Triple Eight Race Engineering team boss Ian Harrison says his team may consider a switch to rear-wheel drive, claiming that the British Touring Car Championship rules “favour a RWD platform”.
Harrison made the comments after a dominant display from the rear-wheel drive BMWs of the eBay Motors team at Oulton Park at the weekend, who stormed to pole position, two race wins and an additional three podium finishes.
“NGTC has been a great success in terms of giving teams the opportunity to compete in the BTCC,” said Harrison. “What has become clear, however, is that as the cars have now been developed close to the maximum of their performance within the regulations, the NGTC technical regs favour a RWD platform.”
The boss of the MG team hinted at changing chassis in the future to a rear-wheel drive configuration if his concerns are not addressed in the meantime.
“Naturally we, like other teams, will have to look to the future to see which RWD platforms are available to us because unless the disparity is addressed, we will certainly be forced down the RWD route,” added Harrison. “If other teams follow suit, the championship runs the risk of not reflecting the automobile industry which is predominantly FWD.”
The team’s lead driver Jason Plato secured just the one podium finish at the weekend, having been penalised in the final race for contact with Colin Turkington’s BMW. The former double champion says he didn’t expect to see such domination from the WSR team.
“It was good to get points, but we certainly didn’t expect to be so far off the BMWs,” admitted Plato. “They were on a different level this weekend. There’s meant to be performance parity, but once again the rear-wheel drive cars streaked ahead at the start and into the distance. It’s a BMW championship, I’m afraid.
“We’ve reached the point where we can’t do any better because we’re not allowed to,” added Plato of the level of development within the NGTC rule set. “When all the NGTC cars are developed, RWD is inherently better; better weight distribution, better traction. They need extra weight or a longer first gear.
“That’s not just based on today; it’s based on 20 years’ experience. I think they’ll win races everywhere, and with circuits such as Croft and Knockhill coming up, Colin could be way ahead come September.”
Plato’s team-mate Sam Tordoff also expressed surprise with the way the weekend’s race panned out, expecting the MG to be closer to the front following a brace of wins, including a 1-2 finish, at the Cheshire circuit in 2013.
“I was happy-ish with how the weekend went,” admitted Tordoff. “We scored good points, but we weren’t where we thought we would be. In previous years the MG has been the car to beat, so we went into the weekend thinking we’d be the benchmark, especially given the changes we made over the winter.
“However the BMWs were surprisingly quick and despite it being great to drive, the new layout didn’t allow for overtaking which made it quite a static race; the only real overtaking at the front was done at the start, by the BMWs and Audi.
“If it wasn’t for some bad luck in race two we would’ve had three top-six finishes, which I would’ve been happy with given the pace of the rear-wheel drive contingent. It wasn’t a bad weekend at all, but circumstances outside of our control stopped it being really good.”
As a result of the weekend’s races Turkington has moved into a nine-point championship lead ahead of Honda’s Gordon Shedden. Plato is fourth, 36 points adrift of Turkington, whilst Tordoff remains eighth in the points, 81 points adrift.