After a record breaking 2011 season that culminated in a final day of the season five-way battle for the title that was only settled in the very last race the British Touring Car Championship is ramping up for a new season.
Only three weeks remain until the first round of the season, taking place on the short Indy circuit at Brands Hatch, Kent on March 31-April 1.
The opening round of the 2012 season promises to be an intriguing prospect, with several of the series' biggest names racing new cars for the first time. The S2000 Honda Civic that delivered Matt Neal to the 2011 title has been retired, replaced by a new Civic built to the Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC) regulations introduced last year. Likewise 2010 champion – and Neal's great rival – Jason Plato will be beginning his first season in new machinery as part of the works MG team run by Ian Harrison's multiple championship winning Triple Eight squad.
MG are the latest marque to appear – or reappear – on the BTCC grid, joining Ford, Vauxhall, VW, BMW, Toyota, Audi, Proton, and of course Honda to make up one of the most diverse BTCC grids in years.
Now in the second year of a regulations transition between the older S2000 and new NGTC regulations all teams will be using the NGTC turbocharged engine – creating the enticing prospect of a grid of 30 flame-spitting cars racing around Britain's top race tracks.
After the season opener at Brands Hatch the series tours the country – visiting Donington Park (Derbyshire), Thruxton (Hampshire), Oulton Park (Cheshire) and Croft (North Yorkshire) in the opening half of the season.
After the summer break hostilities resume at Snetterton (Norfolk), before travelling to Knockhill (Fife, Scotland), Rockingham and Silverstone (both Northamptonshire) and coming to a doubtless close finish where it all began, back at Brands Hatch.
As well as the BTCC, weekends feature a packed support package including the Renault Clio Cup, Ginetta Juniors, Ginetta GT Supercup and Formula Renault UK grids. Off track a BTCC weekend has plenty to offer families – especially with entry free for accompanied children under 12 – with the main highlight being the chance to get up close to the drivers during the organised pit wall and autograph session.
Tickets for the opening round are still available at discounted rates. For more information go to www.brandshatch.co.uk.