Blog 6 - BTCC in 2020, and beyond...
New for 2020 As the amazing end to the 2019 descends into the sunset of the year, I wanted to take a quick look at what is changing for the BTCC in 2020. Of course the driver merry go round is in full swing, it wouldn’t be the festive season without it, but what are the more generalised changes that we can expect to see in 2020?
Series organiser TOCA sat down alongside the existing teams to go through what could be improved and what could be done away with, and the upshot of it all was that a small number of minor regulation changes could be applied. Basically, the three main changes relate to: - The qualifying format - Tyre options - Success Ballast tyre choices
I know not everyone is as nerdy as I am when it comes to these things (the wife’s words, not mine – she knows best of course, that won’t change for 2020!), so here’s what is hopefully a thorough yet not “er… what?” overview of what’s going on. Qualifying This is perhaps the most obvious on-track change and, unfortunately in my eyes, this will only be first trialled at Snetterton. I say unfortunately because I happen to think it’s a great idea that should be rolled out straight away at the Donington Park opener in a unfamiliar re-jig of the calendar… but I understand that might be a risk at the start of the season and may set a year-long precedent if it’s not successful, even though it should be a roaring success.
In short, instead of the now-usual 30 minute session, drivers will have 25 minutes to hurtle around the East Anglian circuit as quickly as they can keeping it between the lines and recording their time. The is where the new “Formula 1 style” changes come into play – The top-ten drivers then proceed into into a ten minute “Quali 2” session in a shootout to discover who boots it sufficiently to stick on that coveted pole position, and that potentially vital bonus point that comes with it. Then of course the times count back all the way down to tenth, and the fastest non-qualifier being guaranteed 11th. Then 12th, 13th, and so on and so forth. Not a major change, but it certainly makes it a little more exciting and more of a head-to-head competition and the pointy end which, let’s face it, is why we all love the BTCC. It’d be nice if this got some television coverage….
Tyres Given that it all seemed to go rather well last year, all team will use all three Goodyear tyre compounds – The Hard (woohoo!! Ahem…), Medium and Soft Compounds – on the race day starting at Snetterton. This seems a little odd, because if some teams are naturally better suited to say, the soft compound (the lighter hot hatches would benefit from this) on certain circuits, this would hinder some teams and help others before this “leveller” at Snetterton… but anyway, just my opinion! This will be also happen at Croft where the circuit has been resurfaced Again, if this is to be done in mid-season, could it not be done first at Croft where teams will be unfamiliar with tyre degradation due to the aforementioned resurfacing? Ours is not to reason why…. Incidentally, teams will no longer have to specify what tyres they’re using before qualifying, or the race in which they will use their ‘Option’ tyre. Instead, they can make their choice during the course of race day after seeing how, say, race one pans out and how they’re sitting in the championship against what their rivals do in that first race, and vice versa. This means teams will be able to modify their strategies race on race, and not have to “sacrifice” a race here and there because they’re on the “rubbish” tyre. Interesting dynamic…
Whatever the thinking behind it, the use of all three tyre compound across a raceday should certainly make for some more exciting racing, interesting strategies, and plenty of overtaking as tyres fall off a cliff in the latter stages. Success ballast Again, minor tweaks so as not to change the format we know and (generally) love. Maximum success ballast will be increased to 60 kilograms, then dropping by 6kg for each place as we head back down the grid as far as 10th place. Ballast brackets as follows: 1st: 60kg 2nd: 54kg 3rd: 48kg 4th: 42kg 5th: 36kg 6th: 30kg 7th: 24kg 8th: 18kg 9th: 12kg 10th: 6kg
As I said, not huge differences but certainly enough to make it a little more interesting. The main thing might be that drivers spend an extra couple of minutes using the “facilities” to offset the additional weight… if you catch my drift.
So to sum up, it seems that Sir Alan of Gow has absolutely correctly used the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach” to the rules and regulations for 2020, and has gone for the fine tuning approach which is absolutely fine by us here in the Compound. Nothing really changes in terms of favouring the rear end of the grid over the front end to make it more interesting; those with the best package will still see them rewarded, those with work to do or those who are new to the game will know the level they need to attain, and the racegoers and supporters get a little more bang for their buck on Saturday… which is never a bad thing!
Beyond 2020 But what looms over the horizon beyond 2020 I heard you ask? Well, we’ll tell you… Briefly… because we need something to write about in future… What we love about the BTCC is that it has always been built on modifying cars you can drive on the road and taking them racing. Sure this has jumped up a few notches since your author started watching a Kaliber-backed For Sierra hurtling around a track (the driver was called Any… something… not sure if he was any good….), but that is still the appeal to the majority of today’s fans. With this in the forefront of people’s mind, and as we all know electrification of motor vehicles is (and has to be) the future if our grandkids aren’t going to be living in caves by 2080, it would be nonsensical, if perhaps slightly unwanted for the purists among us, for the BTCC not to head down the lightbulb-over-charcoal route.
For 2022 it is being proposed that the BTCC will enter a hybrid era. This does not mean it’ll be the British Prius Wafting Championship, not the British Leaf Blower Championship, it just means a nod towards helping to preserve the world in which our kids will grow up watching some brilliant racing in. There has to be a working balance: The show must go on without destroying the stage provided for it.
Again without going into too fine a detail on this, and nothing is finalised, but the basic idea is to use a variation on the hybrid technology we see in many road going cars of today (reverting back to the initial draw of touring cars for many), and give each driver 15 seconds of additional hybrid boost per lap should the driver wish to use it (approximately and additional 40bhp stuffed in the back pocket).
Before the “you’re making it like Mario Kart” brigade wind up their sirens, it and the purists say it’s not proper racing, it’s getting too technical etc etc… let’s face it, the world has been changing and still is change, just as racing has been changing and still is changing. This is not a new phenomenon. It should be noted that this 15 seconds can only be used under full traction. This minimises the locations on a lap where the boost can be used, so it’s not a case of “whack the button, stamp on the noisy pedal and blast past”, it’s a calculated use of an additional tool.
While DRS in Formula 1 sometimes makes the car in front a proverbial sitting duck, powerless to prevent an overtake, this extra burst of hybrid horsepower brings an extra dimension into the skillset of a driver – the response of a driver to a competitor coming up behind them with their button pressed will depend on how much energy each driver has managed to store up on that lap. This brings in a new opportunity for racecraft and race strategy, just like pitstops used to.
Of course plenty will poo-poo this new technology, but as I said, whether we like it or not, the world withing motorsport is changing, but not half as much as the world outside it. So when it comes our way, let’s give this technology a chance and focus on the racing it produces rather than hypothesise over whether it might ruin the BTCC. We can’t always be purists, sadly the world isn’t a pure place.
*For the record, I am not a tree hugger or an eco-warrior. I drive a Diesel Vauxhall Insignia, love travelling, motorsport and aeroplanes, and still get annoyed when I think I can cross a road then get a fright when there’s a Nissan Leaf hairdryering it’s way past me 8 inches from my toes!
Anyway, back to more enjoyable thoughts… the 2020 BTCC season is less than 100 days away, the Formula 1 season is even closer, as is the new MotoGP, BSB and WSB season, and if you’re into the sandy side of things, the Dakar Rally starts in under a week!
Thank you dear reader for your time, I hope you enjoyed this ramble through regulations, waffle and opinions. Please do offer your thoughts, keep them clean, keep them respectful.
Until our next post in 2020 looking back at 2019. Have a fantastic new year and stay tuned to The Hard Compound – we might just have some excellent news and fantastic prizes to offer you.
Rich - THC