2018 Calendars: Dunlop British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)

2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship

BTCC 60

Dunlop BTCC

The 60th season of Britain’s premier touring car series, the most high profile championship in the country.

This means I own an anniversary polo shirt which is now 10 years old!

Google/iCal Calendar links:   ICAL  -or-  HTML

For more championships click here.

Continue reading “2018 Calendars: Dunlop British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)”

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Thoughts After Attending Brands Hatch BTCC

Until the other week I hadn’t been to a BTCC round since Silverstone in 2008 (where did the time go?) which ended a 6-year run of visiting at least one round per year, at various circuits including Thruxton, Donington Park and even Knockhill. I hadn’t been to Brands Hatch since 2005’s A1GP meeting. It was time to revisit both.

In this post I’ll focus on my thoughts, for photos from the day please see my previous post or my gallery on Picasa.

Trackside

Isn’t it great to be trackside? Especially so when not long out of winter, having been stuck indoors for most of it, and you’ve got your nose up against the fence on a warm, cloudless spring day as cars race by at 140mph or more. Just perfect.

Perhaps it felt all the more sweeter after a 3-hour drive to the track. I was glad to find the entrance fed me directly to the spectator bank overlooking the pits so I didn’t need to spend time finding somewhere to watch, where I arrived as the BTCC was on the grid for race 1 of 3. However once the race began I quickly found I didn’t like it there as the fences (and the people) obscured the racing going on up at Paddock Hill or back at Clearways. Cars flashing past is great but I came here to see racing. It was great to get so close to the grid and it would be an ideal place to watch a race with pitstops as you can see right into pitlane – but touring car racing doesn’t have any stops so it was time to move!

I watched the rest of the race from Clearways. In 2005 I was lucky enough to be in the big hospitality building here which offered a great view. I was surprised to find it was almost as good at ground level, with the added bonus that this time I was watching a race on the Indy loop. There was some great side-by-side action here as you’d expect. Even doughnuts from Rob Collard… for which he was later penalised. An American sanctioning body would celebrate it.. a UK/European body awards a penalty. Idiots!

After lunch I went around to Paddock Hill Bend. I was surprised at how little room there is to watch – there’s an earth bank which suddenly drops away to a path. People were perched on the edge of it, I went up there and couldn’t see well over the people. Scratch that idea.

I found the absolute ideal spot was just where the tree line begins on the uphill approaching Druids. An unobstructed view of Paddock Hill Bend (as unobstructed as can be with this many people around), very fast cars very close to you just as they get off the gas and on to the brakes, and a nice view across to Graham Bill Bend to boot. Trees nearby to shelter under if the sun gets too hot or if it rains. Perfect.

I watched BTCC Race 2 and a few supports from here, and after a walk in the support paddock I came back for BTCC Race 3. This is one of my new favourite places in racing. I would consider the nearby grandstand if only to get above the heads of other people, but I don’t think I really missed anything. The only thing I lacked was a view to the left of me, or ‘downstream’ on the track, so I couldn’t see Druids corner or the 7-car shunt caused by oil on the track. Of course, you can never see everything unless you’re at an oval, and I did see Jackson run through the gravel right in front of me as he laid that oil.

The one thing I didn’t do all day was get a pass for the BTCC paddock. The support paddock was freely accessible and I saw Nicolas Hamilton signing autographs there. I did slightly miss getting up close to the BTCC cars and drIvers too, however I was too busy enjoying myself trackside!

Food

The lunch break fell after BTCC race 1. It was then I, as expected, found racetrack food prices to be as high as ever. £8 for the burger and chips I wanted. I settled for a sausage roll for £3. I will say the food selection at most UK racetracks is immeasurably better than it was 10 years ago, commendably so because it often used to be dire, but now they all stick the word ‘premium’ or ‘quality’ on the van and jack up the price. They were selling hot Cornish pasties for a fiver. I can get a hot one 500 yards from my house for less than that and they pay all the costs of renting a shop not a trailer! The price for being a captive audience and not wanting a squashed sandwich from a hot rucksack.

Chrome Horn

The BTCC has long had a poor reputation as a championship which not only rewards the use of the ‘chrome horn’ but encourages it. Everyone loves a bit of doorhandle to doorhandle racing, that’s a part of this type of racing and long may it continue, I’m not advocating removing it, that’s why we love touring cars. The trouble is, in this series it goes to another level. It was why I stopped attending races after 2008 and stopped watching the series altogether two years ago.

What isn’t acceptable is the continued practice of getting a nose inside and just pushing the guy on the outside, into the gravel. The worst offenders are the biggest name drivers Jason Plato and Matt Neal, who are probably popular because they act a bit ‘bad boy’ on the track, pushing their way around. Most of the rest of the grid doesn’t go in for this type of thing, which is great to see.

I really did miss watching the series so I have actually started watching the races I missed from 2010 and 2011, and I’ve been laughing at some of the post-race quotes. Someone like Onslow-Cole or Shedden would come on, standing next to someone like Matt Neal, and say right in front of him: ‘Well I could’ve easily had him off, but that’s not the way I like to race.’ Even though the guy next to him had already done it to someone else that day. Ha!

I make this point because I’d really hoped the series would’ve clamped down on it by now. They haven’t. Newcomer and polesitter Dave Newsham, underdog hero of the day, was unceremoniously dumped off track into the Paddock Hill gravel by Plato. Penalty? A £750 fine and 3 points on his racing licence. Hardly any penalty at all. I haven’t seen the most recent rounds at Donington Park this past weekend, I understand it stepped up another level with cars off left, right and centre.

Perhaps the more frustrating thing is that both Plato and Neal come across as really nice guys (even when they are complaining about the technical rules!), it isn’t as if they are utter evil bastards, they are merely taking advantage of the series not clamping down on certain actions – they do it because they get away with it. Still, it provokes discussion and ratings and the crowd at any BTCC meeting at every track I visit has always cheered the loudest when Plato wins, so he must be doing something right.

Supports

One of the hallmarks and attractions of the TOCA/BTCC package has long been the plentiful support card. This is again true this year. It was a touch weaker compared to past times, with the closure of FBMW UK a few years ago and the sad failure of FRenault UK this past winter, which is by far the bigger loss for British motorsport being the traditional feeder into British Formula 3. A disgraceful loss and I don’t understand how it was allowed to happen, I really do hope something is done to resurrect it for 2013. FRUK offered the chance for up and coming drivers to make a name for themselves in front of a big crowd on live TV, I doubt the many other FR 2.0 series in Europe offer the same.

Despite being two races down the day was still full of action, there was barely 10 or 15 minutes of dead track all day (excluding the lunch break and red flags). A collection of Renault Clio Cup, Porsche Carrera Cup and both big and Junior variants of Ginettas kept the crowd entertained all day long. Hard to believe they let 14 and 15 year olds loose in the Juniors!

Back For Good

Despite the poor driving standards I still love the BTCC. Everything about the day was perfect and I’m sad I was away for so long. The feeling was just as it was a decade ago. There’s an intangible atmosphere at a BTCC meeting you just don’t get when you visit other series. I don’t know if it is the wheel-to-wheel racing, the near-constant track action from a collection of short, sharp races, or the fact it is our big home-grown success story with passionate fans filling the banks and stands all the way around the track. There’s something about a BTCC meeting you just can’t beat. And I didn’t even buy a paddock pass this time!

I’ll be back. See you at Silverstone? (I’m wondering if I made the right choice in booking Silverstone). I’m tempted to go to Thruxton.. but we’ll see about that. Just maybe, funds depending, I’ll go back to Brands Hatch for the race on the GP circuit later in the year.

Photos: Last Week’s BTCC at Brands Hatch

Here are a selection of photos of my day at Brands Hatch last Sunday for the opening round of the BTCC season. I brought along my new Nikon to try out at a racetrack for the first time, some of the shots are mildly good, most aren’t because I’m not a photographer or because I had fences and people in the way. Still, I had fun, it was a glorious sunny day (unlike today) and a perfect first racing event of the year.

Welcome to Brands Hatch

Rob Collard and Jason Plato

Nicolas Hamilton, brother of Lewis, has a disability but it doesn't stop him racing in the Renault Clio Cup.

I watched BTCC race 2 between Paddock Hill and Druids:

Clios:

Ginettas:

It’s great having 3 BTCC races in a day and a full slate of support races. Here’s BTCC race 3:

The oil from Jackson's car caused 6 other cars to go off

A glorious day for racing
You can see a lot at Brands Hatch if you find the right location. End of the day. Time to pack up and go home. 'Til next time.

You can see more of my photos in my Picasa album.

Friday Favourites: 15 April 2011

A series highlighting the best around the motorsport web.

After a trial run in January (wow, that long ago?) I’ve decided to make a links post a weekly feature, and it has a new name purely to make sure I do it regularly. I’ve found if I leave things free-form they never happen again so I need to create a weekly schedule. I started posting TMR Game results exclusively on a Tuesday evening, and the new Start Times series will be posted on a Thursday night.

Items I list here aren’t necessarily up to date but they are always, in my opinion, worth a read or a listen. Whilst I have over 1000 items in my Google Reader, many of them are news articles so in terms of true blog posts and podcasts it is probably nearer 200. That’s still a hefty backlog so if your thing appears here a couple of weeks late, please don’t take it personally. I will take suggestions whilst retaining the right not to include things, I want these to be concise updates!

On to this week’s links.

  • More Front Wing: MFW Podcast Episode 36– I’m going to be honest, I struggle to stay up to date with podcasts, people release far more than I ever have time to listen to and I always feel bad for not keeping up. This is one such show, and one that had dropped – not purposely –  from my rotation in 2010 when I got snowed under with content. I won’t be making that mistake in 2011.The episode I highlight here is the show after the St Pete IndyCar race, with special guest Shane Rogers who is ridiculously knowledgeable about IndyCar and F1 (and who knows what else)!
    His input is fantastic, particularly since he’d attended the Australian Grand Prix that weekend and was able to offer a direct comparison of F1 cars and IndyCars – and events – from the perspective of the stands at the track. Steph and Paul put together a great show and subsequent shows feature Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe, I’m listening to Ed’s show as I write and I can’t wait to hear the show with Hinch!
  • Oilpressure: Randy Bernard Interview Part 1 and Part 2 – Even if you are not a fan of IndyCar racing you should still read this interview. Randy Bernard, CEO of INDYCAR, has been a real breath of fresh air in his just-over-a-year in charge of the series. Such a huge change from the fighting, dictating attitudes of the 90s to early 00s and the introspection and cluelessness of the mid-00s – and I count all flavours of Indy racing in that: CART, Champ Car, IRL.  The unified IndyCar Series is now led by a man who is not just open to listening to teams and drivers, but also to fans and bloggers. This is just one of many Q&As he’s granted to bloggers, but what’s good about this one, is that it was Randy’s idea! He saw George at Oilpressure ask his readers for questions ‘should I bump into Randy’ at the Barber round, and Randy came back and made it a meet-up in person for a real Q&A. And it is a top notch Q&A as well, good questions (as you would expect from the learned readers of Oilpressure), great answers – not banal PR fluff.
    Do also take a look around the rest of the site to see more photos and words from George’s weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.
  • Sidepodcast: F1 in China – Christine has questioned why F1 still races in China when it seems there isn’t a single person in the world who wants it to happen. The personnel don’t like it, there are no fans in the place.. why bother?
  • VivaF1: The Prince of Motorsport (Part 1) – A great guest post at VivaF1 from The F1 & Motorsport Archive’s Leigh all about the life and times of the man recorded in the F1 history books as Prince Bira, or ‘B Bira’. Check out Part 2 later this weekend and do have a look at the other articles at both VivaF1 (some really great F1 articles in the past few days) and F1&MA (coming live from Monza for British F3).
  • Neil Hudson: New BTCC Regulations: Who is the fastest? – This season the BTCC has added new technical regulations alongside the existing S2000 and BTC cars. NGTC is a new spec for both chassis and engine, but there’s also the option to fit NGTC engines to existing S2000 cars. But which is faster? Neil checks the lap times from the opening round at the 1.2 mile Brands Hatch ‘Indy’ short circuit and graphs the results. I hope he does the same later in the year so we can see how the cars develop. (Sadly my comment appears to have been moderated).
    Note – This article appears on Neil’s own blog, he also writes for Touring Car Times which I urge you to add to your RSS rotation immediately for superb coverage of WTCC, BTCC, STCC, CCTCC, DTM, V8SC and more.

Do let me know of any interesting articles and podcasts you find around the web, and I’ll have more here next Friday.