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.
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.