The 2001 British Touring Car Championship heads to Thruxton for Rounds 3 & 4 this Bank Holiday Monday, with a new format announced for the Championship Sprint Races.

Following detailed discussions between BTC Production teams, BTC Touring Teams, Manufacturers, BMP and TOCA officials, an agreement was reached on Monday 30th May to merge the BTC Touring Sprint race and the BTC Production Sprint race into one BTCC Sprint race.

BTC Touring cars will race a distance of 16 Laps at Thruxton, as opposed to BTC Production cars that will race 15 Laps. The format means that the BTC Touring cars will effectively be forced to play catch up to the Production category from the start.

The grid for the Sprint race will be formed by the BTC Touring competitors in their order of qualification followed by the BTC Production competitors in their order of qualification. Production competitors will always form their grid behind the Touring class, irrespective of qualifying times.

The BTC Touring category will start the Sprint race first. After a time delay of 12 seconds, a flag will be used to signal the start of the race for BTC Production competitors. This time delay is subject to change, depending on the circuit.

Series Director Richard West commented: "The purpose for the change is to provide the most spectacular racing possible for the viewing public and live spectator alike. I believe that the amalgamation of the Sprint Races will do just that and whilst the new format continues to provide a platform for the Production cars to excel, the Touring cars, when driven hard through traffic, still have the potential for top place finishes. The new format offers the opportunity for thrilling action which I'm sure the fans will relish".

BTC Production Team Barwell Motorsport commented: "It's a very exciting prospect for us to have the chance to beat the Touring class cars and win the Sprint race outright. I think the new race format should make great viewing, with the stage set for a dramatic last lap battle for victory between the likes of Plato, Thompson, Muller and leading Production runners."

Mick Linford of Peugeot Sport is equally optimistic: "I think it's an excellent way of enabling the Touring and Production Class competitors to get the best of both worlds. It gives everybody the opportunity to lead the pack and gain good TV coverage. If anything can increase the Touring drivers' determination to win a race, the fact that they will be playing catch-up with the Production class certainly will. Once they have, they will then have to work their way through the Production pack, which is guaranteed to provide spectacular action for the crowds."

The new format Sprint race is scheduled to begin at 1.00pm on Monday May 7. It will be BTC Touring team ABG Motorsport's first assault on the Championship when their rear wheel drive Lexus takes to the track, piloted by Kurt Luby.

JS Motorsport are expected to run the full squad of cars, with new recruit Tom Ferrier eager to put the Alfa Romeo 147 through its paces.