The 2001 theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship season was the 44th British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) season and marked the beginning of a new era of lower-cost rules and regulations for the series.
The spectacular but expensive Supertouring car regulations were finally ditched at the end of 2000. 2001 saw the field divided into two classes: BTC-T and BTC-P. The latter was a simple renaming of 2000's "Class B" Super Production specification cars, whereas BTC-T (T for Touring) was a completely new set of rules designed to produce closer racing and cheaper cars to build.
The new rules provoked different reactions from the three remaining manufacturers in the BTCC. Ford withdrew completely, Honda took a year out to develop a car to the new rules while Vauxhall immediately set to work on a new car and entered four new-regulation Astra Coupes built and run by Triple 8 Racing. Yvan Muller and Jason Plato remained in first two entries under the Vauxhall Motorsport banner, while James Thompson moved from Honda to partner Phil Bennett, debuting in the BTCC, in Egg Sport-liveried cars. Two new manufacturers were attracted to the series: Peugeot entered a trio of Vic Lee Racing-prepared 406 Coupes driven by Matt Neal (who left after the first round to compete in the European Touring Car Championship for Team Dynamics), Class B graduate Dan Eaves and touring car veteran Steve Soper. The team re-expanded to three cars for Donington, as superbike racer Aaron Slight made a guest appearance whilst evaluating a full-time switch to four wheels the following year. MG began development of a ZS built to the new regulations courtesy of West Surrey Racing, this made guest appearances in the hands of ex-Ford and Nissan driver Anthony Reid and former Formula 3 racer Warren Hughes during closing rounds of the season in preparation for a full campaign in 2002. Two small independent teams filled out the Touring class grid ambitiously entering new cars: JSM fielded a pair of Alfa Romeo 147s in an assault headed by 1992 BTCC champion Tim Harvey in a driver/team manager role. Across the year Tom Ferrier, David Pinkney and Mark Blair would all appear in the second car. ABG Motorsport entered a Lexus IS200 for Kurt Luby, with plans to expand to a second car for Brazilian GT racer Thomas Erdos later in the year. This did not come off and instead Erdos took Luby's drive mid-season while the running of the car was taken over by Total Motorsport. Driver-turned-motoring journalist Steve Sutcliffe drove the car as a guest entry in the final round.
With a low entry in the top class, the grid relied largely on the road-going based Production class (formerly Class B) for numbers, the Peugeot 306 GTi and Honda Accord proved the most popular machines in this class. HTML headed the Peugeot entry with Roger Moen and Simon Harrison returning for their second seasons in the class, Tech-Speed Motorsport also entered a pair of 306s for MG racers Annie Templeton and young gun Paul O'Neill, and teenager Tom Boardman drove a fifth 306 for his family-run team. Barwell Motorsport's pair of cars for Peter Cate (who was replaced by Simon Graves following the first three rounds) and ex-Honda works driver James Kaye headed the Accord challenge, while single Accord entries were fielded by Total Control Racing for Clio Cup graduate Jim Edwards Jnr, and Synchro Motorsport for Dave Allan. The Honda contingent was also bolstered by businessman John Batchelor's pair of B&Q-backed Integras, entered for himself (as John B-and-Q) and Nick Beaumont. The Ford Focus was also competitive in the hands of GR Motorsport, who entered a quartet of cars for youngsters Gareth Howell and Mat Jackson, and veterans Rick Kraemer and Richard Meins, as was GAJanspeed's Alfa Romeo 156, campaigned by class returnees Gavin Pyper and Colin Blair, and Rob Collard's self-entered Renault Clio. Cranfield Automotive also entered a pair of Mitsubishi Carismas and Bintcliffe Sport a single Nissan Primera, but abandoned their efforts early in the year, while a third Integra, entered by Arnold James for his son Nick, appeared later on in the season, as did the first ever Proton entered in the BTCC, a Satria run by TH Motorsport for Steve Wood.
Honda and Ford left the series, although Peugeot returned as a works entry after withdrawing at the end of the 1998 season.
More conventional qualifying sessions returned, replacing the one-lap showdown system of previous years
Initially a three-race format was proposed for BTCC race-day: BTC-P and BTC-T to have one 'sprint' race each before the two classes combined for a longer 'feature' race in which the Touring class cars would be required to make a pit-stop. However, after the first race meeting it was decided that the two classes should combine for the sprint race as well.
Note: bold signifies pole position in class (1 point awarded all races), italics signifies fastest lap in class (1 point awarded all races) and * signifies that driver lead feature race for at least one lap and also in the Production class when a driver leads the class for at least a lap (1 point given in both).