Since its inception in 1958 the BTCC has thrilled racing fans with doorhandle-to-doorhandle racing. Autocar looks back on more than five decades of action
Matt Burt
4 April 2015

Since it began in the late 1950s, the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has thrilled legions of fans with its closely fought action in cars that resemble those driven on the road – cosmetically at least.

Known as the British Saloon Car Championship from its launch in 1958, the Jaguars, Rileys and Austins that competed in the early days were extremely close to showroom specification, but it wasn’t long before specialist racing teams began to extract more power and better road-holding from their cars.

In the 1960s, the era of all-rounder drivers, it wasn’t unknown for the likes of Jim Clark and Graham Hill to compete in touring car events during their off-weekends from Formula 1 duty.

The series began to take on a familiar shape in the 1970s, when it was possible for a privateer team to get their hands on a Ford Capri and compete at the front of the grid.

Into the 1980s, the BTCC took on a more cosmopolitan air as foreign manufacturers saw the value of proving the potential of their latest vehicles on the track. This was especially true of the increasingly competitive Japanese marques such as Toyota and Mazda, both champions during this varied era.

The end of the decade was all about the spectacular, fire-breathing Ford Sierra Cosworths, and the championship enjoyed a significant upswing in popularity as television coverage brought it to a wider audience.

One challenge for fans was that the BTCC used a complex class-based format that often meant the drivers fighting tooth-and-nail for race wins were not necessarily those lifting the title at the end of the year.

The 1990s brought a simplified rule structure and new technical regulations that set the template for touring car racing around the globe. Manufacturers embraced the new-look BTCC, as did spectators, as a host of superstar names were tempted to race in the domestic series.

Although the Super Touring formula eventually faded, new rules were devised that kept costs under tighter control and enabled privateer entrants to compete on a level playing field with factory-backed teams.

That was evident in 2013, when the privately run Honda Civic of Andrew Jordan claimed the BTCC crown. 

In last year's championship, a dominant Colin Turkington secured victory in his BMW M135i, bringing him his second BTCC crown having also won the title in 2009.

For 2015 there are plenty of changes to the field. Infiniti has now entered the championship, lending its support to a new not-for-profit team Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing, Andrew Jordan has moved to MG and will race with Jack Goff, and Andy Prialux is returning to the sport in a WSR BMW.

Likewise, Rob Collard returns with West Surrey Racing and Jason Plato and Colin Turkington both join Team BMR.

Nicolas Hamilton also enters the sport, racing in an Audi S3, while Honda's new Civic Type R will also see action on the track. All in all, the 2015 BTCC grid has secured 32 entries, with Jason Plato setting the fastest time in testing ahead of the first round at Brands Hatch this weekend.

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4 April 2015
When they actually still looked like the Cara we drove home in!

Peter Cavellini.

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