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The best era of the BTCC? You’re watching it!

In his latest ‘Moonlighting’ blog, ITV’s David Addison looks back to his childhood and a Group A touring car era that he was extremely fond of… before coming to the conclusion that the modern day BTCC tops the lot!

Since we last met, Moonlighting has become a little preoccupied with old things, things of a bygone age. And I don’t just mean Paul O’Neill’s hairstyle…

I suppose part of it came about with the Super Touring races at Oulton Park, which had that terrifying effect of making you realise that you were present when the cars were new and are now classed as historic, thus making one very old. But I digress…

A reason for the retro feel came recently with a trip to the Nürbrurgring for the annual Oldtimer historic festival. There were some wonderful grids, including Porsche 935s and BMW M1s, but also zwei BMW Rennen, (that’s a BMW double-header to you and I) that got the memory stirring. In said races was a man, whose umlauts escape me for the moment, in a BMW 635 CSi. It was a 1983 car and I remember it well. In the early ‘80s, touring car racing adopted a set of regulations for Group A. The manufacturers loved it and as an 11-year-old, I stood in pouring rain at Donington watching hordes of BeeEmms take on the Jaguar XJS and Rover Vitesse forces, with lots of Alfa Romeo GTV6s in pursuit and an army of VW Golf Mk 1s in the baby class. This BMW was in the entry that day, running in Enny handbag colours and driven (sideways, well it was wet) by Umberto Grano and Helmut Kelleners. It – and the other cars in the vast entry – helped fuel my interest in touring car racing and the three-hour race soon flew by. It was just magic. My father disagreed, and, soaked to the skin, retreated to Starkey’s Bar where his gruntle left him on discovery that it had run out of spirits. But I digress…

Group A carried on into the Sierra Cosworth era, but then other countries went there own way on regulations. In Germany, the DTM became Group A with more modifications and then got carried away, Britain went 2-litre and that soon proved to be the way to go. While it lasted, Group A was, trust me, a massive success. There were plenty of cars built for the regulations and in those days, touring car series ran as multi-class affairs with the classes split on engine size so 1300cc cars had a home as much as the big-engined brigade. Indeed, that wet weekend at Donington had so many cars that a qualification race had to be run. It was won by Toni Fischaber and Mario Ketterer as I recall in an Alfa Romeo GTV6 and before you mention that the Alfas hadn’t qualified, it was largely that there were so many of them that they couldn’t all get into the main race. Second, by the way, was Hermann Tilke. But I digress…

So why is Group A not sexy, not as popular compared to Super Touring?

Actually, maybe my spectacles are rose-tinted here. Truth be told, Group A was always more popular in the European Touring Car Championship than in Britain and the BSCC (as was) wasn’t helped by a huge row between the RAC MSA and Austin Rover that left the 1983 championship decided in mid-1984. But I digress…

Perhaps the main reason that Group A hasn’t caught on as a historic class in the same way that Super Touring did was because there was precious little opportunity to see it anywhere but trackside. You may find this hard to believe in this era of ITV4’s day-long coverage, but back in the 80s there was hardly any television coverage at all. Look on YouTube and you will find my friend Andrew Marriott doing a sterling job of making a 1983 Donington race sound exciting for ITV’s World of Sport, but there wasn’t much else. But I digress…

Point is, you’ve never had it so good. When Alan Gow talks about looking back giving you a sore neck he is right. The BTCC is boasting full grids and close racing plus an enviable television package. It hasn’t always been so… how things change.

So, I think I’ll park the past for now. I don’t remember any era of touring car racing giving the door-banging action it does now, or people in the pub asking me how Andrew Jordan is after his whack on the head…

The best era of the BTCC? You’re watching it!

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