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Alan Gow: New BTCC calendar “a challenge”

Series boss Alan Gow admits that it has been a challenge to try and put together a new calendar for the 2020 BTCC season after the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread disruption in global motorsport.

The series announced earlier this week that it was aiming to run nine of the ten planned events, with a season starting at Donington Park in early August and running through to Brands Hatch in mid-November.

Speaking following the announcement of the new calendar, Gow admitted that it had been a challenge to secure nine dates that ensured the series would be able to maintain live TV coverage, with a number of other sports having also moved events to dates later in the year.

“It has been hard because we have to work our calendar alongside other sports that are shifting dates to the second half of the year,” he said. “That includes things like the Tour de France and the French Open tennis which are now running in September and October, and ITV has to accommodate them as well. There was one stage where I had the calendar done and then the Tour de France moved dates, so we had to start again.”

Securing dates with ITV was key not only to fulfil the existing broadcast contract, but also because of the fact that government restrictions may lead to the series being forced to run behind closed doors in early rounds.

However, Gow said he was hopeful that fans would be able to attend, with three months until the first race is planned to take place.

“It depends on the government,” he said. “If we have to go behind closed doors then that is what we will have to do, although it isn’t the preferred option for us. We have to see what is said, but the optimistic part of me says that there are three months to go until we plan to race and hopefully there will be some movement by then; particularly with an open air event like ours where you can still do social distancing.

“Our objective is to have fans at the meetings, but I’m sure they would rather watch on ITV than not watch at all. It will come down to the government.”

The new calendar is set to provide challenges for teams given the need to compress nine events into a three month period, with a number of back-to-back races currently planned.

The final two rounds, at Snetterton and Brands Hatch, will also be run when the clocks have gone back for winter, which are likely to lead to schedule revisions to ensure that racing can be held before darkness falls.

“We would have liked to have bigger gaps between meetings but we had to pack them in and the teams are up for it,” he said. “None of them have put their heads in their hands and said that it is going to be a nightmare.

“I can’t imagine sunscreen being needed when we get to Brands Hatch and it is going to be cold, but then again it has been cold before in October. The challenge will be the daylight hours and the fact that sunset is around 4pm.

“However, we do six hour days at Oulton Park where we can only race from lunch on the Sunday, so if we start and finish early at Brands Hatch, that shouldn’t be an issue. We just need to amend the timetables to be done before sunset.