“It’s tremendously exciting,” says BTCC boss Alan Gow. “The young guys are the future of the BTCC.”
Traditionally, touring car racing was the domain of older drivers who had fallen off the single-seater ladder, but the fast-rising costs of Formula 1’s feeder formula and the BTCC’s high profile explain why more drivers are targeting the latter from an early age.
“It’s the biggest championship in the UK,” says Porsche Carrera Cup convert Dan Cammish, 29, who drives for the works Dynamics Honda team. “It’s easier to make a name for yourself here than in sports cars; more people in the UK know who Jason Plato is than Nick Tandy.”
That profile is a huge help in attracting sponsors. Sam Tordoff, 28, has returned to the BTCC this year with the Motorbase Ford team after a season of racing sports cars in Europe. “The BTCC suits my sponsors,” he says. “It’s easier to raise a bigger budget for the BTCC than a smaller budget to do GT racing.”
The decline in the number of manufacturer teams, which generally preferred employing experienced racers with a profile, from the height of the Super Touring days is also part of the reason for the rise of the young guns. “Experience is important, but it’s about more than just driving these days,” says Eurotech Honda driver Jack Goff, 27. “My family does all my marketing and hospitality. The works drivers didn’t have to do that.”
Sutton adds: “If you want to race these days, you’ve got to earn it, and you have to find sponsors and maximise what the BTCC can offer. You have to build a whole infrastructure around you and work towards long-term goals.”
The current cars are relatively affordable and accessible, too, so drivers with less experience can step in and be competitive. And the fact that young drivers see the BTCC’s long-term career prospects helps when it comes to promotion. “Touring car drivers aren’t transient, so people can find a young gun and get behind them for five to 10 years,” says Gow. “In the old days, the young guns weren’t really chased after by the public. Now they’re really popular.”