OCT 14th 2015

GRR's Famous Five... BTCC Belters

Silverstone, England. 4th October 1992. John Cleland, Vauxhall Cavalier GSi, retired, collides with Sreve soper, BMW 318i, retired, action. World Copyright: LAT Photographic. Ref: Coluor Transparency.

Welcome to a new weekly series designed to inspire and/or infuriate, depending on your point of view: the GRR ‘Famous Five’. We’ve debated long and hard over the themes and the suitable candidates for inclusion, confident that you’ll tell us if we’re right, wrong or, possibly, worse.

Padmore Revival Lola T70  BTCC
The first in the series is inspired by a cracking British Touring Car Championship finale at Brands Hatch last weekend, in which Goodwood regulars Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato headed into the 30th and last race of the year with it all to play for. The winner-takes-all showdown was gripping stuff as Honda-mounted Shedden charged back through the field after starting 19th to finish fourth and deny race winner Plato the title.

While the 2015 showdown was, by BTCC standards, pretty much incident-free, there have been plenty of contentious moments in everyone’s favourite doorhandling-and-paintscraping series. Here are five classic moments that involved a bit of off-track argy-bargy, some great dicing and some intra-team embarrassment – or all of the above.

5. The car upside down is a Toyota

It’s the British Grand Prix meeting of 1993 and the two Toyota Carina Es of Will Hoy and Julian Bailey are running one-two, looking for a maiden outright win in the series – in front of a massive crowd. And then former Tyrrell F1 driver Bailey spoils things by trying an impossible lunge on Hoy into Priory, gifting arch rival Nissan its first win. A massive corporate woops!

4. Sierra superstars’ masterclass

With more than 500bhp each, as well as flame-spitting exhausts and wastegate whistling turbos, Ford Sierra RS500 aces Steve Soper and Andy Rouse put on quite a show around the magnificent sweeps of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit during the July 1988 round. It’s Eggenberger Texaco black-and-red against Andy Rouse Engineering Kaliber blue-and-white at its finest. Look out, too, for BMW M3 driver Mike Smith’s deliberate ‘love touch’ on Mike O’Brien’s Holden Commodore.

3. Prodrive BMW BTCC team-mates’ misunderstanding

As Frank Sytner says on the grid at Snetterton for the ninth round of the 1988 series: ‘It’s no good pussyfooting around, I’ve got to get fastest lap and win the class…’ Trouble was, his Prodrive BMW M3 team-mate Mike Smith, way behind Sytner in the title fight, had other ideas. Cue an enraged class winner Sytner, on camera, after discovering that Smith had switched to slick tyres in the drying conditions and stolen the point for fastest lap.

2. Mondeo Man Mansell makes his mark

He was a Formula 1 World Champion and an IndyCar World Series title winner, but Nigel Mansell wanted more – in touring car racing. His big shunt in the Ford Mondeo at Donington in 1993 had landed him plenty of column inches, but ‘Our Nige’ craved another shot. Five years on, he was back in a Ford at Donington and it was battling Brummie brilliance as he took the fight to the frontrunners in horrid conditions.

1. Title rivals Soper and Cleland trip up at Silverstone

Is this the greatest set-to in touring car history? We think it may well be. It’s the 1992 finale at Silverstone and BMW’s Tim Harvey, Vauxhall’s John Cleland and Toyota’s Will Hoy are all in with a shout of the drivers’ title. A fantastic scrap ensues between them for fourth, fifth and six on the road, when Harvey’s team-mate Steve Soper gets involved, obviously to help Tim. Allegedly. What happens between Cleland and Soper in the Complex close to the end is pure theatre.

Photography courtesy of LAT

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