Is Hybrid technology right for the BTCC?

The British Touring Car Championship has recently made a surprise announcement stating that hybrid ‘push-to-pass’ technology will be introduced in 2022. It was confirmed at the Technical Working Group discussion that a specified hybrid unit would be fitted to all cars as an addition to their current drivetrain.

The hybrid unit will hold a reserve of supplementary power in a battery pack that would be available during each race, and possibly in qualifying, which can then be used by the drivers in strategic ways.

The testing of the battery pack to be installed on very car in 2022, will take place in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, whether the testing is incorporated into specific races of the two seasons or done off the calendar, is not yet known. Another unknown is whether the various support series’ to the BTCC will get the luxury of hybrids in future. The British Formula 4 championship already using small Ford Eco-Boost engines should not be affected but the Renault Clio Championship could follow the BTCC’s ideas having relatively similar style cars and race timetables.

To the relief of most fans and every team competing in the BTCC, Alan Gow, the BTCC series director, stated that, unlike Formula One, the new hybrid technology would not be an ‘extreme technical exercise.’ Hopefully, this always relatively small and simple racing series will not go in the same direction as Formula One has done since the introduction of eye-wateringly complicated hybrid power units. The immense expense to compete successfully with Formula One’s regulations has already bankrupted two teams and looks to be forcing several other current teams to the same fate.

The BTCC simply can not afford to go in the same direction as the biggest motorsport series in the World. The extreme cost involved would suffocate the series in it’s own debts and drive away avid fans. These are fans who simply want to see good racing, which it currently provides lots of, we are not remotely interested in lifting and coasting, fuel saving and having to retire the car to ‘save the engine.’ That is what F1 has become.

However, it seems that Alan Gow is talking sense as the relatively simple hybrid power will be incorporated alongside the current internal combustion engines, so a complete and expensive redesign should not be needed. It also allows the championship to be more road relevant, something F1 has been trying to become for many years but never achieved, and will encourage more manufacturers and privateer teams to join.

The fact that the BTCC is set to stay on its free-to-air Sunday television slot on ITV4 for the foreseeable future, will keep the number of fans watching races increasing. Increasing numbers of the British public will have their eyes opened further to hybrid and electric cars, which could possibly cause a future rise in sales of cars of this type.

There is no getting away from the fact that this is simply a sizable step in the transition from the use of fossil fuelled cars, into fully electric cars. The electric car is here and we can not hide from it any longer, and it seems that motorsport has embraced it.

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