To most of us, the point out of British Touring Automobiles conjures up photos of the Tremendous Tourer period, what many regard because the touring automobile’s heyday.
Budgets in extra of 10 million kilos a 12 months to run a staff weren’t unprecedented. The vehicles had been extremely costly and continually had new know-how and setups being utilized to cross the road first when the chequered flag dropped. Nonetheless, after 10 years of ludicrous spending, it got here to an abrupt finish as producers deemed the prices extreme.
Following this, the vehicles first adopted the BTC (British Touring Automobile) revised ruleset in an effort to chop prices, after which the sequence comprised of a mix of BTC and Tremendous 2000 regulation vehicles. This all modified in 2011 with the introduction of the NGTC (Subsequent Era Touring Automobile) rules. Standardised elements and tight price range controls meant extra reasonably priced, nearer racing.
Quick ahead to 2022, and the subsequent huge change has now arrived with the introduction of a hybrid powertrain meeting.
Touring vehicles have at all times been a manufacturing car-based sequence, and with the shift to full and part-electric drivetrains to be seen as extra environmentally-friendly, the motorsport equivalents have adopted the identical method. The ‘win on Sunday, promote on Monday’ mentality matches the British Touring Automobile Championship (BTCC) to a tee.
The BMW 330e that West Surrey Racing campaigns isn’t any totally different. (Take a look at our behind-the-scenes tour of their facility right here)
The staff begins with a shell plucked from the manufacturing line earlier than any main meeting has taken place, which is then despatched away for chassis prep. A complete WSR-designed roll cage and airjack helps are welded in, together with eradicating a big portion of the metalwork from the firewall ahead and c-pillar again. Standardised RML-designed subframes then affix to particular roll cage places entrance and rear.
The Delta Cosworth hybrid battery unit is self-contained and resides in what was the passenger seat space of the automobile, linked to the electrical motor generator unit integrated into the (sure, you guessed it) regulated Xtrac gearbox. The unit supplies round an 8% enhance over the 379+hp offered by the two.0L combustion engine, with the quantity of hybrid increase obtainable dependant on quite a lot of components however finally balanced to make sure shut racing. This further energy received’t be sufficient to assist an outright cross, however will permit gaps to shut and put stress on drivers to defend or assist an assault. Success ballast can be a factor of the previous. Race winners now merely have the variety of laps the place hybrid increase is offered lowered, moderately than having weight added to their automobile.
Groups have the choice of leasing the TOCA-spec engine constructed by M-Sport, however WSR have elected to run the BMW B48 engine developed by NBE, once more regulated by operating a standardised turbocharger and intercooler. For the 2022 season, all vehicles are required to run on 20% biofuel.
BTCC-spec AP Racing callipers and two-piece rotors present stopping energy at every nook. Notice the colored vanes, which present totally different temperature ranges the discs expertise. Even the brake pads are regulated, with the groups having a alternative of three compounds for the entrance and two for the rears.
Whereas the vehicles are mandated to a minimal weight (1,355kg for rear-wheel drive, 1,325kg for front-wheel drive), the WSR staff have gone to severe lengths to avoid wasting weight wherever attainable. This permits them so as to add weight again in, however at places of their selecting to optimise steadiness. Quite a few concessions to weight saving could be seen all through the vehicles.
In comparison with the usual street automobile, the BTCC automobile has undergone some drastic modifications for racing functions. Customized widened arches adorn every nook and comprise the center-lock wheels shod with Goodyear racing slicks. This 12 months solely medium, laborious and rain compound tyres are permitted, with portions once more tightly regulated. The exhaust now terminates in a facet exit simply forward of the left rear wheel.
Folks usually joke about utilizing marine-plywood as a splitter, but it surely’s way more widespread in top-tier motorsport than you would possibly realise. It’s sturdy, pretty light-weight, versatile and most significantly, far cheaper than a carbon equal. This varieties a part of the entrance aero bundle, which is balanced out by a regulation-sized TOCA rear wing atop the boot lid.
The inside is pretty sparse, with the aforementioned battery unit alongside the motive force’s seat which sits on the left facet of the automobile. A Cosworth LCD sprint and change panel are perched inside straightforward attain of the motive force when strapped into the seat, whereas the extra generally used controls reside on steering wheel buttons.
Whereas every of the elements are rigorously thought out and optimised in their very own proper, having the sum of all of the elements collectively makes for an especially spectacular and nicely introduced automobile. Nothing on the automobile exists with out a function and WSR’s observe file of success is one thing that they absolutely intend to proceed this 12 months, with the automobile being proof of this.
Understandably, there’s some negativity to the adoption of hybrid powertrains in touring automobile racing and different types of motorsport. That is seemingly because of the main function of hybrid street vehicles – to help gasoline financial system and scale back emissions. However there are benefits it may possibly provide too. The on-demand energy it supplies can solely make for nearer, extra thrilling racing with extra passing and chief modifications.
If there’s one factor BTCC races can by no means be accused of it’s being boring, and this new period of racing will solely cement that additional.