Have fond memories of the BTCC in the 1990s? We list ten of the best-loved and successful Super Touring Cars
Appearing for the first time in 1958, the British Touring Car Championship initially featured close to showroom spec cars tearing around the country’s tracks. It didn’t take long for specialist teams to get involved – leading to even closer racing and some big names like Clark and Hill turning up to take part in the action. The popularity of the BTCC grew over the years and by the ‘90s, international manufacturers and drivers were getting involved too.
Mega sums were being invested into the cars and they had evolved into serious track machines. To keep things fair the Super Touring Formula was created which led to some of the closest and fiercest competition the BTCC had ever seen. Many of these cars have in recent years been back in action at various support races and special events so we thought it was high time to revisit some of the best from the golden era of the BTCC.
Alfa Romeo 155
The angularly stylish Alfa 155 entered the BTCC in 1994 and promptly dominated the first 5 rounds thanks in no small part to its advanced wings and spoilers. A fuss was kicked up by the competition and after some negotiation the entire field soon sported similar aero add-ons. While the competition closed in, none could match the flying Alfas, as Gabrielle Tarquini remained consistently competitive in his 155 and took the constructors’ and drivers’ championships that year.
Audi A4 Quattro
Audi dominated the 1996 season with its new Quattro A4 race cars, with the four-wheel drive providing a significant advantage in inclement weather. German driver Frank Biela finished in the top ten in 24 of the 26 races with eight outright wins. The Audi team remained the sole four-wheel drive BTCC entry and severe weight penalties the following year meant that they had to settle for second place overall. Regardless, the Quattro A4 had proven its point and sadly was not to regain its dominance, with four-wheel drive banned from the 1998 season onwards.
With BMW withdrawing their works entries at the end of 1992, it was up to the E36 318i, campaigned by Schnitzer Motorsport to take on the competition. It’s with this car that Joachim Winkelhock took top honours for BMW, clinching both drivers and manufacturers titles in 1993, with eight wins overall, Steve Soper took second place overall further confirming the BMW’s racing prowess.
The best-selling road car of the lot, the Ford Mondeo, had a lot of supporters. Good thing then that it also proved extremely capable on the track. By the time it won the constructors championships in 2000 though, the similarity between the racer and the sales rep Mondeos in the car park were very slim indeed. In fairness, every car on the grid was equally as far removed from their outwardly similar road going versions. The Mondeo was the last car to take the title under the Super Touring Car regulations as escalating costs finally called a halt to the Super Touring Car format.
Looking suspiciously like your Dad’s daily driver at first glance, seeing one up on two wheels through the corners at Brands Hatch battling it out with the rest of the field would quickly dispel those thoughts. The Primeras were regular front runners in the BTCC and took two constructors championships on the trot in both 1998 and 1999. Laurent Aiello clinched the drivers’ title in that final year as well with the Nissans winning 13 out of 26 races. Independent driver Matt Neal famously won a championship race in his Primera at Donington winning a £250,000 prize in the process.
Initially fielding a Renault 19 the French manufacturer introduced the much more capable Laguna for the 1994 season. Not only one of the coolest looking cars of the series, the Laguna also proved to be one of the most successful, giving Renault the constructors championships in 1995 and 1997. Alain Menu also clinched the drivers’ title in 97 aided by a record 14 wins, the combination was competitive for a number of years placing second overall three times from 1994 to 1996.
The Cavalier competed in the Super Touring class for a total of 6 years beginning in 1991 and was a regular front runner. Tim Harvey took the manufacturers championships in 1992 with 5 wins and John Cleland added a team championship trophy in 1995 which was to be the last year before the Cavalier was replaced by the somewhat less successful Vectra.
Volvo 850 Estate
The short-lived but hugely popular 850 Estate appeared only for the 1994 season before being replaced by the smaller Volvo S40 saloon in 1995. The whole idea behind using the estate was to theoretically increase the downforce, withough the use of a large rear wings. In reality, the weight difference was minimal, and it was great marketing! As the only estate to compete in the BTCC (until the the Civic Tourer of 2015), it is one of the most memorable of the Super Touring era.
The Honda Accord has the accolade of winning the last ever BTCC race under Super Touring Class rules piloted by Tom Kristensen and proved a capable racer throughout the season. Although most spawned touring car-themed warmed up road cars, Toad-going Accord Type R is by far one of the most convincing, thanks to its fantastic the VTEC engine.
Given the 406’s great form in other European championships, it was always a bit of a wonder as to why it never did brilliantly in the BTCC. Just like the Lanunas though, the cool paint job is what most people remember fondly…
Words: John Tallodi