Interview : Alan Gow on the season ahead
Thu 24th March 2011 BTCC Series Director Alan Gow discusses grid sizes, equivalency and manufacturer entries.
By Matt Lamprell
The 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has unveiled a record entry list featuring 27 cars across 13 different models from 10 makes. It's no coincidence that this comes as NGTC-spec cars take to the tack for the first time
Alan Gow has overseen different eras of the BTCC during his time in charge. He was responsible for the success of the Super Touring period during the nineties. He then returned in 2003 and was in charge when the championship adopted S2000 regulations. Midway through 2009 came the announcement that the BTCC would transition to what was called 'Next Generation Touring Cars' (NGTC) regulations.
In 2011, we're starting to see the results of the new, cost-effective NGTC regulations, as Gow explains: "For us to be able to announce 10 different makes and 13 different models, with 27 cars on the grid, it's the biggest we've had for 20 years.
"The NGTC car is introduced this year fully. It made its debut at Brands Hatch last year but this is the first year that it will compete fully. For the next two years, there's equivalency between the turbo-charged cars and the normally aspirated S2000 cars. From 2013 onwards, the new cars step up a little in terms of performance.
"The basis of the new regulations is that we wanted to make the new cars a little bit bigger than they are at the moment, a bit beefier. They will have better performance than the current cars from 2013. They look the business, they sound the business. They've got better brakes, better suspension and everything else. They're a proper car to drive."
With the transition to the new regulations comes the challenge of balancing performance between different types of car. Last year, Team Aon's LPG engine had to be restricted to prevent it running away from the pack in a straight line. Before that, it was petrol versus diesel. There is no alternative fuel debate in 2011, but with three different combinations of car and engine, there's still work to be done.
"It's not that difficult to be honest", says Gow. "If I remember back into the nineties, there was a year when we had to try and work out equivalency between front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, five-cylinder, six-cylinder, 12-cylinder. That was complicated. Just to do the equivalency between two different types of engine is simple."
Two of the new NGTC teams in 2011 are running Toyota's Avensis model, which was developed by GPR Motorsport as the prototype for the new regulations. While they're not represented as a works team, the Japanese brand is assisting Frank Wrathall's Dynojet team with its engine development. Just as in 2010, Chevrolet and Honda are contesting the Manufacturers' championship.
Alan Gow has no concerns over the number of manufacturers officially represented on the grid. "We've got exactly the mix we want", he says. "It's dangerous to have a race series that's completely populated by manufacturers. It's the right mix to have some manufacturers, some semi-works efforts and some very strong private teams. We've seen over the past few years just what sort of racing it produces, so I think we've got it about right."
With up to 27 cars on the grid, the new season looks set to be a thriller when it gets underway at Brands Hatch in just over a week's time.