NGTC British Touring Cars Part 1: The Best Of The Best
Let’s take a look at some of the best cars of BTCC’s modern era.
In 2011, the Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC, also known as its FIA designation TCN-1) was introduced into the British Touring Car Championship for the first time, being phased in between 2011 and 2013 to replace the Super 2000 and BTC-Touring regulations that had been around since 2000 and 2001 respectively. They were designed to be able to run at a massively reduced cost compared to its predecessors, to entice both manufacturers and independent entries to join the series.
It’s fair to say that the NGTC regulations were, and are, a huge success – since 2011, 7 manufacturers have entered the BTCC with factory teams (Honda, MG, BMW, Infinity, Subaru, Vauxhall and Toyota),with 15 different brands represented in total. This shows no sign in slowing down either, with Hyundai joining the BTCC grid for the first time in 2020, and CUPRA set to join in 2021 to bring the total to 16 brands. 2020 sees 12 different models on the grid from 10 brands, making it one of the most diverse seasons of the NGTC era.
Brands have come and gone over the course of the last decade, some enduring great success, others not so much. Some brands have been a staple of the championship, with Honda amassing 392 races across 4 different models, while others left nearly as soon as they joined. Let’s look at some of the most successful Next Generation Touring Cars to grace the BTCC.
BMW 330i M Sport
Years active: 2019-present
Wins (% wins): 15 (29.4%)
Podiums (% podiums): 35 (68.6%)
Tom Oliphant at a wet Oulton Park this season // Image credit: BTCC
When the BMW factory team finally replaced the long standing 125i M Sport, it’s fair to say everyone in the paddock was nervous. The 1 Series was always fast, and still was when BMW retired it from its factory programme, which meant they were confident that the new 3 Series was even faster. And indeed it was – with a 3-car programme for the reigning champions West Surrey Racing, driven by reigning champion Colin Turkington, 2013 champion Andrew Jordan, and 2015 Ginetta GT4 Supercup champion Tom Oliphant, the car was as dominant as it could get in the ultra-competitive BTCC field.
Turkington and Jordan managed 11 victories between them, with their only significant title fight coming from Honda’s Dan Cammish. Thanks to a brake failure for Cammish in the closing laps of the season, Turkington took his fourth BTCC title, with Jordan and Cammish finishing equal on points just two points back. If it hadn’t been for Jordan being caught up in a first lap T-bone crash at Donington early on in the season that lead to him being hosptialised, arguably the title would’ve gone to him, with or without Cammish’s brake failure. All in all, finishing 1-2-11 in the Drivers’ Championship and winning the Manufacturers title once again, it was an incredible debut for a new car, and places it firmly at the top of the NGTC list.
BMW 125i M Sport
Years active: 2013-present
Wins (% wins): 37 (16.0%)
Podiums (% podiums): 119 (51.5%)
The WSR squad of Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan in the Brands Hatch pitlane in 2017 // Image credit: BTCC
As mentioned above, the BMW 1 Series was West Surrey Racing masterpiece from 2013. Entered as eBay Motors, the team didn’t have as much success with the new car in its debut season as it would do in 2019, however a respectable 5 wins and P3 in the Teams’ Championship was a very strong result against the all-conquering Hondas and MGs.
It only took until 2014 for the 1 Series to take its first title, with Turkington taking his second BTCC title comfortably over MG’s Jason Plato, with eBay Motors taking the Teams title ahead of the factory outfits.
In 2015, West Surrey Racing entered as a Constructor, joining Honda, MG and the new Infinity outfit. Turkington, despite winning the title with them the previous year, had left to join Team BMR. The 1 Series did taste success, however drivers Sam Tordoff, Rob Collard and Andy Priaulx failed to finish inside the top 5 of the championship – the poorest season of the 1-Series to date.
2016 saw a return to form, with Tordoff taking the fight to Honda’s Gordon Shedden, just missing out on the title by 2 points, however the team did reclaim both the Constructors’ and Teams’ championship in what was an extremely competitive season, with the top 4 teams separated by just 43 points.
After this success, BMW upped its factory presence in the team, and in 2017 Team BMW and BMW Pirtek Racing entered the series, with Colin Turkington making a welcome return. It was another year fighting for the championship for the 1-Series, with BMW taking the Constructors’ title, however Turkington missed out on the Drivers’ title to a young Ash Sutton. Turkington was to get one back on Sutton the year after though, taking his third title in 2018, and yet another Constructors’ and Teams’ title, in the 1-Series’ final year of factory competition.
For the past two seasons, Team Parker Racing has run a sole 1-Series for Stephan Jelley. The car has continued to show its pace on occasion, with 3 podiums and a victory for the team since 2019, however the team has had some torrid luck, getting caught up in incidents left right and centre that has cost them crucial points and podiums. For 2020, Team HARD acquired another of the 1-Series for Carl Boardley to run, however Boardley has only amassed a handful of points this season so far.
The BMW 125i M Sport has had a long and successful run in the BTCC, being the only car to achieve over 100 podiums. It remains to be seen for how much longer the car remains on the grid, however I doubt the 1-Series will return to the front of the championship again.
Subaru Levorg GT:
Years active: 2016-2019
Wins (% wins): 21 (17.5%)
Podiums (% podiums): 55 (45.8%)
Ash Sutton at Thruxton in the rain in 2017 // Image credit: BTCC
In 2016, Subaru entered the BTCC for the first time, a new territory for the Japanese manufacturer that made its mark in the world of rallying. BMR had gained manufacturer support, and the partnership was going in big, entering 4 Levorgs into the 2016 campaign for Colin Turkington, Jason Plato, James Cole and team boss Warren Scott. However, the start to Subaru’s BTCC history went as badly as it could’ve done – just 3 low points finishes from 6 races, and after a massive fire for Cole at Donington, the team withdrew from the following races at Thruxton in order to fix the problems with the car.
Whatever witchcraft BMR used on the Subaru it certainly worked, and the team came back swinging, taking 9 podiums from the next 5 races, with Turkington even getting in on the fight for the title, eventually finishing fourth at season’s end – it was an incredible turnaround for Subaru and BMR.
It was onwards and upwards for Subaru, with young gun Ash Sutton joining the team for 2017, taking the title in just his second year in the championship. The team failed to take either Constructors’ or Teams’ title as teammates Plato and Cole struggled to get the most out of the car, finishing second in the Constructors’ and third in the Teams’ championships.
The disparity grew even bigger between Sutton and Plato in 2018. Now down to just two full-time cars, Sutton had a strong 2nd half of the year to finish fourth overall with 256 points, however Plato, the most successful BTCC driver ever, scored just 26. It was a mystery that plagued the team all season, with Plato adamant that his chassis had a fundamental issue that Sutton’s did not. As a result, Subaru finished last in the Constructors’ Championship.
After such a shambolic season for Plato, he left to return to Vauxhall, with Senna Proctor taking his place alongside Sutton at Subaru. 2019 was the least competitive season overall for Subaru and BMR, with Sutton claiming just the one victory all season. The car was plagued by a lack of straight-line speed, costing them a vast amount of performance. It was announced that Subaru would not continue factory support beyond 2019, and at the end of the season BMR pulled out of the series as an entry too, choosing to team up with Laser Tools Racing to develop their Infinity.
Honda Civic Gen9:
Years active: 2012-2015
Wins (% wins): 33 (27.5%)
Podiums (% podiums): 89 (74.2%)
Matt Neal leading the field at Oulton Park in 2012 // Image credit: BTCC
2012 was the first season in which Constructor entries switched to NGTC cars. The Honda Racing Team had been running a Super 2000 specification Civic Gen8 with an NGTC engine, before debuting the Gen9 in full NGTC specification in 2012, becoming the first factory team to do so before MG announced they would enter the series in partnership with Triple 8 Racing.
Rather unsurprisingly, Honda’s Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal and MG’s Jason Plato were relatively dominant, with Honda having a run of 7 straight wins, and 9 wins in 10 races early on in the season. Honda locked out the top 2 in the Drivers’ Championship with Shedden finishing as champion in a reverse of the 2011 results, and Honda comfortably won the Teams’ Championship over eBay Motors by 131 points. It was safe to say the change in regulations hadn’t stopped Honda’s ability to win and hadn’t dampened the rivalry between Shedden and Neal.
For the next two years, Honda and MG remained the sole factory teams in the BTCC, with the two teams remaining at the front constantly. For 2013, Pirtek Racing (also using the Civic) made a late season title charge with Andrew Jordan, taking the title by 7 points over Shedden, with the Civic finishing 1-2-4 in the Drivers’ Championship. Once again, Honda comfortably took the Teams’ title, while a late run of success for MG saw them finish much closer to their main rivals in second.
2014 saw the factory Honda team move away from the Civic Gen9, with the car now only being used by Pirtek Racing as they looked to defend their Drivers’ Title with Jordan. The season started well, taking the first two wins of the season, however only 5 podiums followed, with consistency giving Jordan 5th in the championship at season’s end.
Pirtek joined forces with MG for 2015, with the two Civics being taken up by the new Eurotech Racing entry and driven by owner Jeff Smith and Martin Depper, who had driven for Pirtek Racing the year before. Unsurprisingly for a new team, their results weren’t anything to write home about, however consistent low points finishes from Depper meant they finished the season with 95 points in 11th place in the Teams’ Championship. Unfortunately, not the end that the Civic Gen9 deserved after such dominance with the Honda Racing Team, however after Honda introduced new versions of the Civic in 2014 and 2015, the car’s demise was inevitable.
Honda Civic Type R FK2:
Years active: 2015-present
Wins (% wins): 30 (17.5%)
Podiums (% podiums): 82 (48.0%)
Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal during a stormy Rockingham qualifying session in 2016 // Image credit: BTCC
The Civic Type R FK2 became the third Honda Civic to enter the BTCC under the NGTC regulations. The factory team, now known as Honda Yuasa Racing, continuing with Shedden and Neal, hoped the new car would bring an advantage over its competitors in older cars, now with MG, BMW and briefly Infinity as Constructor rivals. It was just as well they did, as 2015 ended up being an incredibly close season.
With 6 teams taking wins, including Independent teams Team BMR and WIX Racing, no one stood out as dominant. However despite this, Honda ended up on top with Shedden taking the title and Neal coming home in third. Honda won the Contructors’ Title but lost out to the 4-car Volkswagen BMR team in the Teams’ Championship.
The Type R spread to Eurotech Racing in 2016, with the team securing some strong results in the early season, however the podium remained elusive. Meanwhile at Honda, the team had a striking new orange and black livery due to a new partnership with Halfords, being renamed Halfords Yuasa Racing.
Once again, Shedden finished the season on top, despite only taking 4 wins, however the competition was much closer. He beat BMW’s Sam Tordoff in a thrilling duel by just two points, while both BMW and the Team JCT600 with GardX team won the Constructors’ and Teams’ titles thanks to Tordoff and Collard’s efforts.
2017 saw 5 manufacturer teams, with Honda going up against MG, BMW, Subaru and Vauxhall, each with their own star driver lineups: Vauxhall had WTCC race winner Tom Chilton; BMW had Turkington, Collard and Jordan; Subaru had Plato and young gun Sutton; MG had veteran Aron Taylor-Smith and young guns Josh Cook and Dan Lloyd. Honda remained with the fearsome lineup of Shedden and Neal, however even that wasn’t enough to top the charge of Subaru and BMW.
For just the second time in the NTGC era, Honda didn’t win any of the championships, finishing 4-7 in the Drivers’, third in the Constructors’ and second in the Teams’. After this result, the factory Honda team moved away from the FK2, with the car falling into the hands of three Independent teams – BTC Norlin Racing, WIX Racing with Eurotech and Simpson Racing.
After a breakthrough 2017 with Jack Goff, Eurotech looked to fight for the title in 2018, with Goff winning the opening race of the season. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t fight consistently at the front, with just a handful of wins and podiums for the rest of the season. BTC in their second season back also had a breakthrough year, securing their first win at Croft with Dan Lloyd, before Chris Smiley took his first win at Rockingham. Owner-driver Matt Simpson also had an amazing year, taking his first win and pole at Oulton Park with another podium following at Rockingham. While the car may not have been challenging for the title, it certainly was the cause for a lot of happy faces up and down the paddock.
Rory Butcher at Silverstone in 2019 // Image credit: BTCC
In 2019, the FK2 returned to fighting for the title – now with AmD Cobra Sport, with Rory Butcher, Sam Tordoff and Mike Bushell at the wheel, the plucky Honda took a team previously seen as a backmarker right to the top, finishing third in the Teams’ Championship. At the final round at Brands Hatch, Butcher was in a 5-way title fight with BTC’s Cook (now running a newer Civic), and the factory drivers of Turkington, Jordan and Dan Cammish. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for Butcher and he finished last of those 5, however simply being able to match and outperform newer models showed just how good the FK2 is.
This season, there are just two FK2s on the grid, both run by AmD (now known as MB Motorsport) with Jake Hill and Sam Osborne at the wheel. No wins as of yet, however several podiums for Hill including a very strong outing last time out at Croft shows that the Honda Civic Type R FK2 is still very much here to stay.
Honda Civic Type R FK8:
Years active: 2018-present
Wins (% wins): 315 (21.1%)
Podiums (% podiums): 59 (83.1%)
FK8-shod Halfords Yuasa Racing's Dan Cammish and BTC Racing's Josh Cook chasing Motorbase's Ford Focus ST Mk.IV of Rory Butcher at Oulton Park this year // Image credit: BTCC
The final car on this list is the car that replaced the FK2 at the Honda factory team. The longer, more aggressive FK8 was the car that saw Dan Cammish make his BTCC debut in, replacing the 3-time Champion Gordon Shedden alongside Matt Neal.
It was another season where no car dominated, with the top 11 within 102 points at the end of the season. Unfortunately for Honda, Neal and Cammish finished P9 and 10 respectively despite taking two wins apiece, however their consistency saw the team finish second in the Teams’ Championship, level on points with Vauxhall’s factory team Power Maxed TAG Racing.
For 2019, not much changed for Neal – no wins but several podiums saw him finish P9 once again, however Cammish took the fight to the new and dominant BMW 3 Series, and going into the closing laps of the season was set to win the title, before a brake failure saw him crash at the fastest corner on the circuit, gifting Turkington the title for BMW. Some consolation, if any, could be found in Honda winning the Teams’ title, however it was clear the events at Brands Hatch hit Cammish hard.
In 2020, Cammish is looking to right a wrong. After winning the opening race of the season, he currently second in the championship behind Sutton’s Infinity in what looks to be a 6-way title fight with Sutton, Turkington, Ingram (Toyota’s sole factory driver), Oliphant and Butcher. Meanwhile, Matt Neal has suggested this could be his final season in the BTCC, meaning the Honda factory team could have a very different look in 2021.
So those are 6 of the best BTCC cars to have raced under the NGTC regulations, with Honda and BMW very much being the dominant forces so far. Thank you very much for reading, I hope you found it interesting, and feel free to let me know your views in the comments.