Karl Jones: “I loved racing the RS500 and can’t wait to get back behind the wheel at 75MM”

16th March 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

Welshman Karl Jones was a star of production-saloon racing in the mid-1980s and graduated to the British Touring Car Championship aboard the mighty Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 in 1988. This weekend, he’ll be back behind the wheel of one of the greatest tin-tops of all time. 


“I can’t believe it’s nearly 30 years since I first raced the awesome Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 in the British Touring Car Championship. And I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of one again during the Group A demo at Goodwood’s 75th Members’ Meeting this weekend. Those memories will come flooding back, I can tell you!

"It was a real thrill to get hold of an RS500 for Britain’s biggest championship for 1988. I’d come out of production saloons, winning the Monroe series in 1986 in a Fiat Strada Abarth and the Uniroyal Championship in a Ford Escort RS Turbo the following year, so the Sierra was a fantastic step-up. 

"I’d run with Richard Asquith and mega-hero Gerry Marshall in prod saloons, but they were to split and go their own way. I chose to go with Richard for the Sierra programme; he used to work at Ford’s motorsport HQ at Boreham so we counted on a bit of a help to get going.

"As it was, we had a huge amount of support from Peter Ashcroft at Ford. He gave us a shell and some suspension, which came off one of the rally cars. We got Terry Hoyle to do the engine and, of course, Duckhams stuck with us.


"Results were up and down – we didn’t have the resources of the quickest Sierras but we gave it a good go. We persevered with the rally suspension, but should probably have gone with some kit from Andy Rouse, who built a race-winning car for himself and also cars for many of the privateer entrants.

"The RS500s were rocketships down the straights – they were quicker than the Formula 3000 single-seaters of the time! –  and there were some great corners on the BTCC schedule, bits that really grabbed your attention. Places like the old Abbey at Silverstone, Dingle Dell, as it was, at Brands Hatch and the Craner Curves at Donington. They were mega. 

"But my absolute favourite, where you really had to hang it out and stick it on the line, was Noble at Thruxton. It was a 160mph rollercoaster with a bump in the middle of it that induced power oversteer. You had to be really carefully with the throttle and steering inputs. What a thrill!


"I remember Gerry Marshall asking me once about my favourite circuits. When I told him Brands GP and Oulton Park, he barked: ‘They’re for f…… pussies! Thruxton’s the one, boy!’ And he was right, of course. I loved it and was lucky enough to finish on the podium in both my BTCC races there in the RS500.

"It was a great privilege to be part of it. Sure, it could be a bit frustrating trying to keep up with Rouse or Steve Soper, but they had much better kit, of course! At Brands I could hang onto them through Paddock, round Druids and through Bottom Bend, but when they exited the uphill Surtees left-hander and got on the power, they were gone. 

"I remember once asking Steve about brakes in Birmingham when we were racing on that super-fast street circuit. I was running out of brakes there and asking him what he did. When I showed him my relatively small brakes, he said, ‘Oh, the rears. I thought you were talking about the fronts.


"'These are the fronts!’ I replied. Gives you an idea of what we were up against. 

"I can’t wait to get out in the Group A demo. I must say a big thank you to Paul Linfoot, whose stunning black-and-yellow Lui-liveried car I’ll be in. What a fantastic way to experience my first Members’ Meeting at Goodwood – another super-quick circuit that’ll suit the RS500. It’s pretty similar to Thruxton and almost identical in length and laptime.

"I’m hoping spectators of a certain age will recognise my helmet colours, too. I’ll be sporting the familiar design of my first big motorsport hero and fellow Welshman Tom Pryce. He was killed 40 years ago this month so I thought it was important to pay tribute to him."


Results – BTCC 1988

1 Silverstone (March 27) – Did not enter

2 Oulton Park (April 1) – Grid: 11th; Race: Rtd (overheating)

3 Thruxton (May 2) – Grid: 8th; Race: 10th

4 Donington Park* (May 15) – Grid: 8th; Race: Rtd (brakes)

5 Thruxton (May 30) – Grid: 2nd; Race: 2nd

6 Silverstone (June 5) – Grid: 10th; Race: 9th

7 Silverstone (July 10) – Grid: 9th; Race: 10th

8 Brands Hatch (July 24) – Grid: 3rd; Race: 6th

9 Snetterton (July 31) – Grid: 3rd; Race: 6th

10 Brands Hatch (August 21) – Grid: 3rd; Race: Rtd (turbo)

11 Birmingham (August 29) – Grid: 6th; Race: cancelled

12 Donington Park (September 18) – Grid: 9th; Race: 7th

13 Silverstone (October 2) – Grid: 17th; Did not start

*Shared with Ian Flux in two-driver race


Results – BTCC 1989

1 Oulton Park (March 24) – Grid: 14th; Race: Rtd (accident)

2 Silverstone (April 9) – Grid: 11th; Race: 11th

3 Thruxton (May 1) – Grid: 15th; Race: 2nd

4 Donington Park* (May 7) – Grid: 10th; Race: Rtd (hub)

5 Thruxton (May 29) – Grid: 7th; Race: 4th

6 Silverstone (June 4) – Grid: 10th; Race: 12th

7 Silverstone (July 16) – Grid: 12th; Race: 12th

8 Brands Hatch (July 23) – Grid: 8th; Race: 7th

9 Snetterton (August 6) – Grid: 6th; Race: Rtd (engine)

10 Brands Hatch (August 20) – Grid: 8th; Race: Rtd (engine)

11 Birmingham (August 28) – Grid: Did not qualify

12 Donington Park (September 17) – Grid: 11th; Race: 8th

13 Silverstone (October 8) – Grid: 1st; Race: 9th

*Shared with Vic Lee in two-driver race

Photography by Gary Hawkins

  • Karl Jones

  • Group A

  • Ford

  • sierra

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