It’s been around since 1958, played host to the careers of some of motorsport’s greatest drivers and has consistently been one of the most exciting forms of racing to watch.
But even so, the British Touring Car Championship still seems to be overshadowed by its F1 cousin.
We can’t have that though, not on your nelly. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to tell you exactly why you need to clear a few Sundays from 2013’s calendar for this most spectacular and exciting form of motorsport.
2013 is going to be huge
For the first time in years, the starting grid will be at its full capacity of 32 cars. It might not sound like a huge number to some, but remember that the BTCC is all about the smaller, more technical tracks such as Brands Hatch and Croft – long, sprawling straights have very little use to the BTCC.
The first corner of any BTCC race is an amazing spectacle, watching the racers fight and shove for the best line, but with 32 cars all trying to clip the same apex 2013 should be on another level of excitement.
The coverage is brilliant
The coverage has been ITV’s responsibility since the early 2000s, and rightly so. We’ve physically been to loads of BTCC events and in all honesty, we would’ve seen more from our sofas.
The guys filming cover every corner, every straight and with that, every second of excitement. Nothing at all is missed, not one nudge, not one overtake, not one crash. Also, the commentary is spot on too.
Honestly, we’re not in ITV’s pocket or anything, they just do a fantastic job of bringing you every second of the action, which means you can get even more involved and even more excited each time race-day comes around.
And if you do want to get down to a race yourself, it's a lot cheaper and more accessible than Formula 1. What are you waiting for?
Heroes and villains
You don’t just watch the BTCC for the racing; you watch it for the drivers themselves. They offer a level of diversity and interest F1 can only dream of. These guys aren’t Monaco-dwelling spokespeople for Head and Shoulders – they’re guys who love what they do and they almost all wear their hearts on their sleeves.
This is why you get so gripped. You become invested in these people, you root for them and you excitedly shout at your TV should they suffer any wrongdoing on the track.
On the other end of the scale, however, there are the guys you simply love to hate. You’ll commend them if they drive cleanly, but you’ll be an adrenaline-filled, shouty individual should they do something naughty. Then you’ll be rooting for the good guys to exact their revenge via some swapping of paint and rubbing of door handles.
You don’t get that in F1 – just moody Australians and cheeky Germans.
They love a crash
Look, we’re not being morbid, it’s simply a fact that touring cars love to crash. Add into the mix a selection of circuits that offer little to no run-off and you’ve got a recipe for carnage.
We don’t want to see them crash hard, but when they do it’s normally pretty spectacular. The best thing, however, is that unlike in open-wheeled forms of motorsport, a crashed BTCC car is still a car that can compete. For example, last year a driver was going to be black-flagged for having a loose wing due to an earlier altercation. Did he pull into the pits for a position jeopardising? No way! Instead, he deliberately clipped a tyre wall to remove the offending panel at speed.
That same driver, Gordon Shedden, then went on to become the 2012 BTCC champion; because it’s antics like that which see you become the champ.
It’s intoxicatingly exciting
There’s no open-wheeled fragility here – these cars are bloody tough, and they’re not afraid to show it. Apex-clipping two-wheeled moments are common, with cars achieving what seem to be unrecoverable angles of lift in the process. A nudge here and an aggressive body-swiping pass there are all part of the action. Just because three or four cars enter a corner in a certain sequence doesn’t mean they’ll exit in the same way. IIf someone gets cut up, nudged or shoved, you can bet they’ll remember and they’ll regain their position in the race.
One thing you can’t do, however, is predict what’s going to happen. These guys fight to the very last yard of the very last lap, and they make sure you enjoy every second of it.
You see, that’s the other thing: where thrills and spills are a by-product of other forms of motorsport, they’re pretty much the bread and butter of the BTCC, and the drivers know that, and not one of them would ever want to see their fans looking bored. That’s simply not the BTCC way.
The 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship airs on ITV4 at 10:45am, March 31st.
Obviously, the law and car insurance providers look dimly on reenacting the bumper-to-bumper exploits of the BTCC circuit on your local ring road, so leave it to the pros, OK?