BTCC DEMONSTRATES FUTURE NGTC CAR AMID "FANTASTIC" INTEREST
Hundreds of thousands of fans and media were given a preview to the future direction of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship as the prototype car built to the series' much anticipated new technical regulations ran in public for the first time at Brands Hatch's Finals event (9-10 October).
Former double champion James Thompson - the BTCC's official test and development driver for the programme - demonstrated the spectacular-looking 'Next Generation Touring Car' in front of some 42,000 fans over the two days as well as, on Sunday, the live ITV4 television audience.
In Saturday's practice sessions, the new car, built by Buckingham-based motor sport engineering company GPR Motorsport, impressively lapped within just one second of the ultimate pace set by 2010 Champion Jason Plato's Chevrolet Cruze. That's despite the fact it is still very much in its initial stages of development, having only run for the first time in a private test a few days earlier.
Cars built to the NGTC specification will be eligible to enter the BTCC from next season. The regulations, drawn up by BTCC organiser TOCA and also being looked at closely by some other national touring car series around the world, are designed to halve the running costs for teams thanks to a move to more cost-effective, two-litre turbocharged engines and bespoke components.
Although the demonstration model that ran at Brands Hatch is built around Toyota's Avensis model, teams will be free to choose their own makes and models of car on which to base their own versions.
Teams can continue to use their current Super 2000 cars, with both types having parity of performance until 2013 from when the NGTC cars will be stepped up in performance to become the dominant specification.
Thompson commented: "The NGTC regulations will mean a car that's more spectacular for about half the cost. If a team is looking at coming into the BTCC then now is the time to do it as it's an opportunity to get a head's start with a car that is only going to keep on developing. It is surely going to lead to more teams and more drivers on the grid.
"It's not too radical, but everything on the car is just that little bit bigger and better - it looks more dramatic and spectacular, just like a touring car should be!
"At the moment we are at point A with the car, working our way through to point Z. Full credit to TOCA - it's the right concept and will be a great car. Mechanically, the car has run perfectly enabling us to get through the list of work we need to do with adjustments, set-up and feedback. There has been a huge amount of very positive factors to come out of the three days we've run it on so far."
On the Friday evening at Brands Hatch, TOCA previewed the new car to prospective entrants to the championship.
BTCC Series Director Alan Gow commented: "The feedback from current and potential teams, media and the public has been absolutely fantastic. The car has a real 'wow-factor' and, coupled with a huge reduction in running costs, it's a real win-win situation… so it's no surprise that we've had so many positive remarks and very serious enquiries from teams who see this as their ideal opportunity to join the BTCC. Seeing the car in the flesh on track for the first time at Brands Hatch has really opened a lot of eyes."