The experts in the TOCA truck use advanced kit to ensure British Touring Car Championship racing is fair and above board

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship’s tightly controlled technical regulations are a key reason it regularly produces such exciting racing – and ensuring its ultra-competitive teams play by those rules is a tough job. 

The BTCC has a small group of technical experts at each race to make sure that happens. This year, they’ve got a new home: the TOCA Technical Centre, a newly finished truck unit that travels to every race with all the equipment needed to run a BTCC race weekend. That includes all of the technical kit, the BTCC’s bespoke signage, event branding and even photographer Jakob Ebrey’s stepladder. 

Once the equipment is set up, the truck effectively becomes the technical team’s mobile command unit, where they can analyse data and samples in order to police the rules. 

The mammoth truck replaces two smaller vehicles and has, technical director Peter Riches says, taken the championship “to the next level”. For example, it has an in-built radio unit and mast, used to run the communications network. Previously, that unit had to be assembled on top of the tallest building at each circuit. 

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At a cost of around £250,000, the Hopkins Motorsport-prepared unit has been fitted with state-of-the-art kit, including Getrac laptops and tablets. It means Riches, his son Sam and Phil Danbury, both BTCC technical commissioners, and their team instantly have the information they need – and the evidence that makes winning arguments with teams easier. 

Here’s what goes on inside it.

In-car footage

Every car has an on-board CCTV camera so that stewards can rule on any incidents and footage saved to memory cards is downloaded and collected here. ITV is also provided with the footage when needed.

Logistics and communication

A vast amount of paperwork, such as technical bulletins, is produced on race weekends and Josie is the key assistant who sorts most of it. She also performs other vital roles, such as co-ordinating the reverse grid draw for the final race.

Main room

Peter, Sam and Phil are based in the main office, where they can use two TVs to check timing, footage and technical data, which can be synced from any of the Getrac laptops. This is also where team bosses are summoned to explain themselves to the scrutineers. If you’re summoned here, you’re likely in trouble.

Fuel analysis

Carless supplies a single control fuel for the whole BTCC package. Samples are taken from cars at random and checked against a chemical ‘map’ to ensure the right fuel is being used. The system has an accuracy of 99.95%.

Head injury research

Emily and Lauren, students from the University of Bolton’s National Centre for Motorsport Engineering, are working on an FIA head injury research project, using acceleration data from chips in drivers’ radio earpieces.

Engine data

BTCC cars use on-board Cosworth electronic systems. All the data gathered, including revs, gears and overboost levels, is saved to a memory card and then downloaded by a Cosworth engineer. The system detects and highlights results that require further investigation.

Spot checks

During practice and qualifying, the technical team set up at the start of the pit lane and perform random spot checks – and, despite rumours, the checks genuinely are random – on cars. 

It’s all controlled by ‘Sam’s Tardis’, the name given to the station where Sam Riches is based. He controls the lights that signal to pitting cars whether they have to stop for checks. 

As cars enter the pit, a scanner detects RFID chips in their tyres, ensuring they match the sets assigned to them. Those pulled over then have their ride height checked before being weighed, with the results instantly available on Sam’s tablet. During practice, the teams are ‘advised’ of any failures and allowed to carry on, but those found to have broken the rules in qualifying have their times stripped. 

The tools used mix high-tech with pure ingenuity: the flat scales cost around £15,000 a set, while ride height is checked with a specially modified paint roller…

Read more

BTCC 2019: why the sport is back to its best

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