Team Halfords team boss Steve Neal has revealed that he believes a third manufacturer team could be present on the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship grid for the 2009 season.

While seven manufacturers have been seen on the grid this season with ten different models, only Vauxhall and SEAT have run as manufacturer teams, with the likes of BMW, Honda and Chevrolet represented by a raft of independent outfits.

Since the latest incarnation of BTCC rules were brought in in 2001, Honda, MG, Peugeot and Proton have also run manufacturer teams in the series, although the manufacturers' title battle has been a straight two-horse race between Vauxhall and SEAT since 2005.

While that hasn't prevented recent seasons being amongst the most closely fought and dramatic in the 50 year history of the BTCC, series director Alan Gow has made little secret of the fact he has been hoping to bring more manufacturers into the series, with Neal stating he believed it could well happen next year.

"You have quite a diverse number of different sorts of cars now which is useful," he told when asked about the state of the series compared to years gone by. "I believe we will have another manufacturer next year in a rear-wheel drive car, which will be really exciting because that guy will be pretty tough to beat.

"That [possible manufacturer involvement] is something that exists now which hasn't existed before, apart from the mid-90s when British supertouring was at its peak. They had all the manufacturer teams then, although you don't necessarily need them. What you need is constructor teams; people who will build cars and have chosen to do so like ourselves.

"We are the only people at the moment, along with Triple Eight, who are building cars which is just crazy."

Regardless of whether a third manufacturer does appear on the grid, Neal added that he felt that series was heading towards another high, with crowd figures rising, a strong TV package in place and strength in depth throughout the field.

"I'd like to think we are going back towards another high, but the world economics may just be in contradiction to that," he said. "It's a case of watch this space, but don't ask [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Alistair Darling!"


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