HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship series director Alan Gow has stated that the decision to introduce a spec first gear for rear-wheel drive cars is the 'best solution' to ensuring a level playing field at race starts.
It was revealed last week that rear-wheel drive cars, such as the BMW 320si of championship winner Colin Turkington, will have to run a longer first gear in 2010 which will minimise the advantage the cars enjoy when pulling away from the line.
Previously, the BMW has proved to be the quickest car by far away from the line, with drivers able to make up a number of places compared to its front-wheel drive rivals.
Plans to introduce the rule have been criticised in some quarters due to the disadvantage suffered by rear-wheel drive in other areas but Gow insisted that a spec first gear was a better option than to bring in rolling starts and that the decision had only been made after carrying out specialist analysis.
“Perhaps many people forget that the BTCC is the only touring car championship - running to S2000 regulations - that does not have any rolling starts,” he replied to a question posted on his forum on the official series website BTCC.net
. “All the others (such as the WTCC, Sweden, Denmark etc) introduced rolling starts some years ago in order to negate the clear BMW standing-start advantage. However, as we have seen, these rolling starts are often problematical and can result in quite substantial accident damage in the first corner due to the higher speeds.
“Specialist computational analysis was carried out to determine a first gear ratio for them to use, which would mean that a rear-wheel-drive car would then have about the same initial acceleration (from a standing start) as that of a front-wheel-drive car. In that way, neither type of car would have an advantage or disadvantage off the line. We feel this is a more practical solution to the matter, rather than to go down the route of introducing rolling-starts and the significant issues (in both safety and costs) that they would also bring for many teams.”
Gow also added that the decision wasn't take simply to penalise rear-wheel drive teams, with other series having brought in rolling starts and weight penalties for such cars.
“It's bewildering that some people feel our championship has been harsh on the BMW's - because the reality is exactly the opposite,” he continued. “The WTCC and the other S2000 championships introduced rolling starts (purely to negate BMW's start advantage) years
ago and also require the BMW's to compete at heavier weights than we do.
“Perhaps those same people either aren't aware of this or have simply chosen to ignore it..."
Team RAC and Airwaves BMW both used the 320si in 2009 and are set to be joined on the grid by newcomers Forster Motorsport next season after the Mini Challenge outfit purchased an ex-Jackson MSport car for its debut campaign.