If, like me, you’re a devotee of the St Mary’s Trophy thrash for 1950s/’60s saloons at the Goodwood Revival, or you witnessed the inaugural Gerry Marshall Trophy for early-80s production-based racers at last year’s 72nd Members’ Meeting, you’ll have a pretty good idea why tin-top racing has always been so popular in Britain.
Since 1958, the British Touring (née Saloon) Car Championship has provided a bloody battleground for manufacturers to exercise their armoury. And it’s given drivers a stage on which to unleash some firepower, too.
From those early days, when humdrum showroom products with little or no modifications duked it out for honours, to today’s big-money, televised circus in which door-banging antics among purpose-built-yet-familiar-shaped racers creates non-stop action watched by thousands, the ethos of win on Sunday, sell on Monday – and make it entertaining while you’re at it – has remained.
The BTCC has endured plenty of highs and lows during its six-decade history, be it manufacturer numbers, driver quality or technical-regulation blind alleys, but the rude health in which the series finds itself right now means the line on the popularity graph is firmly in the ‘high’ territory.
The secret to the BTCC’s current success level is a perfect storm of driver personalities, equally matched cars (which the recent introduction of standardised parts to reduce costs and help close up the grid has helped create), a three-race format at each of the 10 rounds that gives fans plenty of bang for their buck, and a promotional strategy that prioritises interaction between the actors and the audience.
Series bosses know they’re on to a good thing when, as happened last year, seven previous champions headline the entry list and 11 different drivers in seven different marques win races. That the drivers’ title battle has come down to the final weekend after 30 races for several seasons on the bounce only adds to the drama.
The 2015 BTCC season looks all set to be another classic, with last week’s confirmation that Jason Plato and Colin Turkington, two of the series biggest names with 120 race wins and four drivers’ titles between them, will team-up in a brace of Volkswagen CCs for 2015 coming as a real shot in the arm for Britain’s biggest race series.
Make sure you take in a BTCC meeting if you’ve not experienced the series’ paint-trading party tricks. And don’t miss the Gerry Marshall and St Mary’s Trophies at Goodwood, either; the cars may be a bit slower and less sophisticated than nowadays, but the action will be no less frenetic.