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a yellow and blue Renault Laguna touring car leads other cars around a track in the British Touring Car Championship

Super Touring – The Golden Years of the British Touring Car Championship

The DriveDen blog provides advice, news and reviews. This article looks back at the golden era of the British Touring Car Championship – the Super Touring years.

 

Back in the 1990s, touring cars was the coolest form of racing you could see and the star of the show was the BTCC – the British Touring Car Championship. The ‘Super Touring’ period between 1991-2000 was by far the most popular in the sport’s history, with races screened live on the BBC and featuring Murray Walker as the lead commentator. These golden years made household names of the drivers, such as Matt Neal, Anthony Reid and Jason Plato, and the cars were entirely based on normal, family cars. Throw in some relaxed contact rules and it all added up to some of the most exciting racing you could see.

Touring cars had been a much-loved racing formula in the UK but it was the introduction of the ‘Super Touring’ cars that made it a must-watch event. The cars were to be based on standard family saloons, with 2 litre engines and hardly any extra aerodynamics, and it proved popular with manufacturers, with Audi, Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Ford and Renault all keen to get involved, amongst many others. So here is our pick of the best cars and liveries from this era of the sport.

 

Alfa Romeo 155
Alfa Romeo is one of the coolest manufacturers in the world but their entry into the BTCC in 1994 caused a lot of controversy. The cars were supposed to be based on the standard production model but Alfa turned up in a modified car with a rear wing and front splitter! As it turned out, Alfa had decided to create a special edition with retractable rear wing and front splitter called the ‘155 Silverstone’ – the limited run of 2,500 was exactly the minimum needed to make the car legal for the championship, and while the aerodynamic changes were insignificant on the road-going 155, it was crucial for the racing-version and Alfa picked up the title in their debut season!

Renault Laguna
Perhaps the most iconic and recognisable car from the Super Touring era, the Laguna was also the most successful, winning 36 races in total. Thanks to it’s bright yellow and blue livery, the Laguna was front and centre of any tv coverage and dominated the 1997 season, with Alain Menu and a rookie Jason Plato sharing 14 wins in the 24 races that year.

 

Audi A4
Audi entered the BTCC ahead of the 1996 season…and ended up sweeping all before them thanks to their infamous Quattro system. The A4 was the only car in the field to run a four-wheel-drive system and this decision proved to be a masterstroke, as Frank Biela won the British title and Audi took victories in other touring car series too, in Belgium, Spain, Australia and South Africa. The car was so dominating that the A4 was given a weight penalty by just the 7th race of the season to level the playing field, and the BTCC banned 4WD systems for future seasons!

Volvo 850
If you were designing a perfect racing car…a Volvo 850 Estate would not be the one you’d base the design on. However, the 850 was one of the most loved BTCC cars and even picked up a number of race wins in 1995. What was seen as just a bit of PR from Volvo was actually a clever entry, as they moved the engine and driving position slightly to create perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The decision to allow rear wings from the 1996 season onwards meant that Volvo changed to the saloon version but the 850 Estate’s time in the BTCC is fondly remembered.

 

Honda Accord
Despite Honda not winning a title during the Super Touring years, legendary BTCC driver James Thompson won four races in the 1998 season, and another four in the 1999 season. Although it wasn’t as successful as other cars during the era, it was quite a sight to see the huge Accord racing and drifting around the UK’s best tracks!

Ford Mondeo
The Mondeo was the longest running model during the Super Touring years, racing from 1993-2000. Ford actually shot themselves in the foot a bit in the Mondeo’s debut year, opting for a RWD layout which meant the car had to be given a weight penalty. Once Ford changed to a FWD system, the Mondeo improved and eventually won the title in it’s final year in the BTCC in 2000, winning in a familar yellow and blue livery that echoed the Laguna models that had dominated years earlier.

 

The Super Touring era came to an end in 2000, as the BTCC introduced a raft of new regulations ahead of the 2001 season, mainly aimed at reducing costs. Unfortunately, these regulation changes led to much lower interest from both manufacturers and spectators, and the BTCC was never as popular again. However, for the nostalgic fans among us, the BTCC will always be something to look back on fondly and if you do see one of the road-going models around, it’s easy to imagine them skidding, drifting and crashing around a race track near you!

 

Did we miss any of your favourites? Tell us in the comments, or check out one of our other features, such as Six of the Coolest TV & Film Cars…Plus One That Really Isn’t

 

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