Are British championship calendars boring?

Published on Thursday January 04 2018

The BTCC will start at Brands Hatch… again. Pic: Jakob Ebrey

January is an exciting month for motorsport fans. With the festive period over and gone, the countdown to the season ahead has well and truly begun.

Next week the Autosport International Show will serve as the season-starter for much of the motorsport community. It’s the place where so many facets of the industry come together to talk racing, rallying and everything in-between.

Big announcements are made, new teams and drivers firm up their plans. Deals are done and signed right there on the stands, and there’s a roaring trade market too. But there’s always one thing I feel that’s missing from the surprise and intrigue that the show brings – variation of championship calendars.

Each year the schedule for the big series seems to stay the same. Come August, you can usually guess where the British Touring Car Championship, British GT and the like will be headed the following year. And quite often it’s the same ordering too.

Am I the only one who thinks the leading lights of the British motorsport scene should mix it up a bit?

Let’s look at the BTCC as an example. This year it’ll visit – in order – Brands, Donington, Thruxton, Oulton, Croft, Snetterton, Rockingham, Knockhill, Silverstone and then Brands again.

Compare that to 2017, and the only change you’ll find is Rockingham and Knockhill switching places. In fact, barring that reversal between the Scotland and Corby races, the calendar is identical all the way back to 2010. And even then the circuits remained the same – the biggest change being that Thruxton opened the action.

The BTCC last raced somewhere different back in 2006, at Mondello. Pic: Ebrey

You have to go back as far as 2006 to find any real change, when Mondello Park in Ireland held a round. Sure, there was the introduction of Brands Hatch’s Grand Prix layout for 2009 onwards to spice up the finale, but that’s hardly taking the series to a new audience.

That’s 12 years of the same circuits, in largely the same order. Isn’t it time to push the boat out a bit?

Now, I know there are varying factors that shape the calendar like it is. The BTCC is the UK’s most popular series, so its calendar often has wide-reaching effects on other classes. All of its support series are largely dictated by it, and so are other classes that want to avoid a fixture clash, which is something British GT organisers in particular work hard to avoid whenever possible.

Then there’s the marketing. Circuits – such as the MSV-owned Brands, Oulton, Snetterton and now Donington – handle their own marketing and promotion of the event, so holding a specific calendar slot helps form the product of selling ‘the BTCC finale/opener’ or the ‘first round back after the summer break’.

There’s also the logistics to think about too. Is the pit lane large enough to accommodate the full grid? Can the track start the correct number of cars? Where can the supports pitch up? Are the facilities up to scratch? And, lastly, is there enough space for the corporate hospitality units? I know that last one will wrangle with many, but it’s a key part of the sport in the modern era.

Cadwell Park hosts big events in superbikes. BTCC round anyone? Pic: Ebrey

However, the downside of this set-in-stone scheduling is a very predictable format each year. And that also brings a predictability to results, with rear-wheel-drive cars always doing well at the tracks in the middle of the calendar and certain drivers performing better at their favourite tracks during certain months, and so on.

Yes, having a set calendar helps form routine and keeps everybody in the know about what they’re doing and when. But it’s not the best for entertainment value, or spreading the series to new audiences.

Outside of the current calendar Mondello Park, Pembrey, Anglesey, Castle Combe, Kirkistown and Goodwood could all theoretically host a championship like the BTCC.

OK, at Combe you’d have noise issues to overcome for a weekend and a tight paddock, but the track is licenced accordingly for safety and the required number of starters.

Two other circuits could also potentially host races. Cadwell Park could do the job, even though it can only start 28, rather than the capacity 32 cars. Mallory Park also, however it can start 30. Some entries can drop off towards the end of the campaign, but it would be an issue to overcome. But who wouldn’t love to see a BTCC race at Cadwell?!

British GT raced at Knockhill in 2010, but has been the same since. Pic: Ebrey

And I’m not just picking on the BTCC either. British GT is just as bad – Oulton, Rockingham, Snetterton, Silverstone, Brands and Donington. It’s been that variety of tracks since 2010 when Knockhill was last on the schedule. Granted there’s been variation in the European rounds – Zandvoort, Nurburgring and Spa – but for British-based fans that’s a bit irrelevant as those races are largely scheduled to entice and challenge British GT’s main customers… the drivers.

Why not take British GT to somewhere like Anglesey for once? It has shiny new pit buildings, decent facilities and a good paddock space.

Personally, I’d love to see Thruxton back on the agenda. The drivers love it, but the teams largely don’t due to the tight pitlane and skill it takes to cram a modern GT3 car into the rather tight garages.

In my view, varying the schedules for Britain’s biggest race series would add extra spice to those conversations that will take place hundreds of times in Birmingham’s NEC next week, as well as freshening up the campaigns for the fans too.

Pembrey in Wales is a very popular test venue. Pic: Ebrey

Recent news

Column

Who I have my money on for the BTCC title

By Matt James

Rallying News

Citroen: Meeke was 'not under control'

Citroen World Rally team principal Pierre Budar felt Kris Meeke was out of control and left...

Karting: The secrets to PF International

As part of our special investigation into the world of karting, we got former karting star and...

Racing News

BTCC driver Moffat quits TCR UK

British Touring Car Championship driver Aiden Moffat has exited the TCR UK championship, with...

Racing News

Historic FFord driver saved from fiery crash

Historic Formula Ford driver Nelson Rowe credited two spectators and a competitor for saving...

Rallying News

Citroen: C3 design saved Meeke in crash

Citroen team principal Pierre Budar believes the design of the manufacturer's C3 World Rally...

Rallying News

Triple ERC champion makes WRC2 move

Reigning three-time European Rally champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz will move into the World Rally...

Column

Silverstone's rallycross adventure

By Matt James

Taking on the European karting scene

The international karting paddock has witnessed its fair share of talented British drivers in...

Rallying News

Electric Mitsubishi rally car being developed

Swedish outfit Mpart has started developing an electric Mitsubishi rally car built around R5...

Rallying News

New WRC GB route a missed opportunity - Evans

Last year's Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans feels the revamped route for Wales' 2018 World Rally...

Rallying News

Rally seeding rules relaxed

Two-wheel drive and historic rally cars will be able to run first on the road on rally events...

Rallying News

MN Road Rally legends to attend Speed and Rally Show forum

Legends of the Motoring News Road Rally Championship will attend a forum at this weekend’s...

Rallying News

New push to get privateers back in WRC

World Rally Championship organisers are mounting a new push to get privateers back in the series'...

Rallying News

Toyota rules out team orders to boost Tanak

Toyota team principal Tommi Makinen has ruled out making Ott Tanak a clear number one and imposing...

Exploring karting's family tree

It’s commonly defined by professional racing drivers as the purest form of motorsport. It’s...

Rallying News

Kelly to make surprise Killarney return

Manus Kelly will make a surprise visit to the International Rally of the Lakes in Killarney...

Rallying News

Rally GB to unveil major route revamp

A significantly different route for Rally GB 2018, Britain's World Rally Championship round,...

Rallying News

Rovanpera hospitalised after Argentina crash

Kalle Rovanpera was hospitalised for checks after crashing out of the Rally Argentina WRC2 lead...

Rallying News

Ford sets out conditions for works RX return

Ford wants to see how the future of rallycross develops amid changes in America and plans for...

Racing News

Ingram takes victory in Donington Race 2

Tom Ingram became the first two-time winner in this season's British Touring Car Championship...

Racing News

Cook claims maiden BTCC victory

Josh Cook has broken his victory duck in the British Touring Car Championship, taking his Power...

1 2 3 52

More national news, in-depth race reports and analysis. Subscribe to the Motorsport News paper today.

What’s On

This weekend

No Events

Later

No Events

This weekend

No Events

Later

No Events

X