As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Australia’s Best New Car News, Reviews and Buying Advice

BTCC Memorable Drives: The Unsung Hero of 1999

Image taken from:

Image taken from:

The 1999 British Touring Car Championship is remembered most fondly as both the year that Laurent Aiello won the title as well as the first time an independent won a race outright when Matt Neal stormed to victory during the first feature race of the year at Donington. Perhaps even many would remember the first ever night race in the BTCC at Snetterton where Peter Kox became the first Dutchman to win a race. However when I look back to 1999, I think of the return of a true legend who echoed what Ford did in 1993, competing in less than half of a season yet storming up the [independent] field. May I present the unsung hero of the 1999 season, the late great Mr Will Hoy.

For the 1999 season, Arena Motorsport entered an ex-works Renault Laguna which would be driven by Russell Spence. It was clear from the outset however that Russell Spence lacked both the machinery and determination to challenge for the top places. In his defense however, the lead independent was the mighty Matt Neal in the Team Dynamics Nissan that started the year making mince meat of even the works cars. The other independents never really stood much of a chance. For Spence, his season may well have been defined by his huge accident during qualifying at Oulton Park at Lodge Corner; his car cut the final corner and launched over the barrier. Luckily no one was hurt.

Ouch. Time to call for backup? Enter Will Hoy stage left. Image taken from:

Ouch. Time to call for backup? Enter Will Hoy stage left. Image taken from:

As the season headed for Snetterton and the first night race, it was announced that Will Hoy would be taking over duties in the Arena Motorsport camp for the rest of the year. This marked Hoy’s return to racing a Renault Laguna after two years racing for the Ford Mondeo team. Hoy was never going to follow in the footsteps of Matt Neal, given the obvious lack of performance in the Arena Motorsport Renault, but it didn’t stop him driving the wheel nuts off the car for the final six rounds of the year.

The independents field may have become somewhat depleted as the year went on, but that should take nothing away from Hoy. Incidentally, Will Hoy was the only independent driver in 1999 to finish every race he started, beating even Matt Neal on that front. The independents title of 1999 went down to Matt Neal, Mark Blair and Will Hoy. Even though Neal won by a country margin, what Hoy achieved was something staggering. At the end of the year, the finishing points were as follows:

  1. Matt Neal – 353 points (9th overall, 109 points) [26/26 rounds]
  2. Mark Blair – 183 points (16th overall, 11 points) [26/26 rounds]
  3. Will Hoy – 131 points (15th overall, 15 points) [12/26 rounds]
  4. Lee Brookes – 78 points (17th overall, 5 points) [14/26 rounds]
  5. Paula Cook – 41 points (Joint 18th overall, 3 points) [16/26 rounds]
  6. Russell Spence – 25 points (Joint 18th overall, 3 points) [14/26 rounds]

You are reading that correctly; Will Hoy competed in 14 rounds less than the top 2 and yet was only 52 points behind second place man Mark Blair. Taking an average of how many points Will scored per round, if he had competed in the full year he would have earned himself 283 points, which would have secured his 2nd place overall. Furthermore, this does not take into account the improvements that he would have made across the year with the consistent developments that come naturally with a full season’s racing.

The highlight of Hoy’s season however came in the final race of the year at a very wet Silverstone where a titanic battle took place between Neal, Muller, Radermecker and our man Will. Lap after lap the four cars were trading places, and even though it was obvious that Hoy lacked the horse power of the other cars, he never let up until the very end. The final two races of the year saw the Renault man take a 6th and a 7th overall. Hoy was never a man to suffer in the rain, as he proved in 1998 when he won at another wet Silverstone in a Ford Mondeo that was in no way the fastest car in the field. The man was very much the living proof that motorsport is as much about talent as it is machinery.

Will Hoy will always be remembered as one of the true greats of BTCC – a real gentleman and a hugely competitive racer.

1999 proved to be his final year in the BTCC (minus two races in Class B in 2000), and what an encore it was.

Here is to the unsung hero of the 1999 BTCC season, and to the true hero of the series. Will Hoy – this one’s for you.

Don’t forget to comment with your other BTCC Memorable Drives, and follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!