BTCC History: Ford Mondeo

Ford Mondeo BTCC 2000, thehairpincorner, btcc blog
Probably the most iconic shot of the Ford Mondeo BTCC, the car which remains to this day one of the most advanced BTCC cars in history. Image thanks to Motoring Research.

It started life as just another BTCC car but finished its series stay as one of the most advanced, expensive and high-tech cars in BTCC history. The Ford Mondeo’s eight-year BTCC run bought with it a journey from the front of the grid to the back, and then again to the front, and the transformation Ford Team Mondeo undertook over those eight seasons was remarkable. I’ve explored the car, the history and legacy of the Ford Mondeo in this edition of BTCC History.

The Ford Mondeo In The BTCC

1993 Andy Rouse Engineering-built Ford Mondeo Technical Specifications
Engine: Cosworth Ford Prove V6, 4 valves per cylinder
Size: 1998cc
Cams: 2 OHC
Power: 292 HP, 8400 rpm
Transmission: X-Trac 6-Speed Sequential
Weight: 950kg
Brakes: Disc, front and rear
(Sourced from TouringCars.net)

1993 BTCC Ford Mondeo, btcc history, motorsport blog, thehairpincorner
The Mondeo made its BTCC debut midway through the 1993 season and was an immediate success. Image thanks to BTCC/Ford

Ford entered the BTCC in 1993 as Ford Team Mondeo with a pair of Ford Mondeo Mk1 Si’s run by Andy Rouse’s team, Andy Rouse Engineering who picked up the Ford factory contract after two successful years running Toyota’s works BTCC program. With Rouse himself and Paul Radisch behind the wheel, the Mondeo was a success as soon as it hit the track midway through 1993, and Radisich managed to end the season a remarkable 3rd in the standings despite the car missing the first 7 races. The Mondeo would pick up wins at Brands Hatch Indy, Donington Park and Silverstone, all three coming by way of Radisich, whilst teammate and owner Rouse struggled with bad luck and poor reliability on his way to two podium finishes and 11th in the standings.

Ford finished their first BTCC season with the Mondeo 5th in the constructor’s championship ahead of Peugeot, Renault and Mazda. All of which completed the full season. 1993 would also be the year that F1 great Nigel Mansell made his BTCC debut with Ford at Donington Park, only for his race to end with a spectacular and memorable accident at the Old Hairpin which left him unconscious.

Andy Rouse Engineering continued with the Ford factory contract into 1994 and both Rouse and Radisich remained on board to drive the new-for-1994 Ford Mondeo Mk1 Ghia. Hopes were high of a title challenge in ’94, especially after the stunning end to their debut season and the Mondeo was strong, but not strong enough as the dominant Alfa Romeo 155 TS stormed to the title. Radisich finished the season 3rd in the standings once again with race victories at Silverstone and Donington to his name. Rouse finished 11th for the second year running with a podium at Brands Hatch Indy his only silverware. Kelvin Burt and Rob Gravett joined the team for rounds 12 and 13 respectively in a 3rd car but failed to achieve any notable results.

In spite of not winning as many races as in 1993, a full-length campaign allowed Ford to improve on their standing in the constructor’s championship and they finished 1994 in 3rd, just 11 points behind Renault. It wasn’t the season Ford were hoping for with the Mondeo, but they were beginning to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the BTCC.

Difficult Seasons Ahead

BTCC Ford Mondeo 1995, thehairpincorner, motorsport blog, btcc blog , btcc history
1995 was a tough year for Ford and Mondeo, who had become accustomed to BTCC success in ’93 and ’94. Image thanks to race-used.com

1995 proved to be more difficult for Ford and the Mondeo as tougher competition and tyre wear issues saw the team suffer their worst season so far in the BTCC. Rouse had retired from full-time driving but Radisich remained in the car. Rouse was replaced by British F3 champion Kelvin Burt who had driven the Mondeo in a one-off appearance in 1994. The Ford Mondeo had plenty of power, but the team’s struggles in the latter part of 1995 were partly blamed on the weight of the V6 engine, and the subsequent increase in tyre wear as races progressed.

With backing from Valvoline, the team was now called Valvoline Team Mondeo and despite a good run of early season form, the car won just two races all year. Radisich won early on at Silverstone on his way to 6th in the standings and Burt won at Snetterton in the latter part of the year as he finished the season 8th in the table. Radisich was in championship contention up until round 15 of the season at Silverstone, but a terrible run of form to end the year dropped him from the title race.

Despite their struggles with tyre wear, Ford finished the season 4th in the constructor’s standings, one place lower than in 1994. Ford Mondeos would also feature on the grid in the Independent category for the first time in the BTCC. Matt Neal, Charlie Cox, Richard Kaye and Rob Gravett would all drive the Mondeo as an Independent, and Neal and Kaye finished 1st and 2nd in the Privateers standings.

Andy Rouse Engineering lost the Ford factory contract at the end of the 1995 season, and Ford moved their backing to West Surrey Racing for 1996.

West Surrey Racing And The Ford Mondeo

Ford Mondeo BTCC 1996, motorsport blog, thehairpincorner, btcc blog, btcc history
Ford and the Mondeo switched teams from Andy Rouse Engineering to West Surrey Racing, but their fortunes didn’t improve. Image thanks to Race Cars Direct

Formed in 1981, West Surrey Racing  (WSR) entered the BTCC in 1996 as Valvoline Team Mondeo with Reynard, with Radisich and Steve Robertson behind the wheel. WSR worked in co-operation with Reynard Motorsport to run the cars, with the chassis build undertaken by Reynard and the running of the race team done by WSR. Independent Team Dynamics ran two cars for Neal and Gravett throughout the season.

1996 was a disaster all round for Ford in the BTCC and the Mondeo endured its worst season since it joined the series back in 1993. The team failed to win a race for the first time in two and a half seasons and both cars were dogged by reliability problems and a general lack of pace. Radisich finished the year in 13th and Robertson in 20th and Ford came equal 7th and last in the constructor’s championship, level on points with Pegeuot. Matt Neal failed to retain his Privateer crown, finishing 3rd out of 5 with Gravett finished 4th. 1996 marked the final year the Ford Mondeo Mk1 would feature in the BTCC, and the manufacturer introduced the new shape Mk 2 Mondeo for the following year.

With Valvoline now gone as a title sponsor, Ford entered the 1997 BTCC season known as Team Mondeo with Reynard and had 1991 BTCC champion Will Hoy behind the wheel. With Hoy replacing Robertson, Ford had one of the strongest driver lineups on the grid in Hoy and Radisich, and hopes were high of a successful season after a tough 1996.  The season was a difficult one, and once again the Ford Mondeo finished the year without a race win to its name. Neither driver scored a podium finish and Radisich and Hoy finished 13th and 15th respectively as Ford ended the season 7th out of 8 in the constructor’s standings. Poor reliability hit the Mondeo hard in 1997, and up against the might of the Renaults and Audis Ford struggled to make a mark on the BTCC, despite having one of the strongest driver lineups.

Ford Mondeo BTCC 1997, thehairpincorner, btcc blog
Despite the arrival of champion Will Hoy and a new body shape, the Mondeo’s fortunes didn’t improve in 1997. Image thanks to Rob Moore/Flickriver

Matt Neal continued in an Independently backed Team Dynamics Mondeo until round 6 of the 1997 season before switching manufacturers to Nissan.

1998 saw Ford Mondeo stalwart Radisich leave the team for Pegeuot, bringing an end to a four-year association with the manufacturer. Radisich remains the longest-serving Mondeo driver in the BTCC but despite a successful early period he failed to secure the title in the car. Radisich was replaced by Craig Baird and Nigel Mansell for 1998, with Mansell taking part in rounds 6, 11 and 13 whilst Baird raced in the remaining rounds. Hoy remained with the team now known as Ford Mondeo Racing with Reynard and secured his first BTCC race win in the Mondeo and Ford’s first since 1995 in race 4 of the season at Silverstone.

Hoy finished 1998 10th in the standings with one further podium finish whilst Mansell and Baird finished 18th and 20th respectively. For the third year running Ford finished 7th in the constructor’s standings, a finish which prompted a huge shakeup from the Ford for the following season.

The Ford Mondeo’s Final Years In The BTCC

1999 Prodrive-built Ford Mondeo Technical Specifications
Engine: Cosworth Ford Prove V6, 4 valves per cylinder
Location: Front, transversely mounted
Size: 1998cc
Power: 305 HP, 8500 rpm
Transmission: X-Trac 6-Speed Sequential
Weight: 975kg
Brakes: Disc, front and rear
(Sourced from Ultimate Car Page)

Prodrive Ford Mondeo 1999 ,anthony reid btcc, btcc blog, motorsport blog
Prodrive took over the running of the Mondeos from 1999 but the move didn’t bring immediate success. Image thanks to Race Cars Direct.

Ford and the Mondeo switched allegiances for 1999 as Prodrive took over the running of Ford’s factory BTCC team, with Honda going the other way to West Surrey Racing.  Hoy moved to the Independent outfit Arena Motorsport for the second half of 1999 whilst Mansell and Baird left the BTCC altogether. Once again, Ford secured a former BTCC champion to steer the Mondeo with ’97 champion Alain Menu teaming up with ’98 runner-up Anthony Reid to again form one of the BTCC’s strongest driver lineups. The Prodrive-built Mondeo was designed by George Howard-Chappell and David Lapworth.

However, despite yet more optimism at the start of the campaign, the new Prodrive Mondeo struggled once again and Ford picked up just one win all season courtesy of Menu at Knockhill. Menu finished the year in 11th, and Reid 12th as Ford finished 6th and last in the constructor’s standings. 1999 was a disaster for all involved, and the early season hopes of a title challenge helped by Menus’ 2nd place finish in the opening race were soon put to bed by periods of poor reliability for both Menu and Reid.

BTCC Championship Success For The Ford Mondeo

2000 came around, and with it came the last year of the BTCC’s Super Touring regulations. As Volvo, Renault and Nissan left the series only Ford, Honda and Vauxhall remained, leaving the Mondeo with its best chance yet of securing the BTCC title. The 2000 version of the Mk 2 Mondeo was and still remains one of the most spectacular and advanced BTCC cars to this day, with millions of pounds and hundreds of hours spent developing and turning it into the dominant car on the grid.

1998 champion and Volvo outcast Rickard Rydell joined the team in 2000 as each manufacturer expanded to a three-car outfit. Menu and Reid remained on board for one more season. 2000 finally proved to be the Mondeo’s year, and the car was the class of the field as Ford stormed to the drivers (Menu), teams and constructors championships. Vauxhall’s Yvan Muller and Jason Plato provided stiff competition but in the end, it was Menu who prevailed in a tight and tense title battle with Anthony Reid to secure his second driver’s title and the first for Ford and the Mondeo.

Ford Mondeo BTCC 2000, btcc blog, motorsport blog, thehairpincorner
Ford’s final season in the BTCC with the Mondeo proved to be it’s most successful, and the Prodrive-built car was the class of the field. Image thanks to PSP Images / Touring Car Times

The Ford Mondeo’s BTCC Legacy

Ford left the series at the end of 2000 as the Super Touring era of the BTCC came to an end. Rising costs and falling grid sizes meant the BTCC had grown into an unsustainable beast, and the new BTC-Touring era with an emphasis on lower costs came into play. The 2000 Prodrive Ford Mondeo is a perfect example of the win-at-all-costs mentality which dominated the BTCC at the end of the Super Touring era and to this day it remains one of the most incredible BTCC cars ever built.

Celebrate the Ford Mondeo’s success in the BTCC with a British Touring Car Champions model.

What is your favourite Ford Mondeo memory? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!

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