BTCC Series Director Alan Gow believes the Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC) route was the only way to bring in new competitors and maintain the strength of the field in the BTCC, and praises Motorbase Performance’s new Ford Focus ST, debuted at the last meeting at Snetterton.
The BTCC’s Next Generation Touring Car regulations has brought in three all-new cars for this year’s Championship, with Triple Eight Race Engineering’s MG6 and Team Dynamics’ Honda Civic starting the season at Brands Hatch, both already multiple race winners and fighting for the title, and now Motorbase Performance building their NGTC Ford Focus over the summer break for Mat Jackson, which showed strong potential at Snetterton.
Series Director Alan Gow believes this highlights the potential and promise of the regulations, also as the Focus is the first car that Motorbase have built for the BTCC.
“That’s a great tick in the box for the regulations,” said Gow to TouringCarTimes. “It’s turned a team who’s never constructed a car before and turned them into a race car constructor, and it’s a great looking car too.”
One of the main concerns by the teams, which perhaps delayed Motorbase’s decision to develop the NGTC car and has stayed off other front-running teams such as West Surrey Racing from committing to the regulations, and was an influential factor in a few teams’ decision to move to the WTCC, has been the rising cost of the NGTC cars, which has been said to be equal if not more than the cost of an S2000 car upfront, to which Gow explains:
“They’re more than what was originally planned because we had a bit of mission creep into the original costs, because we kept on upping the spec all the time. During the exercise, the Technical Working Group, which is comprised of the teams, wanted to go a to a higher spec on this and that, which pays dividends down the road in terms of lower running costs, but makes for an increased initial cost, but that’s a decision that was made by the teams collectively.”
The running costs are the key cost element highlighted by Gow in regards to the undesirable nature of Super 2000, and also explains that the age of the current S2000 cars which are available is also an offputting factor for teams.
“It’s the running costs that are the killers, the engines etc. There are quite clearly teams and drivers out there that wouldn’t have been out there if we’d have stayed with S2000; the Wrathalls, Speedworks, they wouldn’t have come in on S2000 as they couldn’t have afforded to, especially when S2000 cars are getting old.”
“The other problem you’ve got is the BMWs out there are very old cars, and there’s very little life left ahead of them, and BMW have announced that they’re not building a new car to S2000. So you’ve got old cars out there that people don’t want to buy. A guy coming into the BTCC won’t want to buy a five-year-old BMW off of the WTCC, so you’ve got a problem with stock – cost and stock is an issue that was creeping into the WTCC.”
Alan Gow, in addition to his role as series director for the BTCC, is also the President of the FIA Touring Car Committee, which oversees the rules used in the FIA’s championships, including the World Touring Car Championship and European Touring Car Cup. Gow explains that the FIA regulations aren’t designed in mind for national championships, and in the current economic climate, indicates that S2000 isn’t a viable route for national championships such as the BTCC, adding:
“I think I’m fairly right in saying I don’t think there’s a national championship in the world that runs those S2000 cars anymore…China took them on but they have changed the regulations to suit them so I don’t think there’s a touring car championship left that runs to strict S2000 regulations anymore – just variations of them as we did. It was because of the cost of those cars, so that’s never going to change.”
“From the FIA’s point of view, we don’t have a take on national championships, so it’s up to the national championships what they do.”
Although manufacturers are unable to make use of their developments in national series as they have done previously (SEAT, Chevrolet, BMW), Gow explains that’s not a problem given the current state of touring car racing globally.
“That’s the beauty of the regulations, it doesn’t require a manufacturer globally or domestically to go through the huge cost of design and homologation of the cars, as it’s been done for them.”
“Motorbase is your perfect example. If you went to Ford and said could you design me a touring car please, if they wanted to and they had the desire to do it, it would cost them a lot of money to do. Here, you’ve got teams that can put a Ford on the track with no involvement from Ford at all, that is absolutely ideal for a national championship – because you’re not reliant on a manufacturer having to do that for you. If you did, you’d have the problem that we’ve got with manufacturers not committing to touring cars at the moment.”