Touring car racing

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Touring car racing is a general term for a number of distinct automobile racing competitions in heavily-modified street cars. It is notably popular in Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, and Australia.

What constitutes a touring car?

While rules vary from country to country, most series require that the competitors start with a standard bodyshell, but virtually every other component is allowed to be heavily modified for racing, including engines, suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres. Wings are usually added to the front and rear of the cars. Regulations are usually designed to limit costs by banning some of the more exotic technologies available (for instance, many series insist on a "control tyre" that all competitors must use) and keep the racing close (sometimes by a "lead trophy" where winning a race requires the winner's car to be heavier for subsequent races). In this, it shares some similarity with the American NASCAR series, but raced exclusively on road courses and street circuits rather than the American series' primarily oval tracks.

Whilst not nearly as fast as Formula One, the similarity of the cars both to each other and to fans' own vehicles makes for entertaining, well-supported racing. The lesser impact of aerodynamics also means that following cars have a much easier time of passing than F1, and the more substantial bodies of the cars makes the occasional nudging for overtaking much more acceptable as part of racing.

As well as short "sprint" races, many touring car series include one or more "endurance" races, which last anything from 3 to 24 hours and are a test of reliability and pit crews as much as car and driver speed.

Differences between touring cars and sports cars

For the casual observer, there can be a great deal of confusion when it comes to classifying closed-wheel racing cars as 'touring cars' or 'sports cars' (also known as GT cars). In truth, there is often very little technical difference between the two classifications, and nomenclature is often a matter of tradition.

In general, however, touring cars are based upon 4-door 'family' sedans or, more rarely, 2-door coupe cars, while GT racing cars are based upon more exotic vehicles, such as Ferrari's or Lamborghini's. Underneath the bodywork, a Touring Car is often more closely related to its road-going origins, using many original components and mountings, while a top-flight GT car is often a purpose-built tube-frame racing chassis underneath a cosmetic bodyshell. Many Touring Car series, such as the BTCC and the now-defunct JTCC distinguish themselves from sports-car racing by featuring front-wheel drive cars with smaller engines.

However, while in general Touring Cars have a lower technical level than sports cars, there are notable exceptions to the rule. The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) is considered to be one of the most technologically advanced racing series in the world, with cars that, underneath their four-door shells, are more purebread racing machines than most FIA-GT vehicles.

Series of Competition

Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters

Germany/Europe

Also known as the DTM. This series features advanced purpose built V8-powered space frame machines, covered with carbon fibre bodyshapes resemblant of the manufacturers' road machine. DTM cars corner incredibly quickly and wear spectacular bodykits incorporating huge wheel arches and diffusors.

Easily Europe's premier series - DTM features many ex-F1 drivers (eg. Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen and since the 2005 season: Mika Häkkinen) the European locale makes this series appealing for aspiring drivers, who didn't quite make F1, as they compete alongside legends of the sport.

More than 20 works-backed entries of Opel Vectra GTS, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class are expected to contest the 2004 DTM series.

V8 Supercar

Australia/New Zealand/China/Bahrain

Formerly the Australian Touring Car Championship. This series features huge grids of fire-breathing 650+ hp (480 kW) Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores.

Unlike the manufacturer-oriented championships of Europe, Australia's series is much closer to NASCAR with well-sponsored private teams preparing their own distinct interpretations of the Falcon and Commodore, however production derived bodyshells and panels are used rather than space-frame chassis.

In 2004, well over 50 entries will compete across the division one and two series respectively:

  • Konica Minolta Series, home of up-and-coming drivers hoping to break into the main game as well as loyal privateers.

British Touring Car Championship

United Kingdom/Republic of Ireland

The series competes at nine circuits in the UK and Republic of Ireland, with cars built either to BTCC or WTCC specification, with ballast being used to equalise the two types.

There are currently only two manufacturer teams : Vauxhall, who run Astras built to BTCC rules; and SEAT, who enter "Super 2000"-spec Toledos.

Opposition comes from independent teams such as Team Dynamics, who run three Honda Integras, West Surrey Racing (MG ZS), Arena Motorsports and Synchro Motorsports (Honda Civic); and a variety of privateer teams.

Triple Eight Race Engineering Ltd, the team behind the Vauxhall entry, have dominated the past few seasons but currently it is Team Halfords who lead both the drivers' and teams' championships.

World Touring Car Championship

Worldwide

Modern World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) started in 2005, replacing the old European Touring Car Championship. It is considered the third most important FIA championship after Formula One Championship and World Rally Championship.

Running across vast continental racing facilities, this series which is heavily supported by BMW, Alfa Romeo and SEAT, with Ford, Chevrolet and Honda also showing limited support. It features 2L cars built to Super 2000 regulations.

Following the trend of recent FIA rules, cost control is a major theme in the technical regulation. Engines are limited to 2000 cc. Many technologies that have featured in production cars are not allowed, such as variable valve timing, variable intake geometry, ABS brakes and traction control.

Other Series

Previous Series

Other Notable Competitions

There is an annual 24 hour touring car race at the famous Nürburgring.

External links

Street Racing Cars - Gallery and General Information