Touring car racing is an auto racing competition with heavily modified road-going cars. It is popular in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Germany, Sweden and Norway.
While not as fast as Formula One, the similarity of the cars both to each other and to fans' own vehicles makes for entertaining, well-supported racing. The lesser use of aerodynamics means following cars have a much easier time passing than in F1, and the more substantial bodies of the cars makes the occasional nudging for overtaking much more acceptable as part of racing.
As well as short "sprint" races, many touring car series include one or more endurance races, which last anything from 3 to 24 hours and are a test of reliability and pit crews as much as car, driver speed and consistency.
While rules vary from country to country, most series require that the competitors start with a standard car body, but virtually every other component may be allowed to be heavily modified for racing, including engines, suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres. Aerodynamic aids are sometimes added to the front and rear of the cars. Regulations are usually designed to limit costs by banning some of the more exotic technologies available (for instance, many series insist on a "control tyre" that all competitors must use) and keep the racing close (sometimes by ballast weight where winning a race requires the winner's car to be heavier for subsequent races).
Touring cars share some similarity with American stock car racing governed by NASCAR. However, touring cars are, at least notionally, derived from production cars while today's NASCAR vehicles are based on a common design.
For the casual observer, there can be a great deal of confusion when it comes to classifying closed-wheel racing cars as 'touring cars' or 'sports cars' (also known as GT cars). In truth, there is often very little technical difference between the two classifications, and nomenclature is often a matter of tradition.
Touring cars are usually based upon family cars (such as hatchbacks, sedans or estates), while GT racing cars are based upon powerful sports cars, such as Ferraris or Lamborghinis (and are thus usually coupés). Underneath the bodywork, a touring car is often more closely related to its road-going origins, using many original components and mountings, while some top-flight GT cars are purpose-built tube-frame racing chassis underneath a cosmetic body shell. More recently, there has been an increasing push to make GT cars closer to the road cars with the GT3 set of regulations. Many touring car series, such as the BTCC and the now-defunct JTCC distinguish themselves from sports car racing by featuring front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive cars with smaller engines. Most sports car championships only allow rear-wheel drive cars.
While touring cars generally have a lower technical level than sports cars, there are some exceptions. The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) is considered to be one of the most technologically advanced racing series in the world, with cars that, underneath their body shells, are more purebred racing machines than most FIA-GT vehicles.
When Sports car racing was created in the inter-war period of the 20th century however, sports cars fulfilled the role Touring Cars do today, as the production car variant of racing compared to the specialised vehicles competing in Grand Prix racing. Over time Touring Cars has drifted from its role as racing cars based on modern road cars with categories like NASCAR and DTM having little to no connection to road cars. This in turn has led to the rise of Production car racing to fulfil the role once performed by Touring Cars and Sports Cars before that.
Running at major international racing facilities, this series is supported by BMW, SEAT and Chevrolet. The latter fields a works team, whereas the other two only sell racing kits to be installed on their cars, providing technical support to their customers. In 2011 Volvo also entered the championship, fielding a one-car team as an evaluation for a possible heavier commitment to the series. The World Touring Car Championship features 1.6-litre cars built to Super 2000 regulations based on FIA Group N.
Following the trend of recent FIA rules, cost control is a major theme in the technical regulation. In 2011 the rules concerning the engine capacity have changed, switching from 2000 cc to 1600 cc turbo engines. Cars equipped with the old 2000 cc engines are still eligible in the championship. Many technologies that have featured in production cars are not allowed, for example: variable valve timing, variable intake geometry, ABS brakes and traction control.
The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) currently competes at nine circuits in the UK with cars built to Next Generation Touring Car specification, with ballast being used to equalise performance. From 2011, cars that ran to the BTCC's own Next Generation Touring Car specification were eligible to compete in a phased move away from Super 2000 regulations. Cars are 2.0-litre saloons, station wagons and hatchbacks with over 350 bhp (260 kW) and can be front or rear-wheel drive. During the 2016 season manufacturer team entries came from BMW, Subaru, MG and Honda. Since BTCC budgets have been kept relatively low, there is a strong independent and privateer presence in the championship. Manufacturers represented by privateers include Vauxhall, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Chevrolet and Audi.
Prior to 2001 the BTCC was contested by cars built to 2.0-litre supertouring regulations and had in its heyday up to nine different manufacturers. Joachim Winkelhock stated on several occasions that it was the best touring car championship in the world, and many champions of that era now race in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). Between 2002 and 2006 the BTCC ran its own Touring class with Super Production/Super 2000 cars making up the numbers; the Touring class was phased out (only privateers are eligible to run old Touring cars) with the intention of a pure Super 2000 series. The introduction of the Next Generation Touring Car specification, from 2011, started a phased transition from Super 2000 cars in an effort to cut costs and improve the sport.
The DTM series, the initials standing for Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft until 1996, then following a hiatus, revived as Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters in 2000, features advanced purpose built V8-powered space frame machines, covered with largely carbon fibre bodyshapes resemblant of the manufacturers' road machine (although the roof and roof pillars do originate from the production car). In order to lower costs, the engine power is limited to 600 hp (450 kW), and transmissions, brakes and tyres (Dunlop) are standard parts for all. Also, dimension and aerodynamics are equalised. The approx. 1,050 kg (2,310 lb) light DTM cars corner incredibly quickly and wear spectacular bodykits incorporating huge wheel arches and diffusers.
More than 20 works-backed entries of Opel Astra, Audi TT and Mercedes-Benz CLK contested the revived 2000 DTM series but a serious issue developed for the series when Opel pulled out ahead of the 2006 season. The series has survived this hurdle and remained popular with 18 Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class contesting the present series.
For the 2012 season, the regulations have been adapted to make the vehicles less reliant on aerodynamic downforce and more on mechanical grip. Audi will switch from their A4 model and use the A5, Mercedes will use the Coupe version of their C-Class and BMW have announced their addition to the competition with their M3 Coupe.
Since 1997, and nowadays still on the over 20 kilometres (12 mi) long famous old Nürburgring and other circuit worldwide, in average over 150 touring cars compete in the VLN series of ten typically 4 hour long races. Cars range from old 100 hp (75 kW) road legal compacts to 500 hp (370 kW) Porsche 996 and even modified DTM cars (1,250 kg (2,760 lb)). Most entrants of the 24 Hours Nürburgring collect experience here.
Between 1996 and 2010 the Swedish Touring Car Championship contained various races in Sweden and a few in Norway. The most successful car makes were Volvo, BMW, Audi and Nissan. In 2010 the championship merged with the Danish Touringcar Championship to form the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship. The 2010 champion was Robert Dahlgren, because he had achieved the best results from selected races in the Danish and Swedish championships. Rickard Rydell and Johan Kristoffersson won the championship in 2011 and 2012, in a Chevrolet and a VW, respectively. In 2013 the series merged with the TTA – Racing Elite League to form the 2013 STCC – Racing Elite League season, starring 17 drivers for Volvo, BMW, Saab, Citroën, Dacia and Honda.
Australia and New Zealand
Formerly the Australian Touring Car Championship,'Supercars' are now known internationally as the 'fastest touring cars in the world' racing at speeds of up to 322kph. They are also the most expensive touring cars in the world with each car costing in excess of $1 million (AUD) which includes state of the art $250,000 (AUD) 680hp+ engines. The current formula was devised in 1993 (based on Group A regulations) and branded as 'V8 Supercars' in 1997 and 'Supercars' in 2016. The series features grids of twenty-six cars (although in endurance races e.g. the Bathurst 1000 there can be wildcard entries, which add to the grid) with 680+ hp (500 kW). The cars are currently Ford Falcons, Holden Commodores and Nissan Altimas. The weight limit for a Supercar is 1,350 kg (2,980 lb). The race cars themselves are derived from production body panels and space frame chassis. Both Holden and Nissan financially and technically support their favoured teams and take an active role in promotion of the series.
As the series has grown, major international motorsport organisations have become involved. Several teams now benefit from the involvement of Tom Walkinshaw Racing and Triple Eight Race Engineering. In addition to regular appearances in New Zealand (currently using the Pukekohe Park Raceway), the series ventured to China at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2005, since 2006 has raced at the Bahrain International Circuit and since 2010 has raced at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. In 2013, the series added a race in the U.S. at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas. The growth of the series has seen motorsport equal Rugby League as Australia's third most watched sport.
From 2013, Nissan  provided a third manufacturer, working with Kelly Racing. Mercedes-Benz also joined the series in 2013 with Stone Brothers Racing, in conjunction with Erebus Racing. Volvo also joined the championship in 2014 with Garry Rogers Motorsport, in conjunction with Polestar Racing.
The series incorporates the world famous Bathurst 1000 race as a championship round. Because of the longer distance, regulations require two drivers per car for this race. This also applies to the Sandown 500 & the Gold Coast 600. These events make up Supercars 'PIRTEK Enduro Cup', which is a championship-within-a-championship where the driver combination with most points collected over the 3 Enduros wins a trophy.
Different sets of regulations do apply:
Erebus Racing CEO Ryan Maddison confirmed that the three E63 AMG race cars will carry Mercedes badgework but no additional signage.
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