The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has unveiled a 25-car entry for its 2012 season, with 24 of those due to take the grid for the first event – an increase on the number that started 12 months ago.
No fewer than 10 different models from nine different makes – Audi, BMW, Ford, Honda, MG, Proton, Toyota, Vauxhall and VW – will be rolled out by the 14 teams which will contest this year’s BTCC, which begins at the world famous Brands Hatch circuit in Kent on the weekend of March 31-April 1.
Notably, for the first time, every car on the BTCC grid will race with a turbocharged 2.0 litre engine. More than half the cars are built to the championship’s full ‘Next Generation Touring Car’ (NGTC) regulations that are leading to a rapid return of bigger, more aggressive-looking machinery. The remainder are all current S2000-based cars equipped with turbo engines built to NGTC specification.
This year’s BTCC, sponsored by automotive and motor sport tyre giant Dunlop, will again comprise of 10 events featuring 30 ferociously contested races (three on each race day) at nine venues around the UK including Fife’s Knockhill– meaning the nation’s favourite car racing attraction can be easily accessed by the vast majority of the population.
Each of the 10 meetings will receive a minimum six hours of live television coverage on ITV4 and ITV4 HD – ‘simulcast’ on the www.itv.com website. Highlights across the network on ITV1, ITV4, ITV4 HD and again on its website will be shown in the following week.
Dunlop and ITV Sport remain committed as the championship’s title sponsor and broadcast partner respectively through to the end of 2013 at least. In addition, an increasing number of ‘big name’ brands are also joining the BTCC grid as sponsors of teams and drivers.
BTCC series director Alan Gow said: “Words such as ‘staggering’ or ‘phenomenal’ are often over-used, but both very genuinely apply to the BTCC’s current health.
“Our trackside crowd and TV viewing audience figures continue to reach new heights – Brands Hatch has advised us that ticket sales for its opening round in a fortnight are its biggest ever for a BTCC event this far in advance.
“Now, here we are, ready to start another great season and with a larger grid than at the first round last year – despite the very challenging economic climate.
“Once again the BTCC boasts terrific depth of competition as well as a huge and exciting variety of different makes and models of car. And I have little doubt that, just as with seasons past, the number of cars will increase as new teams and drivers take on the challenge of competing in the UK’s biggest motor racing championship.
“We all know that things are tough out there, so I sincerely applaud all our teams, drivers and their sponsors for their incredible determination and the loyalty they have shown to the championship. Our own partners, Dunlop, ITV Sport, HiQ, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Dennis Publishing and Fujifilm are also companies that truly live and breathe the BTCC.
“In fact it is a ringing endorsement of the BTCC’s cost-effectiveness and proven ability to ‘deliver’ on a great many levels that such well-known brands are becoming increasingly involved.
“The expanded line-up of NGTC-specification cars is only going to add to the spectacle with their more intimidating presence and flame-belching exhausts. It could well be that one of them wins this year’s championship, but equally a very well-sorted S2000-turbo car could also take the title. But whoever takes away the ultimate prize – and one of the most famous trophies in global motor sport – we are guaranteed a fascinating fight and an extraordinary season ahead of us.”