You’d be hard pressed to spot the new generation of British Touring Cars during the first three races of the new season at Brands Hatch last Sunday. Aside from a couple of new marques it was business as usual with Jason Plato and Matt Neal winning in a Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic respectively.
The new turbo-charged NGTC-engined cars were slightly quicker in a straight-line than the normally-aspirated units, but again there is nothing unusual about hearing Plato moan about rivals blasting past him – LPG and diesels have been doing the same for the last couple of years. Ultimately it’s always a two litre petrol car that has taken the title and that could still happen this year as Plato once again leads the standings after some very accomplished driving from the old-pro. Jason’s first two 2011 victories also took his career total to 62, surpassing Andy Rouse’s 60 wins that were collected in a great variety of fire-spitting machinery through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
I was chuffed to see fellow scouse Paul O’Neill up there on the podium in race three, although not half as pleased as the man himself was! Speedworks were also representing my region as the Cheshire team ran their new Toyota Avensis which is still lacking the development it needs to put in a really respectable performance.
The new rules may have had little effect on the spectacle but teams like Speedworks are evidence that it could provide a lifeline to smaller teams which brings a spot of variety to the grid, always a healthy sign. It’s a lot better than watching half a grid of Vauxhalls knocking each other off the road back in 2001 when the BTCC last had a major rulebook rethink. This time around there is a welcome mix of old cars that have had new life breathed into them by the turbo engines and all-new machines such as the Toyota, the Audi and the new ‘global’ Ford Focus. TOCA have learned the lessons of the past choosing to evolve things a little slower than when they ditched the Super Tourers that the BTCC pioneered.