After the acrimonious split between the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship and the Touringcar Team Association (TTA) in 2011, the 2012 STCC season will commence at Mantorp Park this weekend, while the new TTA Racing Elite League season gets underway next weekend at Karlskoga. The two bodies came to blows over the proposed adoption of the British Touring Car Championship's NGTC rules package by 2014, with the breakaway championship the end result.
TTA cars are built around a Solution-F silhouette, with each team adding their own body-kits to resemble the manufacturers they represent. Even at this early stage it is clear that the new machines are quicker, with Robin Rudholm during testing lapping Karlskoga 3 seconds faster than Richard Goransson's pole position lap in an S2000-spec STCC BMW last year.
The TTA certainly came away from the split the more favourably, the new series featuring strong representation from Volvo, BMW, Citroen and Saab, live television and the marquee Gothenburg city race, poached from the STCC calendar. The TTA also looks strong on the driver-front too. 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010 STCC champion Goransson heads the queue to become the inaugural TTA champion with the BMW Dealer Team ran by West Coast Racing, while the Volvo quartet of Robert Dahlgren, treble champion Fredrik Ekblom, double champion Tommy Rustad and 2006 champion Thed Bjork will look to give him a run for his money. Not to be discounted either are the Flash Engineering Saabs of treble Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia champion Rudholm and privateer extraordinaire Mattias Andersson, who won at Knutstorp last year driving the ancient Alfa Romeo 156 (which won the 2002 European Touring Car Championship with Fabrizio Giovanardi!)
The split leaves the STCC with a considerably weakened field of drivers predominantly populated by plucky privateers and only a select few with a realistic chance at the title. Expected frontrunners are the Chevrolet Cruzes of defending champion and 1998 BTCC winner Rickard Rydell and double Danish Touring Car Champion Michel Nykjaer, the ex-Matt Neal S2000 Honda Civic of Tomas Engstrom and biogas powered VW Scirocco quartet of ex-SEAT factory driver Jordi GenÃ©, Johan Stureson, Patrik Olsson and Johan Kristoffersson, who swept the International Superstars championship races at Imola last month.
Only time will tell which of the rival series will come out on top, and whether their bitter divorce has proved detrimental to Scandinavian motorsport.