To most of us, the mention of British Touring Cars conjures up images of the Super Tourer era, what many regard as the touring car’s heyday.
Budgets in excess of 10 million pounds a year to run a team were not unheard of. The cars were incredibly expensive and constantly had new technology and setups being applied to cross the line first when the chequered flag dropped. However, after 10 years of ludicrous spending, it came to an abrupt end as manufacturers deemed the costs excessive.
Following this, the cars first adopted the BTC (British Touring Car) revised ruleset in an effort to cut costs, after which the series comprised of a mixture of BTC and Super 2000 regulation cars. This all changed in 2011 with the introduction of the NGTC (Next Generation Touring Car) regulations. Standardised components and tight budget controls meant more affordable, closer racing.
Fast forward to 2022, and the next big change has now arrived with the introduction of a hybrid powertrain assembly.
Touring cars have always been a production car-based series, and with the shift to full and part-electric drivetrains to be seen as more environmentally-friendly, the motorsport equivalents have adopted the same approach. The ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ mentality fits the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) to a tee.
The BMW 330e that West Surrey Racing campaigns is no different. (Check out our behind-the-scenes tour of their facility here)
The team starts with a shell plucked from the production line before any major assembly has taken place, which is then sent away for chassis prep. A comprehensive WSR-designed roll cage and airjack supports are welded in, along with removing a large portion of the metalwork from the firewall forward and c-pillar back. Standardised RML-designed subframes then affix to specific roll cage locations front and rear.
The Delta Cosworth hybrid battery unit is self-contained and resides in what was the passenger seat area of the car, linked to the electric motor generator unit incorporated into the (yes, you guessed it) regulated Xtrac gearbox. The unit provides around an 8% increase over the 379+hp provided by the 2.0L combustion engine, with the amount of hybrid boost available dependant on a number of factors but ultimately balanced to ensure close racing. This extra power won’t be enough to support an outright pass, but will allow gaps to close and put pressure on drivers to defend or support an attack. Success ballast is also a thing of the past. Race winners now simply have the number of laps where hybrid boost is available reduced, rather than having weight added to their car.
Teams have the option of leasing the TOCA-spec engine built by M-Sport, but WSR have elected to run the BMW B48 engine developed by NBE, again regulated by running a standardised turbocharger and intercooler. For the 2022 season, all cars are required to run on 20% biofuel.
BTCC-spec AP Racing callipers and two-piece rotors provide stopping power at each corner. Note the coloured vanes, which show different temperature ranges the discs experience. Even the brake pads are regulated, with the teams having a choice of three compounds for the front and two for the rears.
While the cars are mandated to a minimum weight (1,355kg for rear-wheel drive, 1,325kg for front-wheel drive), the WSR team have gone to serious lengths to save weight wherever possible. This allows them to add weight back in, but at locations of their choosing to optimise balance. Numerous concessions to weight saving can be seen throughout the cars.
Compared to the standard road car, the BTCC car has undergone some drastic changes for racing purposes. Custom widened arches adorn each corner and contain the center-lock wheels shod with Goodyear racing slicks. This year only medium, hard and rain compound tyres are permitted, with quantities again tightly regulated. The exhaust now terminates in a side exit just ahead of the left rear wheel.
People often joke about using marine-plywood as a splitter, but it’s far more common in top-tier motorsport than you might realise. It’s durable, fairly lightweight, flexible and most importantly, far cheaper than a carbon equivalent. This forms part of the front aero package, which is balanced out by a regulation-sized TOCA rear wing atop the boot lid.
The interior is fairly sparse, with the aforementioned battery unit alongside the driver’s seat which sits on the left side of the car. A Cosworth LCD dash and switch panel are perched within easy reach of the driver when strapped into the seat, while the more commonly used controls reside on steering wheel buttons.
While each of the components are carefully thought out and optimised in their own right, having the sum of all the parts together makes for an extremely impressive and well presented car. Nothing on the car exists without a purpose and WSR’s track record of success is something that they fully intend to continue this year, with the car being evidence of this.
Understandably, there is some negativity to the adoption of hybrid powertrains in touring car racing and other forms of motorsport. This is likely due to the primary purpose of hybrid road cars – to aid fuel economy and reduce emissions. But there are advantages it can offer too. The on-demand power it provides can only make for closer, more exciting racing with more passing and leader changes.
If there’s one thing BTCC races can never be accused of it’s being boring, and this new era of racing will only cement that further.