Richard West Q&A

Richard West took over as the BTCC's boss last Autumn. The series reaches its half way point at Knockhill this weekend. He told Nick Phillips how it's been and what the future holds.

Richard West Q&A

"If you go back to when I first took over, I was certainly naïve - and I use the phrase carefully - to a couple of issues that I thought would be easier to overcome than they have been. Those early days were all about organising the two categories of production and touring together, finding a sponsor, doing the TV thing and all those things. The hardest thing of all has been how you deal with the knockers. They take a view that is based on the old championship and on the good old days. Actually at certain rounds the racing has been stunning - if you look at Donington for example most categories would pray for that level of competitiveness. Where we are weak and have been criticised for being weak is having insufficient battles like that and having insufficient touring cars to create it.

"What I've said all along is that you can't tap a magic wand. What we've now got is a number of tyre manufacturers talking to us now, we've got two [car] manufacturers, outside what we've got, talking to us now quite seriously - and one of them is here this weekend. There's still a huge amount of hard work to do, but I would be an extremely happy guy if next year we get four manufacturers and we're able to pass down this year's cars into the hands of two or three top privateer teams. Effectively then we could be looking at 16 to 18 touring cars, maybe a little bit more. That to me would be a great achievement. If you look at where we were in October - ie with virtually nothing - to what we've got now, I don't think we're in bad shape. We've had some bloody good racing."

"I think the sprint race still confuses people. We had some prize-winners in the other day. One I know very well and she said that even when you are a regular touring car person, it is still a little bit hard to understand that the Touring Class cars start first, but are actually a lap down. I can understand that, but what we've got at the moment is actually the result of needing to amalgamate the two classes and just make sure that generally we have good numbers of cars on the grid. In an ideal world you'd want one full grid of everything, two races - tidy it all up, make it a sexy spectacle and away you go.

But, we weren't in an ideal world. We're in that year when we had to start again. We've got what we've got and we've had some bloody good TV figures coming back from the BBC - 1.7 million viewers, at one point. It's good stuff, but I'd like to see it all happening a lot quicker."

"Yes, very actively in recent weeks. I have meetings coming up and the information I have from [BTCC TV production company] Octagon CSI and others is positive. We have to work very quickly at the beginning of August to look towards renewing and I'm very hopeful that we can do something. There's a new man coming into the BBC who I have yet to meet. Octagon CSI have been talking to him on a regular basis and they have known him in his previous life and I'm actively pursuing that answer. It's the backbone of the championship. It's very important that we get that renewal and we'll work very hard towards it.

"Yeah and maybe another manufacturer committing for next year and beyond. That would be the real platinum award. Four or five manufacturers plus privateers would make this a fantastic series."

"I think it's unlikely that we will ever see nine or 10 manufacturers again, because quite frankly the world's automotive industry doesn't contain nine or 10independent brands that can make their own decisions. Nissan - Renault; Volvo -Ford. Each brand has its own niche. I believe the Ford edict is that Jaguar is F1, Ford is world rally and Volvo is touring cars. Because of that, there are probably less manufacturers able to do say: "Yes we'll do that." The BTCC rules and tech-spec is very cost-effective national level motor racing that could spread its wings into other national areas. The gentleman who's coming here from a manufacturer has made some very positive sounds - he likes the fact that costs are controlled. That there's no revolution only evolution. So am I confident? Yes in the sense that I think the formula is right, but I'm never really confident until someone signs a bit of paper - until it's done, it's not done."

"I don't believe that situation will occur. BMP is very, very committed to the championship. We meet on a regular basis and chat about what's good about it, what's bad and what we can do to improve it. We're talking about support packages for next year, parallel programmes all those things. We know for example, that our support package other than Renault and Lotus is weak. We have to address that.

"I would love to have Formula 3 and Formula Ford. There have been various discussions going on within BMP and the message is very clear from me, I would love to have them. The public would love to see it. It needs one good solid meaty motorsport championship with everything on it where they can see it all. Eight or nine races a day, good value entry fee and see the lot. If we could combine several of the premier attractions - touring car, Formula 3, Formula Ford, some really, really sexy guest races as well as Renault and Lotus, I think we would have a great championship.

"Yes. In mid-August, I want to be able to go to the teams with a honed version of it. It's a sensitive issue and we've spent months debating it and trying to make it right for the teams, the TV and the spectators and I think we have the right formula now."

"I can't honestly answer that, because there are so many of the production teams that have the aspiration to step up. In the next eight to 10 weeks we should be able to give that answer. It's a hard one to call."

"By the end of September I want to know what we're all doing. I want the series sponsorship in place. I want to know where we are in terms of new ideas. I'm looking seriously at TV advertising for the series throughout next year - I'm putting TV advertising behind Silverstone and Oulton Park [this year]. I'm cutting back on the shopping centre promotions - some have worked, some haven't. I'd like to do more with the media, be far more pro-active in terms of media centres and stuff like that. End of September, first week in October I want to know exactly where we stand."

"Friday next week [British Superbikeboss] Jos Foulston and myself are sitting down to talk about calendars. He's got in mind what he'd like for BSB, I've got in mind what I'd like for TocaTour. We're trying desperately to avoid clashes, mindful of things like the Grand Prix, Goodwood and other big events. It's all well advanced."

"The people at Rockingham are being very pro-active in the way they are promoting themselves. I think it would be a great place to go. When I went there and saw those huge grandstands and thought if you divided those three grandstands into Vauxhall, Peugeot and others, you could have a real tribal day out there - it would be really cool. Speaking personally I don't believe Castle Combe would be right for us. I would love to do the night race at Mondello. I think properly promoted in Dublin in the weeks before, with a bit of a beer festival and that sort of stuff, you could get a monster crowd. I've got a bit of a vision about that. It could be so good."

"I can see myself staying here for quite a long time actually. I've seen the light at the end of the tunnel now, and I'm pretty sure it's not a train coming towards me. I've great affection for the people in the paddock. It's a nice paddock, with good people in it and if you could get it up that next step it would be fantastic."

"I would think 2002 will be a very good year. It will be good racing and a good solid series again and if it can use next year to springboard forward, 2003 and onwards, it could be really good again. But it takes time. It will come. I have great faith in it. It will be different and the good old days don't come back. The new series if it works, when it works, will have a different profile and a different audience."

Qualifying: Plato's double pole

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