, French and World Cup crowns they have already won with the powerful four-wheel-drive A4. Spearheading the Audi attack is newly crowned World Cup victor Frank Biela, backed up by multiple UK one-make champion John Bintcliffe. BMW, winless in Britain in '95, are bouncing back with renewed vigour in a bid to reclaim the championship they won in 1991, '92 and '93. Crack German team Schnitzer are returning to these shores following success last year in the Japanese and German Super Touring series, bringing with them the 1993 British Champion, Smokin' Jo Winkelhock and the most-crowned of all touring car racers, Italian Roberto Ravaglia. Ford have a fresh face for '96 also, with a new team campaigning the Mondeo in the shape of West Surrey Racing, the outfit which launched Ayrton Senna to Formula 3 success. Double World Cup victor Paul Radisich returns to the number one seat for Ford, the Kiwi backed up by talented young Brit Steve Robertson. After a successful debut season with the Accord in '95, Honda return with an unchanged driver line-up and team and are looking to consolidate with race wins from drivers David Leslie and James Kaye. A switch to the Michelin tyres used by all the other works teams (with the exception of Dunlop-shod Audi) is expected to aid their cause. Peugeot have a new Super Touring weapon for '96 in the shape of the 406, already outpacing its predecessor in testing and likely to go well in the hands of one of the quickest touring car drivers, Patrick Watts, who is joined in the team this year by 1992 British Touring Car Champion Tim Harvey. Pre-season favourites are last year's manufacturer titlists Renault, whose Williams-run Lagunas will again by driven by talented Swiss star Alain Menu and by '91 Champion Will Hoy. Between them, Menu and Hoy won the final five of last year's races on their way to respective second and fourth places in the drivers' championship. The man who beat them to the top spot, John Cleland, returns to defend his title -- but not in the Cavalier which he has driven for five seasons. For 1996, Vauxhall have a new weapon in the shape of the Vectra, and the signs are that it will prove every bit as devastating as its predecessor. Rejoining Cleland in the team is 21-year-old hot-shot James Thompson, who was forced to sit out much of last season after a testing crash. Last, but by no means least, come Volvo -- keen to avenge their defeat at the hands of Vauxhall and Renault last season and equipped with one of the quickest of all the Super Touring cars, the 850. And there's no doubting the promise of their driving team, either: Swede Rickard Rydell claimed an astonishing 13 pole positions in '95 and four race wins. He is joined this year by ex-Ford man Kelvin Burt. Entries close on March 1, and championship organisers TOCA will release a full list of entries on March 4 -- expected to include several top names bidding to claim the 60,000UKpounds top prize in the Total Cup for Privateers. Once again the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship will enjoy unrivalled television coverage both at home and abroad, with all rounds of the series being covered on the BBC's top sports programme, Grandstand, as well as on Sky and Eurosport satellite services. Additionally, more than 100 countries world-wide will view the championship via terrestrial and satellite services.

REVISIONS TO SPORTING REGULATIONS FOR 1996 THE Sporting Regulations for the 1996 Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship feature some important changes over those employed by series organiser TOCA Ltd in previous years. The most notable revisions see the introduction of a new points system, plus a restriction on pre- race testing which is aimed at curbing costs and increasing driver safety. * To ensure an even closer championship, the points scoring system has been revised to: 15-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. For the first time, an additional point will also be awarded to the driver setting pole position in each of the 26 rounds. * The number of official TOCA Test Days prior to each event has been increased from one to two. However, to cut costs, as from March 20, competitors will not be permitted to take part in any test sessions other than these official TOCA Test Days at a forthcoming BTCC venue until all rounds of the '96 championship staged on that particular circuit layout have been completed. * TOCA have appointed an ex-driver (Jeff Allam) as an assistant to the Clerk of the Course (Pierre Aumonier), who will act as a special adviser on matters concerning driver behaviour at each race meeting. * In 1996, window nets must be permanently attached to top and bottom of the roll cage rather than to the door frame, as at present. * All 1996 events will feature two individual races and all will be run to the twin-race format which allows at least a 90-minute break between the races. Subject to timetable restrictions, the start of the first race will be between noon and 1230, with the second between 1500 and 1530. At the British Grand Prix meeting, one race is on Saturday, the other on Sunday. * Subject to local by-laws at each circuit, a 15-minute warm-up will be scheduled for race-day morning. Additionally -- again where possible -- an untimed practice session of 15 minutes will take place on the morning of official qualifying, but only where there hasn't been an official TOCA Test on the preceding day. * To prevent a driver gaining an unfair advantage after race restarts from behind the Safety Car, all cars must now maintain the same speed as the Safety Car and also maintain a maximum distance of one car's length from the car in front. Competitors of teams considered to have gained an unfair advantage when racing recommences may be penalised by the Clerk of the Course.

1996 AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR Rounds 1&2 - Donington Park GP - April 7/8 Rounds 3&4 - Brands Hatch Indy - April 20/21 Rounds 5&6 - Thruxton - May 4-6 Rounds 7&8 - Silverstone International - May 18/19 Rounds 9&10 - Oulton Park Long - May 26/27 Rounds 11&12 - Snetterton - June 15/16 Rounds 13&14 - Brands Hatch GP - June 29/30 Rounds 15&16 - Silverstone GP - July 12-15 Rounds 17&18 - Knockhill - July 26-28 Rounds 19&20 - Oulton Park Fosters - August 10/11 Rounds 21&22 - Thruxton - August 24-26 Rounds 23&24 - Donington Park GP - September 7/8 Rounds 25&26 - Brands Hatch Indy - September 21/22

-- Best in British Motor Sport official BTCC website http://www.demon.co.uk/racing

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