Race against road
A major appeal of the BTCC for fans watching either trackside or at home on ITV4 is the ability to relate to the cars they see racing around the UK.
Whether that is the eBay Motors BMW 320si or rival machines like the Honda Civic, MG6 and Ford Focus, the cars on track doing battle in the BTCC all appear visually similar to the cars that fans have used to get to the circuit themselves.
Of course, the eBay Motors BMWs aren’t the same as those available in BMW dealerships up and down the country but just how different are they from their road-going counterparts?
“Even though our cars are designed for the track, there are some parts they share with the road cars,” engineer Drew MacDonald explains. “The basic shell of the car is as you would see on the road, only with a roll cage installed and without all the interior trim you’d get on a road car. It means the dashboard is stripped out and of course, there is only one seat!
“Back in the days of Super Touring in the 1990s, the cars would be a lot different to those that were on the road, but the rules now say the car has to be based more on one that has rolled off the production line.
“As well as the shell, things like the headlights are standard, as are the power steering pump and windscreen wiper motors. There are some suspension components that are shared, although we use different brackets to the road car to position things differently, and the rear bumper is similar to one on the road car.”
However, even though the BTCC machine does share some parts with the road car, it is the things that are different that make it a different beast altogether…
“Even though the engine is based on a standard block, it is very different to the road car,” Drew continues, “much more so than when we used the normally-aspirated engine. There are a few internal parts that are shared with the road car but once Neil Brown have worked their magic, it isn’t like something you would get on the road. We have seen however that running the turbo engine this year has reduced our fuel consumption by about 15%, which has meant we’ve had to change our fuel calculations.
“The gearbox in the car is completely different and all of the electronics are specially designed for racing and nothing like you would get on a road car. However, the connectors for things like the headlights are standard parts that are married to the Cosworth electrics we use with the new turbo engine.
“The brakes are different to deal with the extra stresses of racing, while the wheels are designed specifically for racing by Dynamics. A lot of the things that are different when you look at the road car and the race car are those you can’t see.”
With a number of similarities, and plenty of differences, how do things therefore compare when it comes to buying parts for the two machines?
A look on the new BMW Direct Store, recently launched on eBay Motors, shows that a 17 inch alloy wheel for a BMW 320si can be yours for £299. By contrast, the wheels used by the race team come in at £105 but with 32 rims per car – and three cars in the team – any saving soon disappears.
The price of things like brakes is also vastly different. A set of front brake discs for the road car come in at £160 on the BMW Direct Store but the specialist brake discs used on the BTCC car are £290 each, and don’t last anywhere near as long thanks to the pressure of racing on track. Rear pads are also much more expensive on the race car, costing the team £159 per set, whereas the man on the street can pick up a set for his car for just over £70.
Are there any parts from road car to race car that you’d like to compare? If so, let us know below…