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The KM goes behind-the-scenes of the British Touring Car Championship with Honda Yuasa Racing at Brands Hatch

By Dan Wright

Twice a year, every year, the British Touring Car Championship rolls into Brands Hatch and brings thousands of fans with it.

Spectators from across Kent, and the country, flock to West Kingsdown to see an array of highly-developed saloon cars race side-by-side with the county's best drivers behind the wheel.

But what what makes it so popular?

Well, the Kent Messenger was granted behind-the-scenes access with one of the championship's top teams - Honda Yuasa Racing - to find out why at the first round of 2014...

The immaculate Tourer in the garage. Picture - Joe Wright

Brands Hatch may no longer host Formula One events, but the BTCC regularly attracts record crowds and Honda has been one of the championship's most loyal supporters since its inception and continue to race at the sharp end in 2014.

It has notched up many drivers' titles, manufacturer spoils and team championships, and has started the new season with a long-established driver partnership of three-time BTCC champion Matt Neal and 2012 title winner Gordon Shedden.

The busy BTCC grid. Picture - Joe Wright

For the first time in 20 years, Honda has introduced an estate car back to the series with its Honda Civic Tourer to take on current champion Andrew Jordan and a variety of MG, BMW, Vauxhall, Chevrolet, Audi and Proton teams.

Honda team manager Peter Crolla oversees the impressive operation and thinks the BTCC's recognisable cars, like his team's Tourer, are what make the series so popular.

It's not just a couple of mechanics who make up a team. Picture - Joe Wright

"The BTCC is unlike single-seaters," he said.

"There is a lot of visual representation as teams can showcase their models and fans can see what the cars are.

"We used to run the hatchback model and have now got the Tourer and fans can see what they are.

The Civic Tourer enjoyed a successful debut. Picture - Joe Wright

"It's what the BTCC was built on: watch it on Sunday, buy it on Monday."

It's not just two drivers and a couple of mechanics who make up a BTCC team, though.

Times have changed and with manufacturer backing, Honda take their operation very seriously from the season's start in March right through to its conclusion in October.

Three-time BTCC champion Matt Neal on the grid. Picture - Joe Wright

"We have 15 full-time guys," says Crolla. "Then we've got a lot of marketing, media and there is 40 people involved on a race weekend.

"We are all working to the maximum and retain a core group of guys.

"It's a big operation, a lot of travel is involved and we move the show around the country."

Corporate hospitality is very important to Honda. Picture - Joe Wright

From its opening round in Kent, the BTCC goes up and down the UK - from Norfolk to Cheshire via Scotland and Hampshire.

Everywhere it goes, the series receives live coverage on national TV and this year has collected together one of its biggest grids to date - 31 cars started the season at Brands.

Racing is always close - quite often too close and contact is inevitable at times - but its not just the cars on track which teams like Honda take seriously.

Behind-the-scenes with Honda. Picture - Joe Wright

Corporate hospitality plays a major part in BTCC race weekends with VIP guests enjoying behind-the-scenes access, grid walks and complimentary food and drink throughout the day.

On track, though, Honda had a successful start to their season, taking three podium finishes and left Brands leading the manufacturer and team championships.

They will be looking to continue that form in just three weeks time when the series starts round two of its ten round campaign with 27 races left to run.

This is what the drivers do it for... Picture - Joe Wright

So, next time you see the BTCC live at Brands, remember one thing: it's not just the driver and a couple of mechanics who get those cars on the grid.

A big thanks to Honda Yuasa Racing for their hospitality throughout the day at Brands Hatch.

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