When the new rules were announced for the 2001 British Touring Car Championship, some observers felt that the 2001 season would be spent slowly trying to rebuild grid sizes and luring the spectators back to the track despite the passing of the Super Touring era. However after new series organisers BMP were greeted with more than a dozen entries into the immensely popular Production Class, the main problem next year may now be trying to find the space to put everyone.

While the main Touring Class of the 2001 BTCC may still need a little bolstering with cars only confirmed from Peugeot (3), Vauxhall (2-4), Lexus (2) and 99 per cent committals from Alfa Romeo and the Rover/Ray Mallock project, the secondary Production Class is already brimming with competitive machinery and talented drivers. The former 'Class B' provided plenty of thrilling action in 2000 as Alan Morrison and James Kaye battled for the title and its popularity bloomed in its first season to the point where there were just as many Class B cars as there were Super Touring entries.

With all the 2000 regulars returning to the fold next year, the competition will be even more intense in the wake of BMW's return with Edenbridge Racing, GR Motorsports three-pronged Ford Focus attack, Techspeed's ex-Bowman pair of Peugeot 306's, Matt Kelly's pair of Project Motorsport Nissan Primera's and the highly fancied HTML Peugeot 306, all of whom have confirmed their entry next year.

In addition to that glut, JS Motorsports could run up to four Alfa Romeo's with either the 147 or 156 models while ABG Motorsport are still trying to get a deal together to run a Lexus IS200 to complement their Touring attack. TH Motorsport have nearly completed a deal to field two Proton's in 2001 leaving preliminary grid numbers pushing 30 just for the Production Class with the new season still three months away.

Edenbridge Racing are still looking for drivers for their pair of E36's although the funding for the team is already in place while GR Motorsports have signed up 19 year old Gareth Howell to be a leading part of their exciting four door Ford Focus project. Howell made his debut with the team at Oulton Park last year and he could link up with Ford Fiesta standout Gordon Sheddon and ex-factory Peugeot BTCC driver Simon Harrison although both have recently been targeted by HTML and JS Motorsports respectively.

Techspeed make a welcome return to the BTCC after a long lay off and the purchase of Bowman's 2000 National Saloon winning Peugeot 306's are a great asset to MGF Cup racers Paul O'Neill and Annie Templeton, who becomes the first woman to race in the BTCC since Paula Cook two years ago.

National Saloon Championship regular Matt Kelly also has the potential to win races with his Nissan Primera's after linking up with current BTCC outfit Bintcliffe Sport Racing. Bintcliffe Sport will provide technical assistance to the Project team while Kelly has pulled off another major bonus by recruiting the services of former factory Nissan engine builders International Engine Services in what has the potential to be a very quick combination.

Ambitious outfit JS Motorsports could well run a quartet of Production 147's alongside their Touring effort although that figure may be reduced to two depending on how chassis construction goes. Ex FF 1600 racer Enzo Mucci and upcoming talent Danny Wright have already been signed by the squad and will form half, if not all of the team's Production assault while Alfa expert Enzo Buscaglia is mooted to join the squad for an attack on either class.

The possible involvement of Proton and Lexus to the class would add yet more flair to an already diverse mix of machinery and if this impetus continues into 2001 then there may as many as ten different marques on display when the green light comes on to signal the start of the 2001 season.