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Is The BTCC at a Crossroads?

Updated: Apr 1




For the last ten years, the British Touring Car Championship has gone from strength to strength. The NGTC regulations introduced in 2011 have proved to be a huge success, with many new manufactures joining the series in that time and going on to be success stories, such as Subaru and more recently Hyundai. 


The regulations were bought in to minimise the cost of the series, with the expense of motorsport increasing hugely towards the end of the noughties, combined with limited sponsorship funds due to the global financial crises.


Since then, the series has seen capacity grids with multiple teams on the grid with competitive entries and star studded lineups as drivers clamber for seats.


However, the introduction of the Hybrid Technology at the beginning of 2022 has resulted in a mixed reception and the overall feeling of the championship has gone from one of unrivaled success to teetering anxiety.


But what has caused this? 


Before I start this feature it is important to consider the championship is still in a very strong place, with over 20 entries confirmed for 2024, there are not many championships in the world which can boast such riches. However it appears, from the outside at least, that the momentum the series has enjoyed for the past decade has slowed heading into the 2024 season. 


The off season has highlighted aspects which could be considered areas of concern. The first being the loss of One Motorsport, a mainstay in the championship for so many years assisting many top drivers, with the likes of Josh Cook recently challenging for the title in their Honda Civic Type-R. Although they are due to return in 2025, it is a concerning trend of teams leaving and sadly never returning.  


Team HARD are another team which has struggled massively over the winter, with the outfit now returning with a two car outfit for 2024, having run as many as six cars in 2023.


The second has been the loss of two of the sports major teams in the past two years in Ciceley Motorsport, which saw Adam Morgan and George Gamble move to BMW and Toyota respectively for 2023, as well as multiple champions Team Dynamics, who announced last season they would take a hiatus from the series after failing to secure funding for the 2023 season, citing the withdrawal of sponsors at the eleventh hour. Following the updated TBL list at the end of 2023, it does not look like the great team will return any time soon to the BTCC grid.


This has led to many being left concerned for the future of the series although it must be said that the BTCC is currently in a much stronger place than other blips the series has faced, such as at the end of the SuperTouring and into the beginnings of BTC era, where grid sizes were as little as a dozen cars, combined with minimum manufacture investment.


However the signs are there from previous downward episodes as the lack of investment in machinery from the current teams is an area of potential concern, with no new cars being entered into the championship in four seasons, something which has been unheard of over the past three decades.


This could be seen as a positive as why would teams create and design a new car when balance of performance will only restrict the development of an unknown entity? However it could be seen as a sign that the championship is starting to show signs of weakness.


Compare this to other tin top series around the world and indeed the UK such as the TCR UK Championship, which appears to be going from strength to strength with new manufactures and generations of cars joining the field on a year by year basis. 


TCR also appears to have the momentum behind them, boasting a 26 car grid in 2023 with cars such as the new Honda Civic Type-R, while, although still a strong relevant car, the BTCC remains with the now discontinued Honda Civic Type-R FK8. It is not just the Hondas that appear a tad tired in comparison to other manufactures. BMW have not updated their 3 series since 2019, while the Vauxhall Astra has remained the same since 2018.


You could argue this is not a cause for concern, however I fear this may start to turn away the part-time fan as a lack of forward development is a factor which is causing concern in other major championships around the world.


An example would be IndyCar who, despite having some of the strongest grids they have had in decades, are starting to teeter due to the lack of progress with their new chassis, hunt for a third manufacture and delays of hybrid technology.


So is the BTCC heading down a similar road?


Well as mentioned earlier, hybrid technology has been added to the BTCC, making its debut in 2022, however it did not have the effect many were hoping for from a racing perspective, with overtaking proving harder than ever. 


This has hopefully been rectified for 2024 with added boost levels following the comparable lack of action in many of the races during the 2023 season as the technology replaced success ballast. A positive of the hybrid introduction is it has been credited with bringing major fresh backing to the sport, as businesses embraced the new technology. 


It appears that this has also come at a price. Like everything in the world currently, the costs of competing are forever increasing, which has led to some asking the question of how to generate more income for the series, but at what cost?


It feels like something in this regard needs to happen as some of the series’ biggest names over the last five years have started to leave the series, such as Rory Butcher, Stephen Jelley and Dan Lloyd. Others have followed and there are rumours of others following suit in the coming weeks, so a shift in personnel is certainly occurring. Of course, drivers come and go, and new idols will appear, however it does feel this shift has been a rather sudden one.


Needless to say, this is a very pessimistic look at the series. The championship is still boasting huge grids with a hugely competitive field with fantastic manufacturers represented throughout the field supported by fantastic sponsors and individuals. 


Despite this, as the old adage goes, “if you don’t move forwards you go backwards” and that surely must be of concern.

 

Images: www.btcc.net

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