Tuesday, 31 December 2013

TinTop Guru in 2014...

Happy New Year Everybody!!!

Well here we are in 2014, which means another full season of Tin Tops to look forward to!!

This year I will be blogging about:

MSA British Touring Car Championship
FIA World Touring Car Championship
FIA European Touring Car Cup
German Touring Car Championship/DTM
FIA World Rallycross Championship
International V8 Supercars
ACO Le Mans 24 Hours

And maybe, just maybe something about the 2014 FIA Formula One season.

Keep an eye for updates on Facebook and Twitter as the buildup to the season gets underway.

If your lucky and I mean really lucky, I may just tell you this year about the day I cursed the Stig...

Yes, that Stig!!



Sunday, 15 December 2013

BTCC Update... 16 December 2013...

So we are another week closer to Christmas and we've seen yet another busy week filled with exciting news for the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season.

So lets see whats been happening...

1. After originally announcing that they would confirm their 2014 driver at the Autosport International Show in January, AmD had a change of heart and announced that Dave Newsham would drive their NGTC Ford Focus for the 2014 season. This marks another new team that Newsham will drive for next year.

2. BTC Racing confirmed that that they have a TBL for 2014 and that Chris Stockton will pilot the NGTC Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback for the team. With Aiden Moffat confirming he has the ex Andy Neate NGTC Cruze Saloon for 2014, this will mean that there will be two types of Cruze on the BTCC grid next year.

3. Rob Austin Racing confirmed that they would not carry sponsorship from Wix Filters next year. Rob confirmed he is looking for other sponsors at this time. However Ciceley Racing then confirmed that they had secured sponsorship from Wix Filters for the Mercedes NGTC A Class.

4. Its been confirmed that the BTCC will use the International layout at Oulton Park when it hosts the 4th BTCC weekend in 2014. The last time the BTCC used this layout was back in 1996, during the Super Touring days.

5. Motorbase have confirmed that they will be running three NGTC Ford's in 2014. They have secured the TBL to do this and are building a new NGTC Focus after the sale of one to AmD. They have confirmed changes in the team to build on the technical side to help extract the best from the Focus and that they are speaking to different drivers for the three seats they have.

Motorbase have also said they want to maintain a "Satellite" Team relationship with AmD in the same way that Team Dynamics have a similar relationship with Pirtek Racing. They will support Shaun Hollamby and his team over the season.

6. Finally, Lea Wood has made his BTCC intentions clear for 2014. He has explained he wants to join a team with NGTC experience to learn more about the cars. If this doesnt happen, the other option open to the team is for them to run their own NGTC car next year. Lea has confirmed he is in talks with several teams.

So thats all the BTCC news from last week with more details shaping up how the 2014 season will look.

All the best!!


Sunday, 8 December 2013

ETCC: Why we need a British Team to compete in the ETCC...

Back in 2004, the FIA took the step to promote the successful European Touring Car Championship to become the World Touring Car Championship from 2005 onwards.

However the decision was taken to still run a European Touring Car Cup alongside the WTCC. This would allow Independent teams to take part from European countries whose National Touring Car series used Super 2000, Super 1600 and Single Make Trophy regulations and race against each other.

Just to add for those of you familiar with the ETCC, there was also a catergory called Super Production but this was phased out for the 2012 season.

Now below are the rules for competing in the ETCC:

The cars that are eligible are those complying with the FIA Super 2000, Super 2000 Diesel, Super Production and Super 1600 technical regulations.

The Drivers must either have competed in a minimum of 50% of their own National Championships; been designated by their ASN (National Sporting Authority) and who have not taken part in the FIA WTCC with a Manufacturer’s team or belong to a country in which there is no national Championship and been designated by their ASN.

In 2012 the Single Make Trophy was introduced for cars such as SEAT León Supercopa.

From the 2013 season Diesel engines and the Super Production regulations were outlawed and thus only petrol engined Super 2000, SEAT León Supercopa and Super 1600 cars are allowed.

Ok so pretty simple rules to understand for entry. Now here is the bit that is niggling me and is something I feel should be addressed...

Since 2005, the FIA European Touring Car Cup has been won 3 times by British Touring Car Drivers. Ryan Sharp won the Cup in 2006 in a GR Asia run SEAT Leon and former Double BTCC Champion James Thompson won back to back ETC Cups in 2009 and 2010, driving for the Danish Touring Car team Hartmann Honda Racing in both years.

However since then British Touring Car talent has been somewhat missing from the Cup. From 2005 - 2009 the ETCC was a one venue/two race event. Qualifying decided the starting grid for race one. The grid for race two was decided by reversing the top eight finishers from race one. From ninth place down, the drivers start where they finished in race one.

In 2010, the Cup became a three event series with two races taking part at Braga in Portugal, Salzburgring in Austria and at Francaciorta in Italy. In 2011 it returned to a one venue/two race format at the Salzburgring.

In 2012, the FIA decided that the ETCC should act as a stepping stone to the WTCC. So it became a 5 event Cup with 10 races in total held in Europe. Three of those events were held on the same weekends as WTCC with 2 further standalone events in Europe.

So you have a European Touring Car Cup that races alongside an FIA sanctioned World Championship for 3 meetings out of 5 and you get European exposure for your sponsors...

So why dont we have a British team holding up honours in the ETCC?

The last time a BTCC Team took part was in 2009 when Bamboo Engineering ran a two car team of Chevrolet Lacetti's for BTCC regular Harry Vaulkhard and guest driver Duarte Felix Da Costa. Since then no British team has taken part. Harry almost won the ETCC that year too. He was in contention until sliding off in slippery conditions under pressure from James Thompson.

Now the first obstacle is the regulations. Any team taking part in the BTCC has already spent budget on either building or buying 1 or 2 NGTC cars as well as negotiating contracts with drivers. With the ETCC using S2000 cars, that means that your team would need to have experience of both NGTC and S2000 machinery and have been successful in both types of cars.

The next obstacle is budget. A normal 2 car BTCC team for one season can cost upwards of £350,000. A typical 2 car ETCC team can cost upwards of £500,00. So already your looking at needing upwards of £900,000 to go racing. So thats a lot of sponsor hunting. Not only that but if you are running two NGTC cars in the BTCC, then you need drivers with experience and available to race in the ETCC...otherwise you'll need another two drivers to employ, pushing the driver total to four.

Next is competition. Not only are you racing in a Multi-Class Cup with three different types of cars racing together on the same track, but you are also racing against the best that Europe and Scandinavia have to offer in the form on Independent Touring Car teams and drivers. To be at this level means your team has raced against the best in your own domestic championship and has made the step up to take on the best from Italy, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Sweden, Portugal and many other countries in Europe and Scandinavia with competitive touring car championships.

No mean feat...

Finally, coverage. The BTCC is broadcast on ITV4 HD. A free to air HD channel available to anyone with Digital TV. The ETCC is broadcast on Eurosport, Europes biggest sporting broadcasting channel, however its only available in the UK if you have a Virgin or Sky box. So if your team competes, not all your fans will see it.

However the plus side is the exposure. Any sponsors you have will be seen on the European Arena where there is a bigger fan following of the ETCC. Many fans from Europe flock to the events as they are often on WTCC weekends as well, so another plus side is that the drivers and team gain notice from the WTCC Paddock, offering potential options to compete on the World Stage later on in the teams and drivers career.

Theres also the fact that you and your team would be competing in an FIA sanctioned championship. Thats nothing to be sniffed at. Taking part in an FIA European or World Championship takes budget, drive and determination as you take on Europe's best. A box to be ticked on any score sheet in motorsport...

So there are arguments for and against for this particular topic. However, I remind you that British teams do well in WTCC. RML, Bamboo and Special Tuning Racing have shown that they are among the best in the World Championship with RML winning outright drivers and manufacturers titles whilst Bamboo and STR are always in the hunt for Independents wins and the Independent Title.

Now I know that a few people will point out that recently this year Nicholas Hamilton took part in two rounds of the ETCC in the SEAT Leon Supercopa class. For me, that is a high achievement in Nicholas' short Touring Car career. After spending two years in the UK Renault Clio Cup, a spectacularly close championship that is on the BTCC support bill, Nicholas made the step up and I hope that he can return back to try and hone his skills against the best.

Whilst Lewis may dominate the F1 headlines with his performances for Mercedes, the fact that Nicholas, who suffers with Cerebral Palsy, has achieved the goal of beginning a racing career should not be overlooked.

Other UK based Touring Car fans also enjoy ETCC as well as I do so while the fan base maybe smaller here than in Europe, we would still love to see the Brits have a crack at the Cup again. Teams like Motorbase, West Surrey Racing and Pirtek Racing are the best BTCC Independent teams that could easily take on the ETCC and give the competition a run for its money in the top class. 

In fact each time WSR entered a BMW 320si/320TC in the WTCC for regular pilot Colin Turkington, he was often one of the fastest Independent drivers out there and often harried the works WTCC teams too!!

Come guys!! Give it a go and show them how Britain does it best!!



Saturday, 7 December 2013

BTCC Update...7th December 2013...

Another week has passed us by and we have been lucky enough to have more news on how things are shaping up for the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.

So heres whats been released this week...

1. Simon Belcher has been out testing his Handy Motorsport run NGTC Toyota Avensis at Silverstone this past week. Belcher has claimed to be impressed and very happy with his 2014 BTCC with further testing to take place.

2. 2013 WTCC driver Alex MacDowall has had a 2nd run in a WSR/Ebay Motors NGTC BMW 125i at Silverstone. His first test in the NGTC BMW was in November at Brands Hatch. MacDowall has not yet announced his Touring Car plans for 2014.

3. Pirtek Racing has officially confirmed Martin Depper as Andy Jordan's 2014 team-mate. Depper tested the Civic last week and has reportedly purchased Jeff Smiths Honda Civic from him. Deppers Civic will run in Pirtek colours next year.

4. 1999 British Formula 3 Champion  Marc Hynes has signed up at Triple Eight to drive a 3rd MG6 in 2014. Hynes is also currently head of Driver Development for Formula One team Marrussia. He tested the MG6 at Brands Hatch this past week. The 2nd seat at MG has not been allocated yet.

5. Popular team AmD Racing have announced that they have purchased an NGTC Ford Focus from Motorbase/Airwaves Racing and that they have a TBL to race in the BTCC next year. Team boss Shaun Hollamby has also confirmed that a "Front Running" BTCC Driver will be announced to drive the Focus at the Autosport International Show in January.

So there we have another week of BTCC announcements and a clearer picture of who is racing where in the 2014 BTCC season.

Take care and I'll keep you updated during the winter!!



Thursday, 5 December 2013

BTCC: Why NGTC has worked for the BTCC...

Back in 2010 after the BTCC meeting at Croft, TOCA announced the next set of BTCC regulations that were to reduce the reliance on expensive built Super 2000 spec cars in use at the time that were originally used in the WTCC and ETCC.

The biggest changes to the cars that were to become Next Generation Touring Cars were:

300+bhp 2-litre turbo-charged direct injection engine
Fly by wire throttle control.
Low cost to develop, build, buy and maintain. Teams can decide whether build their own unit to the spec, or teams can lease/purchase a TOCA-BTCC engine ready built.
Over-boost function. This will allow an increased power output from 2013.

Xtrac 6 speed sequential-shift gearbox.
AP Racing carbon clutch.
Front or Rear Wheel Drive: Originally TOCA announced that only front wheel drive cars would be eligible to take part. However, after high interest from teams running rear wheel drive cars, TOCA amended the spec to include both front and rear wheel drive cars.

Full front sub-frame incorporating suspension, brakes, transmission and engine location that attaches to specified roll cage locations.
Rear sub-frame that attaches to specified roll cage locations.
Multi-adjustable double wishbone suspension with coil-over dampers

2, 3, 4 or 5 door of a minimum 4.4m length. (2 or 3 door cars must share the same basic body profile as the 4/5 door model).
Equalised width of 1875mm
Specified front aerodynamic device incorporating flat floor, apertures for radiator, brake cooling ducts, intercooler and side exits.
Specified rear wing profile.
Base vehicle must be freely on sale in the UK through the manufacturer's normal dealer network
Specified 18” centre-lock wheel

AP Racing specified package
AP Racing specified pedal-box

Cosworth Electronics specified package incorporating ECU, dash, data-logging and scrutineering logger.
Common power management box, switch panels and wiring loom design

The target price for a complete car, less engine is around £100,000 depending on final components used by each team and the running cost. The cost for a TOCA-BTCC Engine will be £25,000 with the option to be leased. However the target price is a lot higher than expected - it was reported that the car, less engine is around £200,000

And Finally: Low cost to build, buy, maintain and develop.

Now when these regulations were put into action for the 2011 season, there were four different types of BTCC car competing together:

Full NGTC car and engine
Super 2000 car with NGTC engine
Super 2000 car with Normally Aspirated Engine
BTC Regulation car with Normally Aspirated Engine.

There were 6 NGTC cars that took part that season with Rob Austin and Chris Swanwick in Audi A4's, Frank Wrathall in a Dynojet Toyota Avensis, Tony Hughes in a Speedworks Toyota Avensis, Dan Welch in a Proton Persona and John Thorne in a Vauxhall Insignia.

Three cars took the start at the first weekend at Brands Hatch: Austin, Hughes and Wrathall.

The common factor with all these entries? They were all Independent Teams. No works assistance.

Now remember that number 6... Its going to make an appearance later on...

Now this is the upside of the NGTC regulations. It allowed new teams to build cars that could be developed into race winning, competitive cars. Teams that couldn't afford to buy S2000 cars or build S2000 cars. At Silverstone in 2011 there were 30 cars that started on the grid that were of mixed NGTC & Super 2000 origin.

30 cars.

To put that in context, the record number of entries for a BTCC race was set at the 1993 British Grand Prix support race where there were 33 entries. Back in 1993, the regulations in use were the FIA Class 2/Super Touring regulations.

Those of us who remember watching those types of BTCC races know how competitive that field of cars were...

So it was obvious that the regulations were working. The downside however was the engine equalisation. This was often a bone of contention with drivers/teams and fans alike. Boost equalistion and penalty weight are still in effect but as the S2000 entries reduced, this also showed the popularity of the NGTC regs building, regardless of the equalisation measures.

I have never forgotten Jason Plato's rant at Louise Goodman at Oulton Park after he was handed the win in his Normally Aspirated Chevrolet Cruze thanks to the Works Honda's sliding off at the last corner...

In 2012 the number of NGTC cars grew as Honda, MG, Pirtek and Motorbase entered new cars and the competition increased from there. By the end of the season the drivers, manufacturers, indie drivers and teams titles went to the Honda NGTC Teams of Honda Yuasa and Pirtek.

The S2000 runners still took race wins in the form of Dave Newsham, Rob Collard and Tom Onslow-Cole to mention a few, but it was obvious by now that Alan Gow's move to implement the NGTC regs to boost the BTCC grid, offer new and existing teams the chance to race against the best in the UK's top domestic motorsport series meant that to win races and championships, you needed NGTC machinery.

I remember being at Croft in 2012 after the final BTCC race of the day and hearing a BTCC driver that was racing that day say the immortal words "Thats it, we need an NGTC car." I wont say who it was but the tide would sway in the direction of NGTC when the 2012 season started again at Snetterton after the mid season break. The pace of the new Motorbase NGTC Ford Focus saw to that. It was fast out of the box and challenging for wins.

For 2013, the Jack Sears Trophy was created for the remaining teams that couldn't afford the step up to NGTC machinery that raced S2000, but with entries dwindling from 6 cars at the seasons start to 3 cars at one meeting and three quarters of the grid now in NGTC cars, it was further proof of the success of NGTC.

Hmm. Theres that number 6 again. Its amazing how that returned as events turn full circle...

Whilst the 2013 BTCC was won by Andrew Jordan, the racing was as close as ever, as tight as ever and there was the occaisional moan over driving standards but it showed that the BTCC had something not seen for a long while from the SuperTouring days:

Large grid numbers, a good mix of different manufacturers represented by the cars built by Works and Independent teams alike and a good quality of drivers with talent racing each other hard.

So, in my own opinion, NGTC has been a positive move for the BTCC and it has served as a platform to take the series to further good places in the years to come.

In 2014, its expected that there will be a full NGTC grid, now that TOCA has introduced its TBL system and this will improve the show further for the teams, drivers and fans who love seeing their tintops racing in the UK for 10 weekends a year, 3 times a day whilst ITV4 broadcasts its action, twists and turns to its UK audience.

For the Drivers and Teams it offers a chance to build and race in the top domestic motorsport series in the UK at a competitive and affordable price. For the fans, the series offers the same racing and action that hails back to a series that showed its best racing 20 years ago with different regulations back then.

Well, like I always say, if you think Formula One is boring, try watching Touring Cars!!

So what about the future of NGTC? For me, I echo the thoughts of Triple Eight Team Boss Ian Harrison. Back in October on Bathurst/BTCC Finals weekend, he said that the BTCC deserved a Blue Ribbon event in the same way that V8 Supercars have Bathurst, the DTM has the Norisring and the WTCC has Macau.

Well for me, I think a return to having a one hour endurance race for the BTCC, something that last happened in the late 1980's, would be a good idea. You have two drivers per car, a pitstop to change drivers and top up with fuel, but it would also allow the chance to get high profile drivers in for a one off appearance.

Imagine Alain Menu or Rickard Rydell hussling an NGTC Ford Focus through the Craner Curves at Donington Park...

Now theres a thought...

Its possible as Alan Gow has pointed out, the NGTC cars are designed with larger fuel tanks. Its also something he confirmed to me on the BTCC Forum has been discussed with the teams and interest is building...

Come on, I had to ask the question!!!

Anyway, thats how I think the NGTC regulations have been a success and so far 2014 is already shaping up to a better season than 2013...

If thats entirely possible!!!

Once again, please keep an eye on my blog as I keep you the fans updated with BTCC and WTCC news over the winter.



Monday, 2 December 2013

BTCC Update... 2nd December 2013...

So here we are in December and the BTCC has been a busy place with regards to news from the teams and drivers.

Heres what we know:

1. 2012 Clio Cup racer Simon Belcher has confirmed that he will race an NGTC Toyota Avensis with his team Handy Motorsport with Support from Speedworks Motorsport who ran Dave Newsham and Ollie Jackson this year.

2. Andy Jordan confirmed last week that his 2014 team mate would be testing his title winning NGTC Honda Civic at Donington. That driver turned out to be Martin Depper who last contested the BTCC in 2010 in a Forster Motorsport BMW. More recently, Depper has been racing in the VW Cup.

3. Honda Yuasa Racing have confirmed that Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden will return as team-mates in 2014, both driving the new NGTC Honda Civic Tourer. This means that when the car competes next year, it will 20 years since the last estate car took part in the BTCC. A certain Volvo 850 Estate run by TWR...

4. Top sportscar team United Autosports have confirmed today that they will field two NGTC Toyota Avensis for James Cole and Glynn Geddie, who took part in the Supercar Challenge last year. Cole has experience from racing for Team HARD. last in an NGTC Vauxhall Insignia.

5. Speaking of Team HARD. they have been out testing their NGTC cars with some notable drivers. Apart from Warren Scott who drove the Passat in 2013, Dave Newsham tested the car at Croft and 2009 BTCC Champion Colin Turkington have also tested the VW Passat CC at Silverstone. However no driver lineup has been confirmed by the team at this time.

Finally, TOCA has confirmed today that they have allocated all of the new TBL Licenses that lock in team entries in the BTCC to the end of the 2016 season. They have confirmed a full entry of 32 cars whilst there is a reserve list of 3 cars in case any teams have to relinquish their TBL for any reason.

So its good to see that so many plans are falling into place for drivers and teams this early!!