The British Touring Car Championship returns this weekend for the 2014 season with a packed grid, and drivers are predicting that's going to make this one of the most spectacular years for the championship we've seen yet.

So what's going to make it so special? Well, we've put together a bluffers' guide to the new season, so that you've the best idea of what's going on when the season kicks off at Brands Hatch on Saturday. So here's everything you need to know that's new – and old – about the 2014 BTCC season.

Old faces

This year, the championship will play host to an unprecedented number of former champions – seven in total. Current title holder Andrew Jordan will be joined by Honda drivers Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, and their main rival, Jason Plato, all of whom are veteran BTCC drivers with championships to their name.

In addition, Colin Turkington, a former champion who returned from a three-year hiatus last year, will be in the mix. As indeed will two great names from the BTCC's past: Fabrizzio Giovanardi, who won two consecutive championships in 2007 and 2008, and Alain Menu, who won the last of his two championships way back in 2000.

New cars

This year will see one of the largest BTCC grids ever – a whopping 31 cars will be taking part in the championship. And that means we'll also see a huge variety of cars taking part.

Honda has perhaps the biggest change – this year it'll be racing its Civic in estate form, a move unheard of since the Volvo 850 estates of the early 1990s.

The Civic Tourer will be joined on the grid by established contenders like the MG 6 and BMW 1 Series, along with a few models new to the series, such as the Mercedes A-Class.

And there'll be a huge variety of racing colours, too, thanks to the plethora of independent teams taking part this year.

Matt Neal told Huff Post Sport that the amount of cars this season is likely to make it tough going, especially at the first race. "Thirty-one cars on the grid is going to be chaos at Brands, absolute chaos," he says. "But it does mean qualifying's important, the pressure is going to go up... there's only 30 minutes, I reckon you'll be lucky to get one clean lap in."

Same tracks

Just like last year, the championship will feature 30 races in total across a selection of nine circuits. It'll start at Brands Hatch on the shorter Indy circuit this weekend, and finish on the 11th October, again at Brands Hatch, but this time on the full-size Grand Prix circuit.

Live coverage of each race day as well as repeated highlights will be broadcast on ITV4. Don't miss it - it's set to be an exciting year!

Author: Alex Robbins