Towards the end of the 90’s, the BTCC popularity was on the crest of a wave. The drivers in the championship had become household names, as a growing list of international stars came to race in the series. This led ToCA to license a game to be developed and published by Codemasters, which was released on the Playstation console in November 1997.
The game, called TOCA Touring Car Championship, focused on the 1997 British Touring Car Championship season, featuring all 16 works drivers in the series. Due to hardware limitations, independent enteries were not included.
Development of the game began in 1996 and continued for the next eighteen months. The team, led by Gavin Raeburn, consisted of twenty-six programmers who worked six-day weeks at the rate of fourteen hours per day during the final stages of game development. In order to realistically model the real life cars, each one was laser scanned with the precision of a quarter of a millimetre. These were textured under several conditions, depending on whether they are damaged or intact.
TOCA Touring Car Championship received a mostly positive response from critics upon release in November 1997. The British magazine Edge claimed that at the time of its release, there was not another PlayStation racing video game that “reached such a level of playability and pure excitement”.
The game was a commercial success with 600,000 copies sold Europe in the first six months of its release and it was ranked third in the United Kingdom video game charts.
The release of the game spawned a whole new breed of touring car fans, like Marv Spice below!
It really did, played TOCA 1&2 so much with my dad and brother on the Playstation. Been a follower of the sport ever since and for some reason have only just started to go to races and visit iconic circuits.
— Marv Spice (@marvspice) July 4, 2019
Due to the success of the first game, Codemasters commissioned a sequel, planned to be released for the Christmas period of 1998.
The game itself was much more than a seasonal update. Sure, the drivers and cars had been updated to the 1998 BTCC season, but there were new tracks, support race series and a much improved graphics engine. The level of car damage possible during a race was also enhanced, which was a significant selling point compared with its rivals – the likes of Gran Turismo, which had no damage model at the time. In fact, there were many other features that set it apart from other racing games of the time.
Little additions, like your surname being added on to the car, just like a BTCC car, were very welcome. Headlights now reflected on a wet track and the game looked more realistic than anything ever seen before.
The sequel received favourable reviews on both platforms. The official Playstation magazine gave the PlayStation version a score of nine out of ten and said it was an improvement on the original game, with lots of tracks, but that “the new cars felt tacked on.” Other scores were favourable, with Playstation Power calling it the most realistic racing game ever made – giving it a score of 93%.
Despite the success of the original two games, the third installment of the series, TOCA World Touring Cars, dropped the BTCC license, prefering to go with generic cars and teams. This upset a number of BTCC and TOCA fans. However, with the Super Touring regulations becoming more expensive, manufacturers pulled out, meaning smaller grids – giving the game less appeal to publishers.
Gran Tourismo 2 for Playstation 1 included some super touring cars, including them in a mini championship. There were no BTCC tracks or drivers included, however.
Grid: Autosport, a game published by Codemasters in 2014, featured several additional downloadable content. The most eagerly anticipated one of these was the “Touring Legends” Pack, as it featured two new circuits, Donington Park and Silverstone, five classic BTCC touring cars from the mid-1990s and new single player championships featuring the Super Tourers.
The cars were the Alfa Romeo 155, Audi A4, Volvo 850 Estate, Ford Sierra, BMW M3.
The forthcoming GRID game from Codemasters (releases on 11th October) again features a selection on Super Tourers for players to race.
Over the years, the “modding” community have gone into over drive, as the demand for a modern version of a super touring game have grown. Race 07, a game based on the World Touring Car Championship, was released in 2007 and modified by many different people in the community.
A member of the community known as “AndreasFSC” created the ‘AL Super Touring mod’ for the game, which – as you can see from the pictures below, was a wonderful re-creation of the BTCC Super Touring era.
Assetto Corsa became the next game that the modding community worked on, with a beautiful rendition of Matt Neal’s independent Nissan, as seeon below.
For consoles players, the options were even more limited. as games could not be modified in the same way that PC games can be edited.
Forza Motorsport 7 – Super Touring Championship
In 2012, to overcome this, The Forza Racing Series came up with their Super Touring Championship, utilising the custom paint design system of the Forza Motorsport franchise on Xbox and PC. Using cars from the super touring era, along with replacements that look similar to cars from the era, talented painters and designers have faithfully recreated the liveries from the era.
“We have an insatiable desire for online touring car racing at the Forza Racing Series, with applications from all over the world for our Super Touring series. During the last season of competition, we have had people racing from Australia, USA and all over Europe! The interest in our unique series is high and we hope to have similar levels of interest when our next season starts in October!
As a console, we are more limited in car selection, we have an Escort running as a Mondeo, for example – but we then benefit with it being much easier to pick up and play!”
GTR 2 – Super Touring MOD
More recently, a ‘mod’ for the game GTR 2 – FIA GT Racing Game was released by “FRM Furi”. Released at the end of July 2019, the mod claims to be the “ultimate virtual monument and encyclopedia of one of the most famed and beloved periods in the history of touring car racing”.
Every car from every season of the BTCC Super Tourer era has been beautifully recreated & you are able to take any one of them out for a spin. As the game is quite an old game, you don’t need a particularly high specification machine to run the game either.
So, whilst there will most likely never be another stand alone game for BTCC Super Tourers, there are still plenty of ways to recreate the golden era of the BTCC on your PC and/or console.