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.