After a delay due to COVID-19, the 2020 British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) season begins this weekend.
It marks the return of the biggest national motorsport series in the UK, and one that is guaranteed to deliver on-track action.
Teams and drivers will be heading to Donington Park in Leicestershire, ahead of three races on Sunday.
To help you get up to speed, we have a full guide to everything you need to know about the BTCC.
What exactly is the British Touring Car Championship?
The BTCC is one of the oldest motorsport competitions in the world, with roots that stretch back to 1958. Production-based cars, like those driven by millions across the country, have been the foundation of the series since it began.
Each race weekend consists of a qualifying session on Saturday, followed by three individual races on Sunday. Various regulations aim to make the racing as competitive as possible, with a real emphasis on entertaining spectators and those watching at home on TV.
The series has become well known for close contact action, with plenty of rubbing and barging between competitors. It means that a BTCC race weekend is unlikely to be without a dose of drama and controversy, along with unpredictable results.
What cars do they use in the BTCC?
Cars used in the BTCC are meant to resemble modified versions of the ones that fans have parked on their own driveway. That means a mixture of family hatchbacks and compact saloons, ranging from the BMW 3 Series to the Honda Civic Type-R.
Using standard production cars as a base helps lower the overall costs of competing. BTCC cars are built to Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC) rules. This includes standardised parts for suspension, aerodynamics, brakes, and wheels.
All models must use a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, producing around 350 hp. Teams can choose to build their own engine, or use a standard motor developed by the BTCC organisers.
Which car manufacturers are involved in the BTCC for 2020?
Unlike the heydays of the 1990s, the BTCC currently has only a small roster of official manufacturers competing. The 2020 season will see BMW, Honda, and Toyota taking part as factory constructors.
Subaru UK will not be present in 2020, following four years of competition with the Levorg GT estate.
The remainder of the grid for 2020 is formed from private independent teams. Making use of the NGTC rules means that smaller outfits can still compete against the factory-backed contenders.
What are the future plans for cars used in the BTCC?
In order to stay relevant to the cars driven by those who watch BTCC racing, the series has committed to introducing hybrid petrol cars in 2022.
Although not set to be as complicated as the systems used in Formula One, drivers will be able to use the hybrid electric power for an additional performance boost.
Recent testing has seen a hybrid-powered BTCC Toyota Corolla hit the track, successfully completing numerous evaluations.
What makes racing in the BTCC competitive?
Chief Executive Alan Gow is renowned for trying to make racing in the BTCC as close as possible. Various rules and regulations aim to stop situations like Formula One, with a single team or driver dominating the competition.
Starting positions are dictated differently for each of the three races across the weekend. Grid places for race one are determined by qualifying on Saturday. Race two is based upon the finishing positions of race one.
Finally, race three uses the finishing positions of race three, but with randomised reversed positions. It is all intended to encourage overtaking and prevent races from being a foregone conclusion before they even start.
Success weight is added to the cars of the drivers in the top ten championship positions before each race weekend. The extra ballast is intended to reign the leaders in, with the driver in first position having to carry a substantial 60 kg.
The success ballast is adjusted after each race, according to the top ten finishing positions.
Who is the defending BTCC champion?
Team BMW’s Colin Turkington is the current defending Drivers’ Champion, having taken victory in dramatic fashion at the final round of 2019. His championship success last year marked his fourth title victory, having previously won in 2008, 2014, and 2018.
The Manufacturers’ Championship was won by Team BMW (West Surrey Racing), with the Teams’ title taken by Halfords Yuasa Racing – the official Honda team.
Rory Butcher was the winner of the Jack Sears Trophy. This is contested by drivers who have never previously achieved a podium position in the BTCC.
Will I know any of the other drivers in the BTCC for 2020?
The relative accessibility of BTCC means it appeals to drivers from a wide range of racing backgrounds.
Honda Halfords Yuasa Racing driver Matt Neal will be familiar to anyone who has watched the series since the 1990s. This year will mark Neal’s 30th season competing in the BTCC.
Nic Hamilton, the younger brother of Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton, returns for 2020. He will be driving a Volkswagen CC prepared by Team Hard.
BTCC regular, and Fifth Gear TV presenter, Jason Plato will sit out this season. He aims to return in 2021 driving for Power Maxed Racing, which has taken a sabbatical for 2020.
What support races does the BTCC have for 2020?
The BTCC is the main draw on each race weekend, but it is not the only on-track action taking place. Five other support championships compete at each event, ensuring a packed day of racing.
New for 2020 is the Mini Challenge UK, using race-prepared versions of the Mini hatchback. It replaces the Renault Clio Cup UK, which had supported the series since 2000.
Other championships include the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the Ginetta GT4 Supercup, and the single-seater F4 British Championship.
Will spectators be allowed to attend the 2020 BTCC season?
The BTCC is the most popular national motorsport series in the UK for spectators. However, COVID-19 means not every circuit will be allowing fans to attend for the truncated 2020 season.
MotorSport Vision (MSV), owner of Donington Park, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, and Snetterton, has previously said spectators will be allowed to attend.
However, a last-minute government decision has stopped fans from attending the opening rounds at Donington Park. MSV is now reviewing arrangements for its other circuits.
The situation is a fluid one, so fans are advised to monitor social media updates if they are planning on booking tickets to attend BTCC races.
How can I watch the BTCC on TV?
The BTCC agreed a multi-year deal with ITV in 2015, committing to keeping the series on free-to-air TV until 2022.
Freeview channel ITV4 will show at least seven hours of live coverage from each race day, broadcasting between 10:40 and 18:15. Highlights will also be shown on ITV4 and ITV after each event.
Fans can watch race action online through the itv.com website, which also screens live qualifying on Saturdays.
CBS Sports Network shows highlights for those in North America.
2020 British Touring Car Championship Calendar
COVID-19 has seen changes made to the structure of the 2020 BTCC calendar, with an additional event at Silverstone dropped.
It now means there will be nine race weekends, each with three race rounds, spread across three and a half months of competition.
|1 – 3||Donington Park||1 / 2 August 2020|
|4 – 6||Brands Hatch (Indy Circuit)||8 / 9 August 2020|
|7 – 9||Oulton Park||22 / 23 August 2020|
|10 – 12||Knockhill||29 / 30 August 2020|
|13 – 15||Thruxton||19 / 20 September 2020|
|16 – 18||Silverstone||26 / 27 September 2020|
|19 – 21||Croft||10 / 11 October 2020|
|22 – 24||Snetterton||24 / 25 October 2020|
|25 – 27||Brands Hatch (GP Circuit)||14 / 15 November 2020|