Richard West Q&A

Richard West is the new boss of the British Touring Car Championship, taking on the job of event director of the TOCA Tour. The ex-McLaren, Arrows and Williams marketing man talked to about his new role, some new elements he will bring to the championship and how he intends to go about reviving the championship's fortunes

Richard West Q&A

In order to assist in lessening the confusion of terms like Super Touring, Super Production, Euro STC and all the other things that are floating around, we're saying that it's the BTCC and that has two categories within it - BTC Touring and BTC Production. BTC Touring is the old class A with the Vauxhalls and the Peugeots. The production category has had to take account of some very serious and justified concerns of the guys who had previously been putting their commitment, teams and livelihoods into the National Saloon Car Championship (NSC). We talked long and hard about what we could to secure the old class B and NSC under the BTCC banner. Several meetings have taken place, the last within the last 24 hours. We want to provide a platform where they will share the large amount of the benefits of the overall championship in terms of its TV and its promotion. To do that we've obviously got to decide how those people are actually going to get a shot at running.

The limitation to the number of Touring and Production cars will ultimately be governed by the circuit licence. Everyone's very comfortable with that, because basically it means that as many cars as the circuits can hold will race. The pressure will be on everyone to put together their ultimate qualifying, time. At some circuits everyone will get a shot and at others not everyone - that's just a fact of life.

There will be mandatory pit stops in feature races for Touring, but not for Production, which could be interesting. We've run some computations through Peter Riches [BTCC scrutineer] and it shows there's going to be some good overtaking. So what we're going to get in certain weather conditions is situations where there is going to be a lot more mixing and matching. This will give the NSC guys a chance to mix and match with the big boys. They are all very very happy about it. And now we've got two levels of the sport - Touring and Production working in the same direction.

No. Touring is the premier category and carries the ultimate crown. The actual points systems are under consideration. We want to look at ways in which points might be used to add extra excitement. It needs a serious look.

Out of the number of entries allowed by a circuit licence the promoters are holding back the right to reserve two wild cards. There are a number of very high-profile people out there, who very much want to come and do events. The wild card system is there to provide issues that will allow far more entertaining elements to be introduced into the races.

It's an issue that's been raised, but I can't give you an answer yet. It's still on the list.

My view is that qualifying is qualifying. If you go to a GP and Schumacher only has a one-minute run and he gets a puncture, nobody would get too sympathetic. The times are the dictate. It's got to be fair and you can't start pulling favours for people. Motor racing is what it is.

The technical rules are in place, but there are a number of areas where we will have to clarify certain points. There will be a meeting next week. There is an application in from a number of people who would like to run rear wheel-drive. The issue is the Lexus.

The 2001 contract is solid and 2002 and beyond is being discussed. [Former BBC Grandstand producer] Mark Wilkin, made the comments he did [expressing concerns over the series' quality]. I took it up with Dave Gordon [the BBC's executive editor TV Sport]. He wrote back saying. "The BTCC has a year of its current contract to run with TOCA and its production company. Given Grandstand's long-standing commitment to the championship, it will come as no surprise that we look forward to continuing this relationship for some time. We're committed to offering the audience the best of British motorsport and have always viewed the BTCC as the premier series in this country. That said, we have had a genuine cause for concern as events have unfolded over recent months. We recognise the importance of a strong entry with committed multi-manufacturer interest and drivers with public appeal. Going back a matter of weeks it seemed that 2001 would fall short of these requirements, however we now recognise that concrete steps have been taken in pursuit of the aims of the championship, with the appointment of Richard West. We're extremely hopeful that next year's championship will again provide our viewers with attractive and exciting viewing." So now it's up to me, BMP and the teams who come to the championship to enable the BBC and ourselves to conclude a long-term arrangement.

A lot of people have been used to a considerable amount of money. Those fees are not there now. Teams are casting their nest around the world and manufacturer teams are also talking to people who could fill the wild card slots. New stars will emerge. Youngsters can be made into stars or fall guys in a matter of days.

Nigel is still a huge draw. I have not asked him about driving touring cars, but I know if he does come back and do anything he will want to do it properly. There are other big names around too and if they can drive to a safe and competitive standard, we should use them. And if you can, then those people will bring in a different audience. I've not spoken to him, but to my mind the ideal person to approach would be someone like [World Superbike star] Noriyuki Haga. People would want to be there just to see what happens.

New BTCC boss named

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