"We're about to witness the inaugural event of the North American Touring Car Championship, a series modelled after the ever-popular touring car championships that dot the continent of Europe," Chris McClure said at Lime Rock Park in 1996.
The what? The North American Touring Car Championship (NATCC), a series just like the ETCC and BTCC, with one of the few differences being that the Super Touring-regulation honouring events were run here in North America. Even the cars were largely identical, with most of the teams simply importing a new or gently-used touring car from Europe. Before I get to the subject of this article, however, let me state clearly that I wish this series was still around today.
On paper, at least. The cars were limited to 2.0-litres of displacement, 300 horsepower, and were fitted with 6-speed sequential gearboxes. Front or rear-wheel drive. Most importantly, when they went around corners, their wheels tucked inside the bodywork. Go on…
Competitors ranged from the likes of BMW, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz; all with models largely identical to what you'd see in the paddock during a BTCC race. And some you wouldn't, like the Toyota Camry and Mazda Xedos 6…er…the 626-Millenia-ish, which had the best liveries, too.
But fastest of all was—your eyes are not deceiving you—a Dodge Stratus developed in conjunction with Reynard. Yes, Dodge was so convinced that this series would take off that it fielded a factory-backed effort in the first season. It's a car so little-known that I couldn't even find an entry for it on allpar.com, usually the go-to place for anything Chrysler-related.
The first full season of NATCC was 1996, and the series ran over 17 race weekends for a total of 24 races across just two seasons, largely in conjunction with IndyCar events. The series collapsed for a number of reasons, but by now you're all fired up and want to know more. First watch some videos below. (For more, follow the YouTube link below.)
You can also go to www.supertouringregister.com, but prepare to be amazed.
Just how fast were the Dodge Stratus cars? They were shipped to Sweden and run in the STCC, and found success overseas as well. How much? One Stratus is for sale, just £22,500 sans engine. A 1.4-litre turbocharged engine as used in the Dodge Dart and Fiat 500 Abarth plus a few modifications would give you quite the odd little track-day weapon, on the cheap.