British Touring Car Championship series director Alan Gow shared his thoughts on the current state of the category with Motorsport.com at the official season launch held at Donington Park last week.
Six years ago, BTCC started to phase in the NGTC rules. Did you ever anticipate how successful it would be, with TOCA BTCC Licences limiting the number of entries to 32 cars?
"I knew that the regulations would be very popular because of their nature, as they enable all sorts of cars to race. Did I ever think that we have to close off the entry and have 32 cars? Probably not. I'm quite happy with what we have."
The new set of spec components provided by RML is a big talking point. Some drivers say they don't make too much of a difference, others see them as a complete game-changer. What's your take?
"I don't think that's a complete game-changer. It was never meant to be. This is an evolution of the components that we were using before.
"I think it's going to help drivers and engineers to find the sweet spot in the set-up quicker than they did before. The GPRM parts that we used before were notoriously quite difficult to set up and had a very small sweet spot. You had to have a very good engineer to get to that point.
"The new parts, everybody acknowledges, are easier to work with and therefore the car is easier to set up. That will help a lot of engineers and drivers, probably towards the middle of the grid and back.
"[The new components] won't be massively faster than they were before, they were never designed to be. They were designed to be a more user-friendly piece of kit."
The biggest news of the BTCC media day was probably the unveiling of the all-new Subaru Levorg. What do you make of that?
"The Subaru is a great car and they've got very good engineering talent behind it, but it's a little bit early to be predicting its success.
"At the moment, the Hondas, BMWs, Fords and MGs are the top runners. I don't know where Subaru will fit into that. It will obviously be competitive, because under the NGTC regulations all cars have an equal opportunity to be competitive."
The championship has evolved since the manufacturer-dominated Super Touring days. The NGTC rules were originally introduced to allow independent teams race competitively. Is that still the main focus or is the pendulum swinging back towards manufacturers?
"There's no main focus. We've made the championship, with the regulations as they are, so it'd be easy for a good, strong independent team to compete as well as a manufacturer.
"I haven't got a focus on attracting more manufacturers, or decreasing the amount of manufacturers. We've seen pretty much a perfect balance between independent teams and manufacturer teams.
"A strong independent team has a very good chance of winning the championship. In fact, one did [Eurotech] three years ago, with Andrew Jordan.
"In the Super Touring days you could just keep on spending money and whoever spent the most could buy success. You can't buy success in this championship, because everyone has the same components to use."
BTCC has recently extended its tyre supply deal with Dunlop until 2021 and its live television contract with ITV until 2022. The future looks secure.
"It's as secure as it can get. We have a title sponsor secured until 2022, tyre supplier and TV coverage. What it does is provides the teams with a solid platform. They know what the championship is going to consist of for the next six years.
"It's something I'm really proud of. I don't think there are many championships around, certainly touring car championships, that can tell you what television contract they will have in 2019 to 2022. I think that we have one of the most stable championships around."
At the Autosport International Show in January, Andy Priaulx said that V8 Supercars and BTCC are the two best touring car concepts. Do you agree?
"Obviously I agree, but I don't think that you should ever compare national championships because they are relevant to a nation.
"If we took BTCC cars down to Australia, it wouldn't be that great. If they took V8s over here, it wouldn't work either. They've tried NASCAR outside [of the United States].
"National championships are built around what suits that country and the BTCC suits here."
The B-TEC development series has been postponed until 2017. Initially there was an idea to use NGTC rules as in the Scandinavian series, before they decided to go with DTM-inspired silhouettes. How important for BTCC is to have series that can be a market for second-hand machinery?
"I don't think its vital, because what we see here is cars being used and reused all the time. The championship feeds on itself."
The NGTC rules have been homologated as the TCN1 class by the FIA. Can you shed some light on that?
"The FIA didn't have any touring car technical regulations other than the World Touring Car Championship ones – TC1.
"There are two sets of technical regulations [NGTC and TCR] that the FIA approved for use in national championships. That just means that if Bulgaria wants to have a touring car championship, there's a set of regulations and cars that they can use. They don't have to invent one."
Finally, who's your money on this season?
"This year it's a more difficult question to answer than in the last five years. Everyone starts with a clean sheet of paper.
"The majority of cars have new chassis components, most of the cars have upgraded engines. It's a question that I don't have an answer for."