One of the British Touring Car Championship's most loyal supporters will return to the series next year alongside a name that will be contesting its first BTCC campaign as BMW and Lexus add further weight to the burgeoning Production Class.

BMW return to the series after a four year absence with two E36 models to be run by the British Edenbridge Racing outfit while the entry of two Lexus IS200's is almost complete pending a final technical go ahead.

The arrival of BMW and Lexus is reward for the new series bosses' flexibility in their attempts to breathe extra life into the flagging championship, which is entering a new era under the control of British Motorsports Promoters. Rear-wheel machinery was originally outlawed by series regulations but with the prospect of four stunning new cars adding to an already close field, new series boss Richard West approved both for competition.

Joining what is effectively the old Class B title hunt, BMW and Lexus will face stiff competition from Peugeot, Honda, Ford, Nissan and Alfa Romeo amongst others in what promises to be another fiercely competitive year for the 'baby' class.

The news that ex-Formula 3000 Team Edenbridge Racing will run the BMW effort is another major boost for the BTCC who are fighting to attract top names to the series after many of this year's outgoing Super Touring crop decided to look elsewhere for employment in 2001. The team have a glittering track record in Formula 3 where they were Champions in 1995 with Oliver Gavin and have spent several seasons in the Formula 3000 Championship alongside Paul Stoddart's European Aviation concern.

British outfit ABG Motorsport are hoping to run the Lexus effort when the final regulations are announced and there is a chassis already prepared as the team wait for the final nod from the series bosses although drivers and sponsorship have yet to be revealed.