Should BTCC meetings have a greater variety of support classes?
OPINION: The BTCC meetings feature some of the largest trackside crowds around. But perhaps now is the time to reward them with an unusual series to add to the entertainment
Thruxton is a fantastic place to watch motorsport – last weekend’s British Touring Car meeting at the Hampshire speedbowl was yet another reminder of that. And the addition of the viewing area at the high-speed Noble corner, offering a panoramic overview of much of the circuit, from the Complex all the way up Woodham Hill and towards the Club chicane, means there is now yet another excellent vantage point for spectators to observe the slipstreaming action.
Yet, sadly, one of the categories making a guest appearance last weekend was down on numbers and – aside from Charles Clark’s recovery from the back to a podium in race two – there was not all that much action for fans to view in the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB contests. Qualifying was the perfect demonstration of this, with the majority of the nine cars spending much of the half-hour session in the pits in order to preserve tyres, with just one actually taking the chequered flag.
It is a shame the category has yet to really reach its full potential, despite benefiting from featuring a proven Porsche product and having an attractive mix of race dates at both BTCC and British GT events, meaning drivers are racing in front a range of audiences and potential sponsors.
The series for the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport machines did not exactly have the easiest start to life with it being launched in 2020 amid all the coronavirus uncertainty, which then had a knock-on impact into 2021. It has subsequently struggled to build momentum this year, something that has been shown in stark contrast to the thriving sister Carrera Cup GB series – which, with a new car, has attracted some stunning grids (both in quality and quantity) already this year.
The situation at Thruxton was not helped by a number of the amateur drivers having clashing pre-existing commitments – be it business or family-related – and then the absence of the traditional Friday pre-event test day limited the potential for any newcomers to join for this round. And that is understandable, after all – if you are an amateur driver, you probably would not want your first experience of a new car to be in qualifying at the fastest circuit in the UK.
“It was a perfect storm,” admits Porsche GB motorsport manager James MacNaughton. “There’s still a lot of interest in the championship and we’re working very hard to improve the situation.”
Promoters of the main support series have to commit to a presence at all 10 BTCC rounds, so often rotate their series
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey Photography
The disappointing grid then got Autosport thinking about some of the other guest series to appear at Thruxton over the years. For example, the Mini Se7ens and Miglias that provided wonderful entertainment at the venue back in 2019, when they secured a spot on the bill. And wouldn’t it be great if more successful crowd-pleasing club categories got the chance to appear on the UK’s biggest national motorsport stage?
Thinking back over time, there has been Historic Touring Cars in the 1990s, and Scottish Legends – alongside other north-of-the-border categories – have taken a number of slots at the Knockhill fixture over the years. There is no shortage of series that would be a fantastic guest addition to the bill, whether it be the Mini 7 Racing Club, or perhaps the National Legends Championship or the Classic Touring Car Racing Club and its plethora of tin-tops from days gone by.
Given all of the promoters have multiple series under their wings – with the exception of British Formula 4, which features at all 10 anyway – they have alternative categories to rotate when the established ones are having a weekend off
Now, I recognise this is somewhat fanciful thinking. When it comes to the biggest motorsport show in town, money talks. The promoters of the five regular support series, understandably, are required to pay to appear at all 10 BTCC events regardless of how many they actually include on their calendars. And given all of the promoters have multiple series under their wings – with the exception of British Formula 4, which features at all 10 anyway – they have alternative categories to rotate when the established ones are having a weekend off.
Thruxton last weekend was a great example of this as the Ginetta GT5 Challenge took the spot of the GT4 Supercup, the Mini Challenge Trophy was there in place of the faster JCW Mini machines and then the Sprint Challenge GB deputised for the Carrera Cup. In other words, there is not any room for anything a little left-field.
But that could change in the future. New British F4 organiser Motorsport UK has made no secret of the fact that it would it like to showcase the next generation of British single-seater talent at a Formula 1 race weekend and it has considered adding an overseas event to the schedule. Should this happen in the coming years, it could present the chance for something a little different to appear on the BTCC bill.
Thruxton was packed with spectators last weekend enjoying the spring sunshine – well, on Saturday at least! – and, as the premier circuit racing package in the country, it is important a stunning show is put on for those watching trackside, let alone those tuning in from home. Adding a bit of variety to the championships getting the chance to race in the spotlight, with a packed grid full of unusual cars, would be a great way of doing that.
Increasing the variety of support series at BTCC meetings would be a great way to ensure maximum entertainment is provided for fans
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey Photography
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