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BTCC Profiles from the Past: Patrick ‘Perseverance’ Watts

Patrick Watts and the Peugeot. Image Credit: btccrazy.co.uk

Patrick Watts and the Peugeot. Image Credit: btccrazy.co.uk

Perseverance – Noun

persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success

The British Touring Car Championship is often remembered through its champions, its glorious victories and those heroic comebacks. However, there has always been more to the BTCC than just the winners. Something that has always made the championship so special is the combination of characters that comprise the field each year. Patrick Watts was always one of those characters, competing in the BTCC between 1992 and 1997. He also made a spectacular return to the BTCC Masters Race in 2004, and continues to compete in the HSCC Super Touring Trophy. He may not have ever had any championship success, but without Mr Watts the BTCC would not have been the same. The personification of perseverance could only ever be Patrick.

Patrick Watts flirted with the BTCC in the 1980s when he made numerous appearances in cars spanning the different classes (with the exception of Class A); his best performance came in 1984 when he competed in a few races in an MG Metro Turbo (Class B), finishing as high as 6th at Silverstone. It was only in 1992 when Watts decided enough was enough and it was time to tackle the BTCC head on. Back in 1992, the championship was in its infant years of the 2.0 litre Super Touring regulations and as such many drivers, teams and manufacturers were still finding their feet. So when Patrick Watts entered with a Mazda 323, no one really battered an eyelid.

As any lifelong fan of the BTCC, watching back the old season reviews is a must, even if only to relive just how truly great the 90s were for touring car racing. Personally speaking, 1992 has always been one of my favourite years to watch due in the most part to the non-stop action from the get-go. As a result of this, the poetic narration of Murray Walker will forever remain in my head; from my recollections Patrick Watts was never often spoken of too highly. The combination of ‘Patrick Watts’ and ‘gravel’ spring to mind. Looking over his 1992 statistics, Watts failed to finish 50% of the races, with a highest finish of only 11th. In his defence however, it was the first year in the championship for Mazda and they were running an under developed car that was almost consistently running off the pace.

A true hero of BTCC. Image Credit: Peter Still

A true hero of BTCC. Image Credit: Peter Still

As 1993 rolled around, Watts and Mazda refused to see a repeat of the previous season. Not only did they develop a Mazda Xedos 6 into a competitive car, but they adorned it with a striking livery just to announce to the world that they were there and they meant business. There was however one problem. When it comes to touring car racing, a graph could be drawn charting driver aggression and grid position. Funnily enough, the further up the order you go, the more you experience the wrath of the aggressive driver. 1993 was therefore an equally disappointing year for Watts, although unlike the previous year he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He may not have finished 7 of the 17 races, but he did achieve three 4th place finishes and numerous front row starts. His bad luck was most apparent at the famous Snetterton race where the entire field appeared to crash in the opening seconds; Watts was one of the few cars that got a clean start but lost control in the first corner and ruined his car. Such hope, such opportunity, lost.

Distinctive livery just makes for an easy target. Image Credit: en.mazda-club.eu

Distinctive livery just makes for an easy target. Image Credit: en.mazda-club.eu

The end of 1993 also ended the partnership between Watts and Mazda; Mazda would not continue as a works entry in the BTC apart from a semi-works outfit that competed in half the 1994 season. From 1994 to 1997, Patrick Watts joined the Peugeot team which is how I will always remember him. 1994 saw the ever persistent Patrick finally manage a competitive season, finishing 8th in the overall standings. In 21 races, he would only retire 3 times, would in the majority of cases finish easily within the top 10 and he even achieved two podiums at Brands Hatch. In addition to this impressive year, something happened in 1994 that would cement his place in the touring car history books. In a time before Plato, it was Patrick Watts that quite clearly would go on to like Shaggy. The phrase ‘It Wasn’t Me’ was one uttered by the bespectacled gentleman on numerous occasions. The most famous occasion was at Brands Hatch where approaching Druids, Watts had a certain Paul Radisich in the Ford in front of him, and appeared to push him out the way and into the gravel. Watts however denied the whole thing and argued that he did not push. This continued until the end of his BTCC career at the end of the 1997 season.

Sadly, the relative successes of 1994 were to become a mere candle in the wind. As Peugeot Sport became Total Team Peugeot in 1995 and 1996, Watts would return to his old ways once more. He did however manage a 2nd place at Snetterton and a 3rd at Thruxton in 1995. It would be a fair statement to say “the less said about 1996 the better”. In a season of 26 races, Patrick Watts would only cross the finish line on 10 occasions. So that is a grand total of 16 races he did not finish. His best result was an 8th place at Brands Hatch. Therefore it did not come as much of a surprise that Total left Peugeot as a title sponsor at the end of the year.

Apart from his stand out '94 season, Patrick struggled with the Peugeot team. Image Credit: supertouringregister.com

Apart from his stand out ’94 season, Patrick struggled with the Peugeot team. Image Credit: supertouringregister.com

The 1997 season was the first year of the Esso Ultron team, and who better to spearhead the campaign than Patrick Peugout Watts. Unfortunately, unlike in 1993 where a striking new livery brought improvement, 1997 was sadly nothing to write home about for Patrick. He would finish the year in 16th place with only 26 points to his name. This goes some way to explain why this would turn out to be his final season in the BTCC. The saddest part was that in Germany the same car was an all conquering winning machine, but the British team were wrought with financial woes and internal struggles. The following year would see Watts replaced by former Ford driver Paul Radisich, who arguably struggled even worse than Watts. Peugeot were never really cut out for the BTCC. Poor, poor Patrick.

What I have always loved about Patrick Watts (as you may have guessed by now) is his passionate determination in the face of adversity. In 1999, he decided that he was not yet done with the Peugeot 406, and entered the opening rounds of the Australian Super Touring Championship. And finally, after years of trying everything paid off; he got himself two 2nd places and one victory. It is just a shame that he did not enter the full season; his pace was so competitive that he could have challenged for the title.

At the final meeting of the 2004 BTCC season, the championship hosted a ‘Masters’ event that brought back the big names from the British championship from the last 20 years or so. It was only fair that Patrick got himself a drive, it just wouldn’t be the same without him. In an almost classic-Watts style, he would finish the race classified as DNF, after a collision with modern ‘It Wasn’t Me’, Jason Plato. Typically neither would except blame for the collision. After all, it wasn’t them.

The 2004 BTCC Masters is definitely worth a watch! Image Credit: btccpages.com

The 2004 BTCC Masters is definitely worth a watch! Image Credit: btccpages.com

The magic that makes the BTCC so special can be defined only as vibrant variety; a combustibly wonderful combination of characters, teams and drivers that contribute to the championship we all know and love. The world of BTCC would not be the same if it was not for Patrick Watts, who is the true embodiment of determination. He may never have got the success he deserved, but he fought on gallantly doing what he clearly loves. His success in 1999 is proof that perseverance does pay; through hard work and determination, anything is possible. Well, maybe not a touring car championship, but all in good time. I did always feel sorry for Patrick Watts; he had everything that a champion needed yet luck was never quite on his side. He would always be in the wrong place at the wrong time, often getting caught in the aftershock of collisions.

If everything I had said so far was it, then that would be enough. But the final cherry atop the icing of the beautiful cake that is Patrick Watts is the  fact that in the last few years he has brought his 90s dream to fruition. He has entered his Peugeot 406 from BTCC days into the HSCC Super Touring Trophy and has been achieving notable successes against the likes of historic foes such as John Cleland. The development of his car has led to him finally becoming ‘THE man to beat’ in the historic field.

Patrick Watts: the man, the legend, the perseverance.

May you continue your legendary chapter in the eternal history books of the BTCC.

Finally, 2014 saw the Peugeot 406 dominating the ex-BTCC field. Image Credit: motorsportvision.co.uk

Finally, 2014 saw the Peugeot 406 dominating the ex-BTCC field. Image Credit: motorsportvision.co.uk

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