Cars

BTCC then and now: 2019 BMW 3 Series meets 1991 E30 M3

He then reveals something that catches me by surprise. How is your heel-and-toe technique? “I do it in my own car,” he says. “It’s a style that goes back to the E90 I raced back in 2008. We’d moved from six-speed sequential to five-speed H-pattern.”

Oh. Why? “In 2007, with the six-speed sequential and rear-wheel drive we had to carry an additional 30kg of penalty weight,” he says. “So by going to a five-speed H-pattern we could take most of that weight out. The rev drop was quite big going down the ’box, so I had to give it a good blip and that’s been my style ever since.”

Even having returned to a sequential ’box in recent years? “Yes,” he says. “I’m a right-foot braker, not a left-foot braker. [Team-mates] Andy [Jordan] and Tom Oliphant, as left-foot brakers, tend to put the car on its nose a lot more and are more aggressive on the brake pedal. When it comes to setting up my car I require it to do a bit more in the turn-in phase.”

For Harvey, the test offers a rare chance to try not only a modern car, but the modern car. Now co-commentator on ITV4’s live BTCC coverage, the insight will be directly useful. So how did the current car compare with his lovely old E30?

“It was the same but different,” he says. “It’s still a BMW 3 Series, still rear-wheel drive. But the differences are in terms of technology, feel, power, weight. Colin’s car is 350kg heavier for a start [1300kg]. That’s an awful lot of weight when you think 54kg is the maximum the BTCC adds for success ballast. So the E30 feels much more up on its toes, as if it’s dancing. You’re absolutely on it with lots of little control inputs. In Colin’s car you feel that weight and it dumbs down responses. And given its size, Colin couldn’t go for the gaps I could!

“But the engine is a lot more powerful, probably 100bhp more,” says Harvey. The E30 today is running as a 2.5-litre, but the G20’s 2.0-litre B48 engine, which pumps out 370bhp at 6500rpm, takes the modern car to another level. “It doesn’t feel like a converted road car,” says Tim, “it feels like a ground-up racing car.”

As Harvey notes, Super Touring cars by the end of the decade had developed far beyond the converted road cars of 10 years earlier. For touring cars, the 1990s were the equivalent of the 1970s in Formula 1. Compare a Lotus 49 to a fully ground-effect Lotus 79: tin-tops underwent a similarly accelerated evolution thanks to big manufacturer spending power and the influence of aerodynamics.

Speaking of which, Turkington explains how the new 3 Series is a vast improvement on the 1 Series in which he claimed his third BTCC crown last year. “How is this car superior?” asks Tim.

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