The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) has been part of the very fabric of the British motorsport community for generations, having first been run as the British Saloon Car Championship a full 60 years ago! With this milestone in mind, and to celebrate the fact that ITG hardware can be found up and down the contemporary BTCC grid, we thought it high time we devise a blog, one focussed on 10 of the greatest moments in the championship’s long and storied history.
Think we’ve overlooked a classic? Then let us know in the comments section below.
1) John Cleland and Steve Soper – Silverstone, 1992
Undoubtedly one of the BTCC’s best known moments thanks to its mix of drama, a decidedly contentious on-track move, and of course Murray Walker’s iconic line – ‘I’m going for first says Cleland.’ John Cleland (Vauxhall), Will Hoy (Toyota) and Tim Harvey (BMW) were all in with a shout of the title when the series arrived at Silverstone for the final round, with the Cavalier driver needing to finish ahead of his rivals to put the championship beyond their reach. Things came to a head in the final race meeting of the year, and the battle and ensuing crash between the BMW of Steve Soper and Cleland has gone down in BTCC folklore. The 3-series and the Cavalier came together at Luffield, both spinning out and hitting the Armco. Both were out on the spot, but the Scot’s exit meant that Soper’s team mate, Harvey, was assured of the title.
2) Matt Neal – Donington, 1999
The 1990s saw the BTCC enjoy its golden era thanks to bumper grids of manufacturer teams, so much so that it often felt as if every single dealership on the high street was represented! While great for fans the sport as a whole, the manufacturer domination did make it hard for privateers to score big points, which is why the BTCC’s sporting body put up a prize fund of £250,000 for the first Independent to win a race outright. Matt Neal was the man who managed to claim that hefty prize at Donington Park in 1999, driving a stunning race in his Team Dynamics Nissan Primera (despite a heart stopping moment when he stalled in the pits and having to re-take the lead from James Thompson) and putting in one of the drives of his career. It’s a result that’s gone down in BTCC lore. The video below shows onboard footage from very similar ’98 Primera, as someone’s opted to remove the original clip from YouTube.
3) Jason Plato Vs Matt Neal – Rockingham, 2011
One of the most engaging aspect of the BTCC are the personalities of its drivers, with most able and willing to speak freely. This has cultivated a number of series characters with two of the best known (not to mention most divisive) being Jason Plato and Matt Neal. Both have been in the series for decades now and both have won multiple championships – but that doesn’t mean they’ve always seen eye-to-eye! The most dramatic incident between the pair actually occurred off the track at Rockingham in 2011 after a contentious qualifying session, and it very nearly ended in blows!
4) Steve Soper Vs Andy Rouse – Brands Hatch, 1988
The 1980s saw the mighty Ford Sierra rise to dominance, so much so that the rules were tweaked at the end of the decade to effectively outlaw it! The RS500 won in race series all over the globe thanks to its aero package and the 500bhp+ potential of its Cosworth YB, and the BTCC was no exception. This titanic battle between Steve Soper and Andy Rouse is nothing short of jaw-slackening, and it’s made all the better for taking place at the full Brands Hatch GP circuit.
5) Nigel Mansell – Donington Park, 1998
Nigel Mansell dabbled in BTCC racing at various points in the 1990s, with the two best known instances taking place at Donington Park, both at the wheel of a Ford Mondeo. The first occurred in 1993 and saw the mustachioed Brummie clout the Dunlop bridge at a whopping 120mph, a nasty smash which could’ve been far worse! The second instance occurred in 1998 and was far better; Mansell started from 19th and used the soaking wet conditions to his advantage, working his way up to 5th place by the time the safety car came out. He rose as far as 2nd and might well have won had he not out-braked himself into the chicane, handing the victory to John Cleland in the process.
6) Ash Sutton’s Championship, 2017
It would be wrong to call Ash Sutton’s success in last year’s BTCC a total surprise – he’d given fair warning of both his talent and intent with a number of stirring drives for MG in 2016, but few would’ve predicated his ability to fight back from a poor start to the season to emerge as champion! It was a victory as popular as it was deserved, not least as Sutton overcame the staunchest of competition, putting in some stirring drives and nail-biting overtakes to claim British motorsport’s ultimate prize. His victory also enabled a new manufacturer to take its place in tin-top history, Subaru; its Levorg GTs (complete with ITG induction systems) rose to become one of the most complete packages on the grid, and both driver and team will be out for more this year.
7) Alfa Romeo Domination, 1994
1994 marked one of the most significant years in the entire history of the BTCC, and also one of the most iconic seasons the Super Touring regulations served up. Alfa Romeo joined the fray for the first time and was on the pace from the very beginning, its 155 cars driven by Gabriele Tarquini and Giampiero Simoni, the former a touring car ace of some standing and also an ex-F1 driver. Alfa’s charge was no doubt aided by the addition of an advanced (not to mention highly contentious) aero package, one which even saw the team excluded from the Oulton Park round. It didn’t matter, the Alfa-Tarquini combination was unbeatable for much of the year, with only a late season fight-back from Vauxhall and BMW able to worry the men it red, and in any case, it wasn’t enough to prevent the silverware going back to Italy .
8) Gordon Shedden’s Last Lap Win – Snetterton, 2016
We could have picked from any number of last-lap heroics from pretty much any BTCC driver you care to name, but we’ve selected this effort from Snetterton 2016, largely as it features two of the Championship’s most spectacular pilots – Gordon Shedden and Rob Collard. It’s the kind of tough, paint-swapping racing that reminds us once again why the BTCC is such a popular series. The Team Dynamics run Honda Civic Type Rs have long been among the most potent cars on the grid (with a little help from ITG hardware, naturally), and in 2016 the team was on fine form, even allowing Shedden to take the drives’ title for the 3rd time.
9) Volvo’s 850 Estate, 1994
Volvo set paddock tongues wagging in 1994, when the Swedish firm turned up for the opening round of its debut BTCC campaign with a race car based upon its 850 estate! Rickard Rydell and Jan Lammers were hired to drive the TWR built machines (though neither was aware of the estate-shaped plan when they signed on the dotted line), and while they were never able to challenge the might of Alfa Romeo that season (along with the majority of the BTCC regulars), the 850s certainly made an impact! Indeed, the sight of a pair of Volvo estates muscling their way through Druids (and taking up much of the corner in the process) is one which will forever be associated with the BTCC’s ’90s heyday.
10) Matt Neal’s Crash – Silverstone, 1994
The BTCC has never exactly wanted for bash ’em, crash ’em action, and while no one wants to see drivers getting hurt, there can be no denying the spectacle that touring car crashes represent. There are hundred of potentially ruinous off-track excursions to pick from, but we’ve settled on another clip from the 1994 season. It features Matt Neal and David Leslie in a pair of Mazda Xedos (remember those?), with the former the innocent victim in some Vauxhall Cavalier shoving-shenanigans. The result is among the scariest in tin-top history, which is quite an accolade bearing in mind how many serious ‘offs’ the BTCC has given us over the decades.