BTCC could expand new qualifying format

The British Touring Car Championship could adopt the experimental qualifying format used for last weekend’s penultimate round at Snetterton at more events for next season.

Instead of a single 30-minute qualifying session to set the grid for the first of the three races, the field was sent out in a 25-minute session.

This set the starting order for 11th position down, with the top 10 then going through to a 10-minute pole position shootout following a five-minute break.

BTCC supremo Alan Gow was happy that the format was a success.

“I think it worked well,” Gow told, “although there’s a couple of things I’d change just operationally.

“When the 25-minute session finished we probably needed to leave a bit more time, because especially on this long lap the cars coming into the pitlane need more time to sort out tyres and things for the shootout.

“Other than that, operationally it went well, and generally the teams liked it.”

Snetterton is the longest circuit on the BTCC schedule, with lap times in the mid-1m50s, and some believe that the format could be better suited to shorter tracks.

Last weekend’s shootout was also affected by cold weather, so eight of the 10 cars involved went out at the start of the session and circulated for four flying laps to get heat into their tyres.

AmD boss Shaun Hollamby, whose team runs the MB Motorsport Honda Civics and Trade Price Cars Audi S3s, said: “I think it would work better on a shorter circuit where people would get two stabs at it [with a mid-session pitstop].

“The pressure is the same as it always is to get in the top 10, but strategy does come into it with tyres.

“For example, we sent Jake Hill out at the end of the first session just to get some heat into the rear tyres to carry into the shootout.”

Gow responded: “If you did it on all the other circuits and left more time [between the sessions], I think it might work.

“But as it was it gave you two excitements: who’s going to make the cut, and who’s going to go quickest?

“We have an annual teams’ meeting a couple of weeks after the last race, and we’ll discuss whether we’ll expand it for more rounds or all rounds.”

Championship leader Colin Turkington, who put his BMW on pole via the new format, said: “I enjoyed it – it was definitely more pressure than a normal qualifying.

“I was conscious just to do enough in Q1, and I got a pretty good opening run, which was good enough to make it through.

“But in Q2 the pressure was on.”

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