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Rear-wheel drive advantage cut

BTCC start at Oulton ParkRear-wheel drive cars will have their startline advantage removed in next year's British Touring Car Championship as championship organiser TOCA bids to create a more level playing field.

Series director Alan Gow has mandated that cars such as the BMW 320si, will have to run a 'spec' first gear that will be longer than that used by front-wheel drive machines, and should ensure that both cars can leave the line as quickly as each other.

"We consider this to be a far better way to overcome the issue [of the startline advantage], rather than to introduce rolling starts and the potential accidents and problems they create," Gow told AUTOSPORT.

Teams running rear-wheel drive machinery have expressed their disappointment at the regulation change.

Dick Bennetts, whose WSR team ran Colin Turkington to this year's drivers' title, said: "As long as it's not too much of a disadvantage, then we accept it.

"The problem is that, because it's a first gear, we're going to have to start slipping the clutches more, so you run the risk of damaging them more, and a clutch can be expensive."

David Bartrum, who runs the Motorbase BMW squad, added: "Alan has tried to draw a line here and keep things as fair as he can, but, to be honest, I feel like it's a result of front-wheel drive paranoia.

"All the years the Vauxhalls and Hondas were winning it, you didn't see BMW teams asking for them to be reigned in. Our advantage is gone, but our disadvantage - in the damp - still remains, and yet our suggestion to have intermediate tyres was rejected."

According to figures held by various teams, rear-wheel drive cars will gain anything between 0.9 and 4.2 car lengths by the first corner of a race.

Team Dynamics boss Steve Neal, who has run front-wheel drive Hondas in the championship since 2004, does not believe the rule goes far enough towards addressing the problem.

"It's too little, too late," he said. "We have no way of knowing how effective the mandatory first gear will be."

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