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BTCC Memorable Drives: Weather, the Great Leveller

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Nothing makes motor sport more fascinating to watch than the driving force of unpredictability. Unlike traditional sports, racing is the combination of man and machine. Both must be working at optimum performance to achieve results – but sometimes mechanical malfunctions can strike when you least expect it. Above all of this, looming above like the very essence of chaos itself, is the weather. Within the BTCC, some of the greatest battles have taken place when the weather turns sour. From rain masters to the perfect plan, the weather is truly a great leveller. By delving into the glorious BTCC past, we can now see why.

If I was to name every occasion where rain played a part in an amazing race, I would be here for a lifetime. Therefore I have decided to condense these down into what I would like to call my ‘greatest hits’. The first of these comes in 1993 and the first appearance of Renault in the BTCC. Running the Renault 19, reigning champion Tim Harvey and a young Swiss gentleman by the name of Alain Menu. Most of the ’93 season was dominated by either BMW or Ford, until it started raining that is. Tim Harvey and Alain Menu took a blistering 1-2 at the first Donington meeting of the year. In dry conditions, the Renault team struggled to keep pace with even the privateer teams. But Renault’s secret weapon was their wet Michelin tyres, which was far superior to any other. Later on that year when the championship returned to Donington, history repeated itself as Menu and Harvey found themselves in the podium positions once again, although this time challenged more fiercely by the dominant Ford of Radisich.

Throughout the rest of his BTCC career, Harvey established himself as somewhat of a rain master. When he drove for the Peugeot team, some of their best results came when the rain began to fall. It takes a special kind of skill to control a car in wet conditions, let alone drive it quickly! Whenever you read any of the old pre-season reviews, the championship chances for Harvey were almost always the same. If it rained at every meeting then the title was guaranteed to be his! Considering this was the BRITISH Touring Car Championship, that was never going to be completely out the question. Alas, this never did happen so Harvey had to stick with his single championship title from 1992 in the BMW.

It may have been lacking in performance, but the '93 Renault dominated in the rain. Photo taken from: Autocar.co.uk

It may have been lacking in performance, but the ’93 Renault dominated in the rain. Photo taken from: Autocar.co.uk

Fast forward to 1995 and we come to one of my favourite moments in BTCC history. I am of course talking about ‘The Amazing Charlie Cox’. When a last minute rain storm struck Brands Hatch, the field was torn between intermediate and full wet tyres. Cox chose to put on full wets, subsequently scoring the best ever result for a privateer in the championship’s history. Driving around the struggling intermediate drivers, Cox ended the race in 5th. As championship contenders dropped like flies, the rain and clever thinking allowed Cox to battle with the big boys at the top end.

In 1998, we would once again see a manufacturer who’s performance would usually see them trailing boosted by the rain. Since their epic return to the championship in 1993, Ford has somewhat wilted. Enter a rainy Silverstone and the ever competitive Will Hoy however and suddenly everything came together. Clever tyre choices and strategic pit stops put Hoy into a lead that he would never lose. Who can also forget what I once dubbed as the Greatest Race Ever Captured On Film, when Nigel Mansell returned to the BTCC in a Ford, starting last and so very nearly winning the race outright. In the dry, there is no chance in the living memory of the earth itself that Mansell could have pulled that off; the Ford lacked the basic performance of the big names such as Nissan and Volvo.

Finally we must return to the legend that is Will Hoy. For a driver of his quality in the BTCC, it’s just not right to only mention him once. For his final foray into the BTCC, Hoy took over from Russell Spence in the independent Renault Laguna in 1999. During the final round of the year, a rather damp Silverstone saw Hoy having a truly epic battle with the likes of Neal, Cleland, Muller and Radermecker. It was clear that the Renault was severely down on power, but slippery conditions require more than just superior power. In 1999, for me Will Hoy was the Unsung Hero of the BTCC. If I knew nothing else that would be enough; the proof of a true driving great is to do exactly what Hoy did. He could drive the pants off a car in the dry, while also storming (see what I did there?) to victory in the wet in an inferior machine.

A true legend, come rain or shine! Photo credit: Tony Harrison

A true legend, come rain or shine! Photo credit: Tony Harrison

What I love about the weather is that it cannot really be controlled, unlike most other aspects of the race. Furthermore, you could very easily have the best car, but if you do not have that confidence and skill in the rain, all that power and performance will be for nothing. In many ways, a change in weather really does level the playing field. It is why I always look forward to the final round of the year at Brands Hatch; it always rains. And you can guarantee nothing but spectacular racing.

Until next time, keep those rain clouds forming!

Keep Driving People!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

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