One of the stories that kept people in and around British racing talking over the winter was the MSA’s adoption of new track limits rules that – in the most basic terms – is aimed to stop drivers running any wheels beyond kerbs on corner exits.
Though there have already been a few weekends of club racing around the country the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship was always going to be both the first major test of the new rules, and the first time their effect on racing would really be seen.
That Jonathan Palmer has been one of the most strident advocates of the new rules, and the Brands Hatch track would his Motor Sport Vision company owns would host the first BTCC races of the season only added to the intrigue around the new rules.
Some involved in conversations over the off-season have warned off the ill-effects the rule changes will have.
So, did the new rules have a catastrophic effect upon the quality of the racing?
Did they have any effect upon the racing?
Almost certainly yes.
With each driver given a number of free passes to break the new rule before warnings and penalties began to flow Andrew Jordan confessed to saving up a number of his free passes for the closing laps on his way to victory in the season opener. In many ways, that sort of overt strategy is no bad thing with drivers and teams needing to manage their allocation of free passes the same way they manage their cars’ tyres and mechanicals
The racing was just as close as you would expect from the nation’s foremost tin top series, with the same measures of close contact racing the championship has become known for, while drivers were still able to drive up through the order.
In all, across the six series (including the BTCC and the equally spectacular Ginetta Juniors) that raced on the Indy circuit there were less than a handful of drivers who were penalised for exceeding track limits, copping a five second penalty added to the race time.
That’s no more than you would expect from a weekend on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit under the previous iteration of track limit rules, where driver would have to run all four wheels beyond kerbs to draw the stewards’ ire.
It could be that there was little noticeable difference in the racing this last weekend because, at least in this writer’s opinion, Brands Hatch has always been the track strictest in its enforcement of track limit rules, with wide, flat exit kerbs of Paddock Hill Bend and Graham Hill Bend inviting drivers onto them.
There are other tracks and corners around the country – the chicane at Knockhill leaps to mind – where enforcement of the new track limit rules may have a more noticeable impact upon the racing. However, we will only know that once the country’s top series arrive at those tracks later in the year.
For now, it’s just nice to turn away from off-season speculation and start the racing season!