Another thrilling year of wheel-to-wheel racing gets underway this weekend as the 2013 British Touring Car Championship season begins around the famous Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent.
Britain’s most popular national motorsport series is preparing for one of the biggest and most competitive seasons in its illustrious 56-year history with a record 18 teams entering a total of 32 cars.
ITV Sport will continue to provide comprehensive free-to-air coverage thoughout the 2013 season with each of the 10 race meetings exclusively live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden embarks upon his first title defence alongside Honda Yuasa Racing team mate Matt Neal, who is chasing a record fourth BTCC crown.
This year’s championship will again comprise 30 races across ten events at nine venues around the UK, with the season commencing at Brands Hatch on Easter weekend (March 30-31).
There will be four champions on the 2013 grid, with returning 2009 victor Colin Turkington joining reigning champion Shedden and multiple title winners Neal and Jason Plato.
Turkington spearheads the three-pronged eBay Motors line-up in the promising new BMW 125i M Sport prepared by former champion outfit West Surrey Racing.
Shedden and Neal return for the all-conquering Honda Yuasa Racing Team which clinched all three major titles – Drivers’, Manufacturers’ and Teams’ championships – in 2012.
Despite taking his record BTCC wins tally to 74, Plato had to settle for third place overall in 2012 in what was an impressive debut season for the new MG KX Momentum Racing team.
As well as the four BTCC champions, a chasing pack and growing contingent of young guns have also set their sights on championship glory.
Arguably leading this challenge are former runner-up Mat Jackson in his Airwaves Racing Ford Focus and last year’s Independents’ Champion, Andrew Jordan, in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic.
With 13 different models from 11 different marques, the BTCC has one of the largest and most varied touring car grids in the world.
These include both Honda and MG competing as official manufacturer teams.
They will be joined by a host of independent teams entering cars from Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Proton, SEAT, Toyota, Vauxhall and Volkswagen, amounting to the biggest BTCC season entry list in its 2-litre history.
No fewer than 26 of the unprecedented 32-car grid will be entering with the BTCC’s NGTC-spec machinery, whilst a further six competitors will contest the Jack Sears Trophy for S2000 cars.
To spice up the racing this year, a new ‘soft compound’ Dunlop tyre has been introduced to add a new strategic element to each team’s race weekend.
At all this year’s events (excluding Thruxton), drivers in NGTC-spec cars will have one set of a new ‘soft compound’ tyres at their disposal, which will offer a variation in performance to the standard compound tyre.
These tyres must be used in one of the three races at each event and teams must nominate, prior to Saturday’s qualifying session, which particular race they elect to use them.
Commenting on the 2013 season at the recent media day at Donington Park, BTCC Series Director Alan Gow said: “The record entry list is a real testament to the continued success, growth and stability of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
“The current health of the BTCC is absolutely fantastic and even more staggering, perhaps, with the challenging economic climate.
“Our trackside attendance has increased year-on-year over the last decade, the ITV audience figures and airtime reached all-time highs last year and we have now proudly announced an important new contract with them until 2017.
“We have a huge grid – including four champions in the line-up – culminating in fresh colours, cars and stars in the BTCC.
“The strength in depth continues to rise along with the undoubted professionalism and turnout of our loyal and committed teams.
“That is why the BTCC is so firmly cemented as the UK’s premier and most popular motor sport series.”
In addition to the BTCC, a number of thrilling support championships will feature during the 2013 season, including Ginetta Juniors, Ginetta GT Supercup, Porsche Carrera Cup GB and the Renault Clio Cup, plus the exciting inclusion of the classic single-seater Formula Ford championship.
With four previous champions on the BTCC grid in 2013 – Matt Neal, Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden and Colin Turkington – expect the racing battles to be closer than ever.
Details of how to follow the first BTCC meeting of 2013 on ITV below:
ITV will broadcast more than seven hours of live coverage from every meeting during the 2013 British Touring Car Championship season.
Having broadcast the BTCC since 2002, ITV affirmed its commitment to covering the championship by signing a new three-year broadcast deal in the build-up to the 2013 season.
ITV will continue to screen around seven hours of live free-to-air coverage from each event on ITV4 and ITV4 HD.
The live action begins on Saturday afternoons with live action from the qualifying session on ITV.com, which determines the grid line-up for the first touring car race on Sunday morning.
Then on Sunday, veteran sports presenter Steve Rider will anchor ITV4’s seven-hour broadcast, with Louise Goodman conducting interviews with the key drivers and team personel, as well as pit-lane updates and grid-walks.
Former BTCC race winner Paul O’Neill returns to the ITV team to provide his unique insights from a driver’s perspective with regular reports and interviews.
BTCC and Porsche Carrera Cup race commentary will come from new recruit David Addison, who joins the ITV team for this year, alongside regular co-commentator Tim Harvey.
Richard John Neil and Simon Hill will commentate on all the support races.
Brands Hatch Indy (March 31) 11:45 – Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 1 13:25 – Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain – Round 2 14:15 – Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 2 15:00 – Ginetta Junior Championship – Round 2 15:35 – Renault UK Clio Cup – Round 2 16:15 – Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup – Round 2 17:05 – Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 3 CLICK HERE for full weekend timetable
ITV4’s live coverage will also be available in high-definition on ITV4 HD, and simulcast on ITV.com.
There’s a new way to watch the Championship this year if you’re out and about, with live coverage of the whole of each race day available through the ITV Player iOS app.
Extended highlights of the three BTCC races will be shown on Tuesday afternoon on ITV4, and repeated early on Wednesday morning on ITV.
In total more than 230 hours of the BTCC will be broadcast across the ITV network every season until at least 2016.
Saturday 30th March British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying, Brands Hatch Indy Session Start: 3.40pm LIVE: 3.35pm-5.15pm – ITV.com – WATCH LIVE . Sunday 31st March British Touring Car Championship – Rounds 1-3, Brands Hatch Indy LIVE: 10.45am-6.00pm – ITV4 / ITV4 HD – WATCH LIVE Tuesday 2nd April British Touring Car Championship – Rounds 1-3, Brands Hatch Indy Highlights: 4.30pm-6.00pm – ITV4 Repeat: Sat 6 Apr, 8.00pm Wednesday 3rd April British Touring Car Championship – Rounds 1-3, Brands Hatch Indy Highlights: 3.00am-4.15am (Thu) – ITV . Highlights also available to watch online via ITV Player