Radical new format for amalgamated sprint race

This weekend's British Touring Car Championship round at Thruxton on Bank Holiday Monday will feature a radical new, combined sprint race format where the BTC Touring class cars will have to chase and pass the BTC Production cars to win the race overall

Radical new format for amalgamated sprint race

Series organisers had intended to hold two separate sprint races for Touring and Production cars this year, but the season-opening BTC Touring race at Brands Hatch was contested by just eight cars.

To avoid the potential of small grids in the future, this measure has been adopted to ensure that the racing remains intense. The BBC is believed to have been less than impressed with the Brands BTC Touring sprint race, although happy with the amalgamated feature event.

The BTC Touring cars will still start at the front of the grid, but will have to complete one lap more than the BTC Production cars at Thruxton to win the race outright. The Production cars will start 12secs after their more-powerful brethren and will have 15 laps, as opposed to the BTCT runners' 16, to complete. This time delay will vary from circuit to circuit, depending on its length.

Series boss Richard West explained: "The purpose for the change is to provide the most spectacular racing possible. While the new format continues to produce a platform for the production cars to excel, the touring cars - when driven hard through traffic - will have the potential for top place finishes. The new format offers the opportunity for thrilling action."

Vauxhall's Jason Plato lapped in 1m17.7s in testing at Thruxton last month, and the Touring class cars will have to lap about 4.4secs per lap faster than the Production cars if they are going to have any chance of winning. Roger Moen's fastest time in his Production class Peugeot 306 was - you've guessed it - 4.4s slower on 1m22.1s.

"It sounds a very strange way to do it - but why do something easy when you can complicate things, eh?" said a deadpan Yvan Muller, winner of the Brands sprint race. "To be honest, I don't want to criticise it, because we'll have to wait and see how it works out at Thruxton - I hope it'll be OK.

"It's very difficult for us to pass Production class cars, because our cars aren't as fast as last year. If there's a safety car, then I guess there's no chance we can win. It sounds like it will be a bit of a lottery. We won't know if we can win overall at Thruxton until we calculate how fast we'll be against the Production cars over a race distance," he added.

Peugeot's UK motorsport boss Mick Linford said: "I think it's an excellent way of enabling the Touring and Production class competitors to get the best of both worlds. It gives everyone the opportunity to lead the pack and gain good TV coverage."

Chris Needell of Barwell Motorsport, which runs Brands Production feature race winner James Kaye's Honda Accord, was happy with the change to the format.

"I think it should be good," he said. "It's going to produce a real tortoise and the hare race. The whole excitement will revolve around whether the Touring cars can catch the Production cars, and it means we'll get the same, if not better, coverage than we did at Brands Hatch. Obviously, there is a chance the Production winner will beat them, and that will add an extra element of drama to the race."

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