I seem to recall becoming interested in watching BTCC races about the time Andy Rouse was preparing Ford Cosworths that defeated just about anything else that dared take to the track. These were proper Cosworths, based on the Sierra bodyshell, and not the little Escort based runabout of later years (or even the Saphire). That’s not to belittle the Escort, it’s just that the referring to “The Ford Cosworth” nowadays seems to bring references only to the pretender, and not the original beast from the track. However, the relevant comment here is that Ford were later to pull out of the BTCC.
They were joined in leaving by BMW, and the BTCC grid looked pretty bare as they had arguably become the stars at the time.
There has been considerable change as various manufacturers have come and gone from the grid in recent years, with some surprising names appearing, but none have disgraced themselves. They may not have won, but they did bring some innovation, and I’m sure there are some watchers who would have lost their shirts betting against the diesel fuelled cars.
As an aside, I also seem to recall that back in those days, when teams like Rouse, or Lotus in F1, dominated their series, the fans enjoyed this, and part of the fun was watching the competition try to catch up with them over two or three seasons. Nowadays, the opposite seems to be true, and instead of applauding a dominant team for getting things “right”, and working to match and exceed their abilities, the solution seems to have become to complain, and have them handicapped and brought down to eliminate their advantage – or, even easier, just accuse them of cheating.
Thruxton saw the announcement that Vauxhall were to leave the series at the end of the current season, and that’s going to be a pity, as it’s been interesting to see how their front-wheel drive cars went from being written off by the armchair experts, to cars that fought from the front of the grid.
I remember the driver’s being given normal road cars during one of the Knockhill event, as part of entertainment laid on between the main races. I can’t recall who was driving, but by then Honda had joined the series, and the notable part of the show lap was the Honda (Accord I think) which would leave the hairpin in a cloud of white smoke as the road tyres just couldn’t cope with the output from the engine. Some said front-wheel drive cars would never cope or win – I guess they were wrong.
Along with the Vauxhall announcement came the news that the word-wide troubles of the automotive industry were about to claim another victim, and GM confirmed that the Pontiac brand name was to be killed off by 2010.
Although the so-called energy crisis and environmental concerns mean that we would have been unlikely to see a real GTO or Trans Am in future, that just about ensures the classic status of the original cars now.
Almost as bad as the news of the end of Pontiac was the usual dreadful news story that went out on TV to accompany it, as a female reporter took a seat inside a certain black Trans Am which survied a 1980’s TV series and tried vainly to sound knowledgeable on the Pontiac story and the model types, and referred to that certain black Trans Am as “The Kit”.
The rest of us will carry on knowing this one as KITT.