The HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) is the UK's premier motor racing series and also one of the country's top sporting attractions. It features the fastest drivers in the country battling wheel-to-wheel in high performance versions of everyday road cars. Race day crowds are huge – some 325,000 people watched trackside in 2008.
In 2009 the BTCC will once again be sponsored by leading nationwide fast fit vehicle service HiQ and televised live across the UK on Sunday afternoons on the ITV4 channel (with subsequent highlights programmes again on ITV4 plus ITV1 and Men & Motors).
The BTCC began in 1958 and even back then the competition was as exciting and as close as it is now. Indeed, it ended in a draw and had to be decided on a tie-breaker – Jack Sears came out on top in the best of three short races around Brands Hatch to clinch the inaugural title ahead of Tommy Sopwith. The BTCC has lived up to that reputation of dramatic, action-packed racing ever since and, inevitably, has become a huge hit with the public and the media alike. In fact, its following is worldwide.
It is the sporting regulations that are largely responsible for the close action: the cars retain the shape of their mass production counterparts, but underneath are highly-tuned racing machines prepared by some of the most professional teams in the land: BMW 320si, Honda Civic, MG ZS, SEAT Leon, SEAT Toledo, Vauxhall Vectra, Vauxhall Astra – all are on the grid.
The maximum 2-litre engine capacity generates around 300bhp and the cars can accelerate from 0-60mph in a staggering 4.6 seconds. A weight-handicapping system for the most successful competitors and the reversing of grid positions in some races adds to the unpredictability and excitement.
The 2009 BTCC comprises ten rounds, each featuring three points-scoring races. The ten rounds are held at the best circuits across the UK, ensuring that pretty much all of the championship's enormous fan base has a chance to watch the action trackside. On race day, specially organised sessions enable the public – including children – to enter the pit lane to meet the drivers for autographs and give-aways. There is also a packed support race programme for the crowds to enjoy.
The BTCC's 2009 race dates are: Brands Hatch (Kent), 5 April; Thruxton (Hants) 26 April; Donington Park (Leics) 17 May; Oulton Park (Cheshire) 31 May; Croft (N Yorks) 14 June; Snetterton (Norfolk) 2 August; Knockhill (Fife) 16 August; Silverstone (Northants) 30 August; Rockingham (Northants) 20 September; Brands Hatch GP (Kent) 4 October.
To find out more about the BTCC's famous history, its teams, drivers, circuits & ticket details, TV timetable and all the latest news – and take part in the lively chat forum – visit the championship's official website btcc.net.