What is the BTCC? A History of British Touring Cars

25th Apr 2024

By Kenny Longdon

What is the BTCC?

The BTCC stands for 'British Touring Car Championship', which is a motor racing series that has been around since 1958.

Established as the 'British Saloon Car Championship', it was changed to the aforementioned in 1987. Over the BTCC's history, there's been multiple changes in terms of rules, cars and categories. This article will look at some of the key moments and explain the history in a little more detail.

Early days of the BTCC

Classic Touring Cars at Donington

Ken Gregory was the man responsible for bringing the idea of a national championship for saloon cars to life.

Individual classes were structured based on engine sizes, with the early years in 1958 showcasing cars like the Austin A35 and Ford Prefect in the lower classes, whilst the Ford Zephyr and 3.4 Jaguar were favoured in the larger categories.

The inaugural season was won by Jack Sears. Further on in the early '60s, it was the classic and now iconic Mini that ensured the racing series became popular, thanks to its giant-killing performances, beating cars with bigger engines, ensuring racing was exciting and unpredictable.

From 2013 the Jack Sears trophy could be won by drivers in addition to the regular championship and manufacturer trophies, ensuring the sport won't forget the winner of the very first BTCC season.

The 1980s Era

Legendary Touring Cars from Multiple Eras

The early '80s saw wins from Japanese cars like the rotary-engined Mazda RX7 and popular Toyota Corolla. The upper capacity limit was increased too, ensuring the Rover Vitesse becoming a frequent race winner.

1987 was a key year in this era, as this was when the name of the racing series changed from the 'British Saloon Car Championship' to the 'British Touring Car Championship', which is still the name used today.

After the name change, the BTCC produced two of the most iconic touring cars ever, in the form of the E30 BMW M3 and Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth. Interestingly, the M3 was part of the lower Class B segment (E30 M3 pictured above with newer super touring models), with the Sierra being in Class A - the top ranking. This didn't stop Frank Sytner winning overall in 1988 in the Class B BMW M3.

SuperTouring Era

Nissan Primera Touring Car

1991 and the SuperTouring era. Without doubt, an era that is looked back on rather fondly. A 2.0-litre single class was adopted, with all cars running on the same unleaded fuel, too. Huge growth of the sport occurred in this era, and attracted major manufacturers such as BMW, Ford, Nissan and Vauxhall.

Renault, Alfa Romeo and Volvo also entered this era, with Alfa Romeo bringing in an ex former F1 driver in the form of Gabriele Tarquini, as their driver, whilst Volvo caused a stir by entering a now iconic estate car.

TOCA managed the sport from '92 causing a boom in popularity. Towards the late '90s Toca Touring Cars became an iconic game for the PlayStation, again further propelling the success of the BTCC.

2001 and Beyond

Jason Plato vs Matt Neal

Official manufacturers decreased significantly, with Vauxhall and Peugeot being the only ones in the early years of the millennium, but the Astra in which Vauxhall entered was dominant in the hands of touring car legends like Jason Plato, and Yvan Muller.

The 2000s also saw the drama between drivers Jason Plato and Matt Neal, who constantly shared bumps, scrapes and 'fisticuffs' in their quest to come out as top dog when it came to BTCC, again adding the excitement and drama of it all.

2005 and 2006 saw the Team Dynamics Honda Integra become successful, whilst in 2007 the BTCC went into an S200 regulation era, which were much more like a standard road car, unlike SuperTouring which were hugely modified.

By 2012 S200 cars were removed, making way for NGTC cars - regulations that were designed to dramatically reduce the design, build and overall running costs of the cars and engines.

BTCC Today

Vauxhall Astra BTCC Car on Track at Donington

The same NGTC rules apply today, with enhancements of course, and from 2022 the inclusion of hybrid power.

Keeping NGTC rules means independent teams can compete on a level playing field, against manufacturer backed teams, keeping costs down whilst celebrating precision engineering with the cars.

There are still top manufacturers in the BTCC, most notably BMW and Toyota, whilst other independent teams are backed by major sponsors.

Follow Evans Halshaw in the BTCC

We are entering the 2024 season as Evans Halshaw Power Maxed Racing, with drivers Árón Taylor-Smith and Mikey Doble who will both be piloting a Vauxhall Astra.

You can keep up to date with the progress by checking out the official BTCC website, or looking out for updates on our news section.

We look forward to seeing another excellent championship full of excitement and close racing.