Reigning champion Vauxhall will launch its assault on the 2005 British Touring Car Championship with a brand new three-door Astra this year – the new Astra Sport Hatch. The new generation VX Racing car makes its competition debut in the opening rounds of the 2005 BTCC at Donington Park in April, in the same week its sister car, the three-door Astra Sport Hatch goes on sale across the UK.
An artist’s impression of the new Astra Sport Hatch BTCC car is shown on Vauxhall’s stand at this week’s Autosport International exhibition (NEC, Birmingham, January 13-16).
Based on the latest generation Astra road car, Vauxhall’s new racer comes with a strong racing pedigree, its predecessor, the out-going Astra Coupe, being the most successful car ever in the BTCC.
Stuart Harris, VXR Brand Manager, said: "The new Astra Sport Hatch has a tough act to follow because the old Astra Coupe was so incredibly successful, winning the BTCC manufacturer’s, team and driver’s titles for four straight seasons. It always takes some time to develop a new racing car, but the newcomer does have some inherent design advantages over the outgoing car, and we’d like to think it won’t be long before the new Astra is winning races."
BTCC technical regulations require the racing cars to retain a strong similarity to their roadgoing counterparts, retaining essentially the same suspension layout, engine structure, engine position, and bodywork.
The new Astra Sport Hatch’s chassis is stiffer than its predecessors, which benefits roadholding; the front and rear tracks are a little wider, which will aid stability and increase the grip potential; and the front and rear suspensions, while remaining essentially the same as the road car’s in layout and geometry, have been re-tuned to increase installation stiffness and improve control. The new three-door Sport Hatch has a particularly low roofline, which gives a useful aerodynamic advantage.
Currently under construction, the new car is scheduled to have its first high-speed runs at Jarama circuit in Spain later this month.