BTCC: Addition of Class B could see '30 car grids'

The British Touring Car Championship is to incorporate the National Saloon Championship as a Class B in 2001 as part of a deal forged today for the two major national racing series to be jointly promoted under the British Motorsport Promoters banner

BTCC: Addition of Class B could see '30 car grids'

Brands Hatch Leisure chief executive Rob Bain (the man now effectively in charge of the BTCC) says the move will strengthen the BTCC and he is now aiming for 30-car grids in 2001. "We think we will have something like 20 cars in class A and we're looking for grid sizes of 30 in total. Class B will be there for a time, and whether that is a year, two years, three or whatever, we will end up with a grid of 30, which will be pretty compelling."

Bain envisages using a pre-qualifying system and possibly a cap on registrations to keep Class B numbers down and quality up. "It's got to be the right show," he said. "We want to achieve a more professional show, but with big grids."

Bain dismissed suggestions that the introduction of Class B is a sign of weakness for the BTCC as it moves into its new era. "The more cars we have starting, the better it will be, and it actually underwrites the series. It gives manufacturers confidence in the series, if they know the fields will be big."

Prize funds for Independents will be announced in the next two weeks. Bain says that is a top priority and he is working on making it a compelling package. "That's the spiral," he said. "Independents will be buying cars from manufacturers which makes the economies of scale for those manufacturers far better and so gives them more confidence to take part."

BMP has also announced that it is on the verge of concluding a deal with the organisers of the European Super Touring Cup for both series to use the same BTCC technical regulations - overseen by a single technical committee. "I wasn't expecting to achieve it this year, but it seems we have achieved it this year and they want to adopt the regulations for 2002." He also revealed that he has plans for a touring car world cup-style showdown race between British and European competitors at the end of 2002.

In similar vein, Bain says that the BTCC's current deal for racing to be broadcast on BBC Grandstand will be extended to 2004. "We have heads of terms," he said, "but the key BBC figures are currently tied up in Australia for the Olympics. The negotiations are complete. It's just a question of legal matters."

Bain anticipates there will be four manufacturers involved in 2001 (Vauxhall, Peugeot, Rover and Alfa Romeo) and says that in 2002 BMP will cap the number of manufacturers in the series at six because he feels the series can only offer real benefits to that number of manufacturers, though he is aware that the move could influence wavering makers. "Those that come first obviously come first," he said, "and then there will be only two more slots, so I presume that will concentrate minds."

BMP have also published details of the 2001 BTCC sporting regulations. Race formats will broadly follow current practice with a sprint race and feature including pit stops, but there are some changes. The sprint races will switch from standing to rolling starts, and qualifying will change.

In place of the current half-hour and one-shot showdown sessions, there will now be two half-hours, but the first will be free practice and only the second will count for grid positions. Drivers best two lap times in the session will be used to determine the two grids. The time set first will give the driver his sprint grid slot and the second one his feature position. "The intention is to create two very different grids and keep interest alive for spectators," commented Bain.

The support race packages for both the BTCC and Powertour should be finalised within two weeks and could include races from the BRSCC's premier package.

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