B&Q, Europe's leading home improvements retailer, is to enter into a major sponsorship programme in the 2001 British Touring Car Championship.

Team B&Q will enter a pair of Honda Integras in the Production car class of the BTCC, to be driven by series newcomers John B-and-Q and Nick Beaumont.

Both drivers are graduates of the Ford Fiesta series, where exciting, door-to-door racing is common place. Beaumont was fifth in last year's series whilst John B-and-Q is the 1999 Super Road Saloon champion.

As an innovative feature of the sponsorship agreement, driver and team principal John B-and-Q changed his name by deed poll from John Batchelor.

"It's important to ensure that sponsors get full value for their investment, and this is one way of maximising B&Q's profile within the Championship," said John.

Additional support for the two red Honda entries will come from talkSPORT, the national sports radio network, which will provide extensive coverage of the activities of Team B&Q through reports and driver interviews.

Talksport has a number of unusual events planned throughout the year, including an appearance by former international football star and current commentator Alan Brazil in the passenger seat at a track day event.

In addition, B&Q's red-and-white colours will also be seen on the stunning, new Lexus IS200s to be driven by Kurt Luby and Thomas Erdos in the Touring car category of the championship.

"This is an exciting project for us. It is a new departure for B&Q and the opportunities to link with the high-profile British Touring Car Championship, and its strong TV package, as well as partnering with talkSPORT are particularly attractive. We know how much keen DIYers and tradespeople enjoy motorsport and this is an effective means of reaching this audience in a way that normal advertising doesn't. The BTCC presents us with many interesting marketing opportunities and we look forward to a great season" explained Nigel Leahy, advertising controller for B&Q plc.

The 2001 British Touring Car Championship will be contested over 26 races at 13 rounds. It covers venues as nationwide as Brands Hatch (Kent), Oulton Park (Cheshire), Knockhill (Scotland), Mondello Park (Ireland) and the home of the British Grand Prix, Silverstone (Northants). All rounds of the championship are televised on BBC Grandstand.

B&Q's sponsorship programme will be managed and co ordinated by 141 Sports and Entertainment, the sports marketing division of Cordiant Communications Group. 141's previous expertise in managing Formula One, rallying, soccer, tennis and golf sponsorships will be utilised to maximise B&Q's involvement in the BTCC.