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BTCC 2013 – the changes evaluated

TOCA, the BTCC Series organisers has introduced two major new aspects which are there to challenge drivers and keep costs down while introducing a new trophy for the S2000 cars.

The main changes announces were a new soft option tyre to be used in one of the three races over a weekend bar Thruxton, a three strikes penalty rule and a change to the way the boost levels were calculated, as well as the addition of the Jack Sears Trophy. The boost level changes have only just taken effect – Thruxton saw the first change –  so haven’t been covered here but will be featured at a later date.

At nine of the ten race weekends of the season, the Next Generation Touring Car entrants are required to use both the normal medium compound Dunlop tyre as well as the soft ‘option’ compound tyre – Thruxton saw just the hard compound used – and the tyre has already been victorious on.

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For fans heading to a BTCC event: Orange writing on the tyre sidewall = Medium Compound, White writing on the tyre sidewall = Soft/Option Compound.

To add to the challenge of using the option tyre – the driver has to choose which race they plan to run the tyre in prior to qualifying and nobody knows what race they will use the tyre in until the cars take to the track.

With the tyre making its début in the opening race at Brands Hatch, Rob Austin in the WIX Racing Audi A4 led the race on the tyre before dropping back but still secured a podium finish on the tyre.

Everyone expected the tyre to be quicker over the opening laps of a race before going off quicker – Austin suffered the degradation of the tyre while in the third race, Matt Neal in the Honda Yuasa Racing Team Honda Civic led home a Honda 1-2 finish on the soft tyres – which team-mate Gordon Shedden finishing 2nd from the back of the grid.

Donington Park saw a complete different challenge to Brands Hatch – the fast, flowing style of the circuit potentially playing into the hands of the drivers’ using the soft tyres.

P11 in the opening race was the highest placed driver on the soft tyres – Aron Smith in the Airwaves Racing NGTC Ford Focus – and race two it was P14 as the majority of the field opted to run the medium compound tyre.

Race 3 from Donington Park and the second victory for the soft tyre and a top 5 lock out, with the best placed medium compound runner 6th – and the difference between the fastest lap set by the soft and medium compound tyre was 0.8s, a 1 second difference was predicted.

Has this change worked? Hard to say as two completely different circuit in Oulton Park and Croft are coming up next. A clearer idea is come during the summer break.

The second main change was the introduction of a three strikes rule – after two driving offence penalties, the third would result in an immediate six place grid penalty.

This has been introduced to clean up the driving standards within the BTCC after it became a crash fest in 2012 with numerous penalties handed out every event, either fines or points on the racing licence.

It has already had an immediate effect as the amount of penalties awarded has decreased – five drivers in total after 9 races have had a penalty, the most severe was awarded at Brands Hatch as Frank Wrathall was awarded a fine and 3 penalty points on his licence.

Donington Park saw four drivers awarded 2 penalty points and an official reprimand for driving offences while Thruxton, the fastest circuit in the UK was a penalty free weekend.

Has this change worked? Yes, the driving standards are now cleaner with the racing being just as hard which in turns keeps the crowds entertained and coming back for more, and it gives the drivers more chance to complete the whole season as they aren’t paying out for expensive repair bills.

The introduction of the Jack Sears Trophy to the 2013 British Touring Car Championship has given the drivers’ who have been entered in S2000 machinery something to fight for and it has proved to be competitive thus far.

Out of the six entrants, 2 are BTCC regulars, 1 is a series returnee while 3 drivers have entered the BTCC for the first time, and 5 different types of S2000 car is represented on the grid.

It has given drivers who may otherwise not have had the chance to enter the series the opportunity to enter and potentially end up finishing on the podium alongside the big names of the series.

Leading the way after nine races is Liam Griffin and Lea Wood – the two series regulars driving cars they are used to and with teams they know, Griffin is in the Addison Lee Motorsport Ford Focus ST while Wood is in the Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing Vauxhall Vectra, with former BTCC Independents’ Champion James Kaye is third after nine races in the Volkswagen Golf.

Joe Girling, David Nye and Warren Scott complete the field and they are still learning their cars and teams but have all been competitive.

Has the introduction worked? Yes, it gives the S2000 cars a longer life and something for the entrants to aim for and a place on the podium each race – plus they will receive the trophy at the end of the season from Jack Sears himself. An honour indeed.

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