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BTCC: Memorable Drives [Part 1]

The car on its roof, is a Toyota! Memorable moments come thick and fast in BTCC. Image Credit: SpeedHunters,com

The car on its roof, is a Toyota! Image Credit: SpeedHunters,com

When we look back into the tyre marked pages of history, we often find ourselves remembering the extreme achievements; the best drivers, the worst drivers or even the ‘best’ crashes. It is very easy to say that the greatest driver in a championship in a certain year is the one that wins the title outright. But for this motorsport writer, history is written not only with the grand events and big names, but the individual moments that illuminate the darkness of history. Sometimes to brilliance comes from the midfield. For me, I wish to remember the memorable; the moments that truly prove the greatness of the British Touring Car Championship.

This is a personal list compiled for you wonderful readers. When I think of the BTCC, these are the memorable drives that come to mind. Some of these may be obvious, some of these may be shocking, but they are all moments that define a legendary championship. In no way is this exhaustive; I would love to hear what your would make up your memorable drives in the series!

Andy Priaulx in 2002 with the new look Honda Racing

Andy Priaulx was one of the standout drivers of 2002. Image Credit: mattsalisbury.co.uk

Andy Priaulx was one of the standout drivers of 2002. Image Credit: mattsalisbury.co.uk

My opening entry comes from a driver who many forget ever competed in the BTCC; Andy Priaulx is most known for his highly successful ETCC/WTCC career in which he won multiple titles. However, before he made his move to the European and World stage, he thought he would throw himself in at the deep end and enter the BTCC with the then returning Honda Racing team in the Civic Type-R. This was the first time Honda had entered the British championship since the departure from the Super Touring regulations in 2000. Developments throughout the year surged Priaulx up to the back bumpers of the all conquering Vaxuhall team. His crowning moment came at Knockhill in ever-stormy conditions he battled the elements to gain his first race win (almost throwing it off in the process). He may not have been a championship contender in 2002, but Andy Priaulx showed true racing talent in challenging the established front runners in what was only his first year in the BTCC (in a brand new car don’t forget). Never give up. Never give in. Never quit.

John B&Q – Candidate for Ultimate Film Biopic

John B&Q never achieved much success, but the name lives on. Image Credit: Kelvin Fagan

John B&Q never achieved much success, but the name lives on. Image Credit: Kelvin Fagan

If ever there was a driver who deserved a Hollywood epic (or maybe indie British film) made about his life, it would have to be John Batchelor. John was a racing driver, businessman, political activist and football club owner (York City FC). This was a man who was so desperate to compete in the BTCC, that he even changed his name to John B&Q so as to secure funding from, yes you guessed it. He competed in 2001 in the production class of the series, never gaining any significant success. In fact, he spent most time getting involved in incidents or having mechanical issue. But as a driver, you could just tell he was happy to be there. The saddest part of the story, he died in 2010 as a result of liver disease brought on by alcoholism. He may not have gotten any trophies or championship success, but the name of John B&Q will go down in BTCC history.

Alain Menu 1997 – ‘I’ve been the bridesmaid too long, now it’s my turn’

Alain Menu in his title destroying Laguna in 1997. Image Credit: btccrazy.net

Alain Menu in his title destroying Laguna in 1997. Image Credit: btccrazy.net

When it comes to memorable drives, there are few that can rival the season long performance of Alain Menu in 1997. For 3 years in a row, Menu had finished 2nd in the drivers standings. So as 1997 came along, Menu and his Williams Renault team decided that enough was enough. Not only did he win the ’97 championship, but he had the championship sewn up nearly half way through the season. It was a totally dominant drive from one of the greatest touring car drivers that there has ever been.

Tommy Rustad 1998 – How did he do that?!

In 1998, this is usually how Rustad's car would look. Image Credit: SuperTouringRegister.com

In 1998, this is usually how Rustad’s car would look. Image Credit: SuperTouringRegister.com

Tommy Rustad competed in the BTCC in 1998 as an independent, entering an ex-factory Renault Laguna. If ever you watch back the review of the 1998 season, you would very often see Rustad’s car involved in some form of incident that would lead him to retire from the race. In fact, the picture you see above is how most people got to know his car in the ’98 season. And yet, somehow, as if by some dark spell from an ancient sorcerer, he managed to win the Independents Championship. How is it possible for a man who spent much of his time crashing to win the BTCC Independents Championship? It utterly blows my uncomprehending brain-box. It is by this miracle that makes Tommy Rustad a worthy recipient of a place in my memorable drives list. How can anyone forget a man so unlucky yet luckier than any other driver I know?

Nigel Mansell – 1998 Donington Park – The greatest race ever captured on film

One former F1 driver. One wet race. True excellence. Image Credit: Motorsportretro.com

One former F1 driver. One wet race. True excellence. Image Credit: Motorsportretro.com

The year was 1998. The location was Donington Park. Nigel Mansell made his spectacular return to the BTCC. Due to his off in the first race, he had to start the soaking feature race from the back. What followed was most possibly the greatest motor race to ever have taken place. From last to 1st, then eventually in 4th. If you don’t believe me, here is a video clip from the race to prove it:

Nigel Mansell Takes On The Touring Cars

It takes a lot to render Charlie Cox and John Watson almost speechless, able only to shout the names of the drivers swapping positions every second. The Ford Mondeo was not a race winning car in 1998, but they do say that rain is a great leveller. To have a F1 legend taking part in a championship is one thing, but to have him challenging for the race win is just unbelievable. Nigel Mansell is not only a great driver, but the perfect showman. He should have taken on the BTCC in a full season. You could not write that script. I will go as far as saying that this race alone cemented the BTCC as the best touring car series not only in Britain, or Europe, but the world. As John Watson says,

“British Touring Cars has certainly eclipsed anything we have ever seen before”

This opening entry in the ‘memorable drives’ series only contains 5 entries so far. There is very good reason for this; we need your views. Who am I to say what the most memorable drives in the championship are? As this little mini-series goes on, I hope to include your suggestions as well as mine. Many races left untouched. Many moments remain.

– Season performances

– Race performances

– Overtakes

What memorable moments make up the BTCC for you?

Let me know and join the conversation on Twitter: @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

One comment

  1. James Nash (not the racing driver) says:

    Knockhill 1993 – Cleland vs Bailey. They dominated the race weekend. They battled race long in both races. bumper to bumper. Giving each other respect but only enough to make it one of the best races I have ever watched live. I was only 14 years old but had been to many BTCC races at multiple tracks. However, this race sticks in my memory. I can remember the crowed standing and cheering every lap.
    They both deserved to win and by the end of the day they had a win and a 2nd place finish each.

    a close 2nd to this would be the support race for the 1993 British grand prix at Donington Park. Watching the 2x Renaults carve through the field in the heavy rain from far down the grid was great fun. It made me forget that I was soaked to the skin all day and frozen solid.

    I think that 1993 was one of the best years in the series history with many great races and memories.

    December 11th, 2014 at 11:10 pm