Is this the end of the road (er, track) for the
Vauxhall, the most successful manufacturer of the last decade, has announced that it is to quit the touring car series at the end of the 2009 season, leaving the BTCC without a single manufacturer team for next year.
Predictably, VX Racing is blaming the global economic downturn for its withdrawal. "A number of factors have led us to take the decision to withdraw from the championship at the end of this season," said Vauxhall's Andy Gilson. "Vauxhall's primary focus for next year will be bringing to market exciting new products."
Last year, VX Racing won both the constructors' championship and, through Fabrizio Giovanardi, the drivers' championship too. In fact, the team has clinched the constructors' title in seven of the last eight years, racking up 100 race wins along the way.
With Seat withdrawing its factory team at the end of last season, Vauxhall's departure leaves the BTCC worryingly sparse. Yes, we might well see privately entered Vauxhalls in the championship next year, but with no manufacturer-based teams on the grid, things aren't looking good.
BTCC boss Alan Gow, however, is putting on a brave face. "Over the last six years we have seen direct manufacturer involvement decline within the BTCC, yet at the exact same time we have seen crowd figures, TV audiences and competitor numbers rise," he said. "That's certainly no coincidence, and the facts prove that a heavy degree of manufacturer involvement is no longer crucial to either the success or popularity of the championship."
So what do you think? RIP BTCC? Or the start of a brave new privateer era?
Talking of the BTCC, here’s Richard Hammond’s affectionate look at the last 50 years of touring car racing...