Great afternoon at Brands Hatch on the weekend watching the British Touring Car Championship begin its new era.
Long-serving series director Alan Gow isn’t afraid of revolution; his low-cost ‘NGTC’ regulations, designed to get a multi-make championship of big, noisy turbocharged saloons, mark the biggest, most important shift for the BTCC since the days of the super tourers in the 1990s.
BTCC’s last major revolution saw the super tourers killed off completely at the end of 2000, and replaced with a championship of smaller, quieter and less technically advanced ‘BTC’ machines that led to attendances fall off the edge of the cliff.
This time, however, the few teams deciding to run NGTC cars right from the start can go about developing their cars and the regulations away from the sharp-end of the field and let seasoned pros and fans favourites such as Jason Plato and Matt Neal dice for victories in current S2000 cars, which have a two-year reprieve to compete in the BTCC.
Gow may already be preaching to the converted judging by the size of the crowd at Brands. But ultimately it will be the quality of the racing that will rule on the success of the BTCC’s NGTC era.
The first race had a ‘start of term’ nervy feel but races two and three had the type of BTCC racing we all know and love: plenty of passing, panel bashing and varying performance levels of cars and drivers for close action all the way down the field. Indeed, just 8.9sec covered the top nine finishers in an enthralling race three.
There’s always a concern such root and branch change can leave behind a product unrecognisable as its former self, something the BTCC has suffered before. But, if round one of the new-look BTCC is anything to go by, another golden era could be upon us. See you at Donington in a fortnight.