History Of The British Touring Car Championship

The British Touring Car Champion has a long and illustrious history as Britain’s top domestic motor racing series. Its roots can be traced back to 1958 and the origins of the British Saloon Car Championship with Jack Sears as the series’ inaugural champion.

BTCC In The 1950s
The origins of the BTCC we know today strech back to the early 1950s.

The origins of the British Touring Car Championship can be traced back over 60 years to Boxing Day of 1957 when the series’ first-ever race took place at a cold Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. Called the British Saloon Car Championship (BSCC), the series was open to four separate classes of cars separated by engine displacement – 1200cc, 1201-1600cc, 1601-2700cc and 2701cc and above. The four classes were called A, B, C and D, and would remain in place until the end of the 1989 season. All four classes would receive equal championship points, meaning that any driver from any class would be able to win the overall championship alongside being best in class.

Originally an idea conceived by Ken Gregory, the man who managed Stirling Moss, the seeds of the BSCC were sown in the early 1950s as club and public saloon car racing grew in popularity in the United Kingdom. At a grassroots level, saloon car racing was booming post World War Two, and Gregory, as the club secretary of the British Racing & Sports Car Club persuaded the members that the country needed an organised saloon car championship to compliment the club’s already thriving Formula 3 and sports car scene. With the rules set, and engine classes decided to help accommodate manufacturer specifications, the BSCC was born.

Whilst 1958 is widely talked about as the inaugural season of the BSCC, the first race actually took place at the tail end of 1957 on December 26th, and was won by Tommy Sopwith in a Class D Equipe Endeavour 3.4-litre Jaguar. By the time the first season of the BSCC finished back at Brands Hatch on October 5th 1958, Sopwith and Jack Sears were level on points with 48 points each. Sears, in his Class C Austin A105 and Sopwith in the Jaguar, had effectively dominated their respective classes and would need a tiebreaker to decide the overall title.

Sopwith and Sears in the title shootout. Image thanks to BTCC.

Several ideas to decide the winner were touted including a coin toss which proved to be unpopular. Eventually, it was decided that Sopwith and Sears would race head to head in identical cars with two Marcus Chambers-owned Riley One-Point-Five rally cars bought in for both to race. In the interests of fairness, the drivers would complete five laps in one car then switch to the other car for another five laps with the fastest combined time winning the overall BSCC title. The first leg was won by Sopwith with a margin of 2.2 seconds, however, Sears prevailed in wet conditions to win the second leg by 3.8 seconds and with the inaugural BSCC title by a 1.6-second margin.

1959 would see another Class C car secure overall BSCC glory as Jeff Uren became the second driver to win the title. Uren, who drove a Ford Zephyr scored six out of a possible seven clas victories on the way to the title which he would win by six points from Doc Shepherd in his Class A Austin A40. The season began at Goodwood in West Sussex on March 30th and ran through August 29th at Brands Hatch.

The Ford Zephyr Six which carried Jeff Uren to the 1959 BSCC title. Image thanks to BTCC.

The early days of the BSCC had provided excitement, great racing and an opportunity for almost any performance saloon car in the UK to secure overall title glory. Whilst setup, performance work and car tuning existed at very basic levels, many cars which competed on track could also be found on Britain’s roads. The 1950s had sown the seeds for a series that would develop into a powerhouse of British Motorsport over the following decade, with cars from all over the world soon to be bought in to try and win the title.

In its opening decade of history the BSCC’s journey was short-lived and originated as an idea born in the mind of Stirling Moss’s manager Ken Gregory. The 1960s would see the series grow, develop and more importantly, find itself and assume a position at the top of the domestic motorsport scene.

1960 got underway with new regulations for the now-named Supa Tura British Saloon Car Championship. In its third full year, the series ran to a silhouette formula where cars were limited in engine capacity to 1000cc. Whist the previous two seasons had seen cars competing that were similar to their road-going counterparts, the free formula models of 1960 meant that many aspects of the cars were able to be modified. The overall appearance of the cars had to remain the same, as did the rear axle and gearbox casings, wheelbase and rim diameter. However, the rest was up for grabs and it was Don Moore Racing’s Doc Shepherd who made the most of it.

Doc Shepherd’s title-winning Austin A40 was recently restored to it’s former glory. Image thanks to Adrian Flux.

Shepherd’s Austin A40 was the dominant force throughout the whole 1960 BSCC season which ran from 18th April until the 6th October. He would finish on 48 points, 18 points clear of 2nd place John Young in the Ford Anglia and won six out of eight races, retiring from the other two.

After much off-season discussion, 1961 bought about more regulation change for the BSCC. Running from Snetterton on March 25th to September 30th back at the same circuit, the BSCC switched to new Group 2 regulations. The field was split into four classes 0-1000 cc, 1000-2000 cc, 2000-3000 cc and over 3000 cc which was dominated by Jaguar. The season was won by John Whitmore in an Austin Mini Seven prepared by Don Moore. Whitmore won a close championship fight, and the Class A driver beat the Class D Jaguar Mk II 3.8 of Mike Parkes to the title.

The 1962 season ran from April 14th at Snetterton to September 1st at Oulton Park and marked the second year in a row a Mini would take the title. John Love became the first non-British winner of the BSCC title hailing from Rhodesia in his Mini Cooper as he won from Class A, beating the Sunbeam Rapier of Peter Talbot into second. Love won all but one classified championship Class A race, with the only other victory going to Christabel Carlisle.

The following season, 1963 marked the beginning of a shift in the landscape of the BSCC as the arrival of the Ford Galaxie in Class D and the Ford Cortina in Class B saw Jack Sears win his second BSCC title, beating the Mini Cooper of John Whitmore into second place. Sears drove all of a Ford Cortina GT, Ford Galaxie and a Ford Cortina Lotus on his way to the title whilst Class A was dominated by Mini Coopers for the third year in a row.

Jack Sears won his second BSCC title in 1963. Image thanks to BTCC.

Works teams were gaining an even bigger influence in the BSCC by the time 1964 came around with big brands such as Ford and BMC (British Motor Corporation) heavily supporting the likes of Lotus and Cooper in the series. The season was dominated by the Class B Ford Cortina Lotus of Jim Clark, who won the F1 world title in 1963 and would go on to repeat the achievement in 1965. Whilst the level of competition and challenge was increasing, the Minis were still strong, and John Fitzpatrick came home second in a Morris Mini Cooper S.

Following their success in the 1964 Tour De France championship, Alan Mann Racing prepared three Ford Mustangs to race in the BSCC in the powerful Class D for 1965. One of the cars was for Roy Pierpoint, who won Class D six times on his way to the BSCC title. Pierpoint beat the ever-present Austin Mini Cooper S 970 of Warwick Banks into second place, and after being so strong the year before, the Ford Cortina Lotus cars suffered from a slow start to the year before recovering late on.

1966 was a new dawn for the BSCC as the series moved to Group 5 regulations. Group 5 regulations relaxed the restrictions around engines, transmission and internal parts but placed a greater restriction on the external appearance of the cars. The regulations signalled an end to the Mini domination of Class A, and the overall BSCC title went to John Fitzpatrick in the Class A Ford Anglia. Designed to make the BSCC more appealing to fans, the new Group 5 cars had to be immediately recognisable but at the same time, they made the cars faster and louder which only helped in increasing the series’ profile to fans.

With the cars split over the 0-1000 cc, 1000-1300 cc, 1300-2000 cc and over 2000 cc classes for 1967, the title went to a Ford for the third year in a row. Australian Frank Gardener dominated Class D winning his class eight times in a Ford Falcon Sprint during a season which started and ended at Brands Hatch. The only other driver to win in Class D was Jackie Oliver in the Ford Mustang, and second place in the championship also went to a Ford, with John Fitzpatrick finishing runner-up in his Anglia during his title defence.

The Ford Falcon Sprint (similar to the one pictured) was Frank Gardener’s car of choice in 1967. Image thanks to Roaring Season.

As the British Saloon Car Championship continued to grow in reach and popularity, 1968 saw The Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association (now the Motor Sports Association) take control of the championship from the BRSCC. Frank Gardener would successfully defend his title after initially switching to a Class C Ford Cortina Lotus, before moving to the new Ford Escort Twin-Cams after the car was homologated during the season. The overall championship top three was a completely Ford affair, with the Ford Falcon of Brian Murr and the Cortina Lotus and Escort of Brian Robinson making up the top three positions to cement Ford’s position as the top brand of the BSCC in the 1960s.

1969 would mark the fourth and final year of Group 5 regulations in the BSCC. Regulations were changed slightly to bring the likes of the Ford Cortinas and Escorts in line with the rest of European Group 5 cars, and the title was won from Class A by Irishman Alex Poole. Poole drove an Austin Mini Cooper S 970 to the title, Mini’s first BSCC title win since 1962.

The 1960s had seen both Mini and Ford enjoy BSCC success as the series evolved into Group 2 and then through to the end of the Group 5 era. The 1970s would see the BSCC’s popularity continue to grow, and yet more major car manufacturers join the series as future BTCC greats took their first title wins.

The 1970s saw Andy Rouse win his first BSCC title. Image thanks to SnapLap.

The first full decade of the British Saloon Car Championship had seen the series evolve through two regulation changes (Group 2 and Group 5) and the likes of Mini Cooper and Ford share the championship spoils. As the series headed into the 1970s, the decade would mark the appearance of more major car manufacturers and another mid-decade formula change.

The 13th season of the BSCC saw revised Group 2 regulations return to the series. The FIA had revised the requirement and homologation of production cars clarifying the distinction between Group 1 and 2. Classes C and D grew in popularity with the new regulations, but it was Bill McGovern who took the 1970 title in an Imp from Class A. McGovern finished on 72 points, four ahead of the Ford Mustang Boss 302 of Frank Gardener. The season began and finished at Brands Hatch, and McGovern won his class in all but four of twelve championship races.

1971 would follow a similar pattern as Bill McGovern successfully defended his BSCC title. He won again from Class A, this time only failing to win his class once as he drove to victory in a 1-litre Sunbeam Imp. With the field split over four classes of 0-1000 cc, 1000-1300 cc, 1300-2000 cc and over 2000 cc, there was stiff competition from the Ford Escorts and Chevrolet Camaros with McGovern finishing just three points clear of the Class B Ford Escort of Dave Matthews.

McGovern would make it three from three in 1972 as he won his class in every race to again defend the title in a Sunbeam Imp. Once again, McGovern faced tough competition from Matthews and Gardener but Class A had now provided the overall BSCC winner for three years in a row.

Bill McGovern won his third BSCC title in 1972. Image thanks to BTCC/SnapLap.

Just one year after McGovern became the first driver to win three titles, Frank Gardener followed up in style in 1973 in a Class D, 7-litre Chevrolet Camaro Z28. The Australian was supreme in his class winning six of nine times to take the championship. As the Group 2 era of the BSCC drew to a close, the following year would mark another regulation change for the series.

In an effort to reduce costs, the BSCC moved to Group 1 regulations for 1974 with the engine classes made up of cars falling into the 1600cc, 1601-2500cc, 2501-4000cc and over 4000cc brackets. With a whole host of powerful cars now eligible in the plus 4000cc class, the move to Group 1 was a hit with fans with cars such as the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 and BMW 3.0 CSi proving popular. Despite all the new power and fast cars in the series, Bernard Unett won the overall title in the Class A Hillman Avenger 1500 GT.

The following year saw Andy Rouse secure his first BSCC title in a Triumph Dolomite Sprint. Rouse won from Class B, beating Class A’s Win Percy in a thrilling finish to the season. Rouse prevailed in a nail-biting season closer at Brands Hatch, beating Class B rival Brian Muir on track to win the 1975 title ahead of Percy. The win was controversial, as Rouse was deemed by some to have passed Muir under yellows. However Rouse’s title stood, and it would be the first of four for the man who would go onto become the BTCC’s most successful ever driver.

Andy Rouse on his way to his first BSCC title in 1975. Image thanks to ITV Motorsport.

The class structure of the BSCC changed in 1976 to 1300, 1600, 2300 and up to 3000 cc meaning the large V8 muscle cars which had graced the series in previous seasons were no longer eligible for competition. For many, the move was seen as a positive one and it resulted in some great racing as the title battle was fought out between Bernard Unett and Win Percy. Unett eventually finished as champion in a Class A Chrysler Avenger 1300 GT, winning his class in every race.

Bernard Unett would successfully defend his title in 1977, marking the third time in four years that he had won the overall BSCC crown. Again in the Class A Chrysler Avenger 1300 GT, Unett faced tough competition from the Triumph Dolomite Sprint of Troy Don and Richard Longman in the Mini 1275 GT in the second half of the year.

Richard Longman prevailed in 1978 marking the first time a Mini had won the overall title since 1969, despite the car often being a Class A challenger. Longman won all but one Class A race during the season which started at Silverstone and finished at Oulton Park and had sealed the title before the final round of the season due to rivals being disqualified following a regulatory dispute.

Richard Longman in his Mini in 1978. Image thanks to MK1 Forum.

1979 was the year that the Japanese marques finally began to make their mark in the BSCC. Whilst Longman would win the title once again from Class A in the Mini, a greater challenge came from the upper classes as the Mazda RX7 of future team owner Tom Walkinshaw pushed Longman to the finish. Hailing from Class C, Walkinshaw would only fail to win his class three times in 1979 despite the RX7’s introduction initially causing a stir among competitors with its long wheelbase and rotary engine.

The 1970s had introduced some soon-to-be household names to the domestic motorsport scene. The first of four titles for Andy Rouse was won, Unett became a three-time champion and at the tail end of the decade, the Mazda RX7 paved the way for success early into the 1980s. The 1980s would see the BSCC continue to grow in both domestic and international presence, as the series continued to grow and develop into the BTCC we see today.

Toyota tasted BSCC success in the 1980s. Image thanks to Toyota.

The 1980s would see the British Saloon Car Championship continue the evolution into the British Touring Car Championship we know today as manufacturers and drivers were attracted by the popularity of the series, and it’s close racing. Over the next ten years, the BSCC would recover from a difficult mid-1980s to sow the seeds for what would ultimately become it’s defining decade.

The Mazda RX7 of Tom Walkinshaw had begun to make its presence felt in the BSCC in 1979 as team owner Walkinshaw challenged the Mini of Richard Longman for the title, but in 1980 it was the Mazda’s turn to win. The Class D engine limit was raised to 3500cc, but BSCC glory came from Class C as Win Percy beat the Class A Ford Fiesta of Alan Curnow to the crown. Competition in Percy’s Class was slim, and the champion won every Class C race on his way to the title.

With bumper grids at almost every round, the BSCC was on the up in 1981 as Win Percy won his second title in a row in the Class C Mazda RX7. Chris Hodgetts and Jon Dooley were successful in their respective classes B and A. Dooley was a fan favourite in his Alfa Romeo Alfasud Ti as he finished 3rd overall, and Hodgetts would come second in his Class B Toyota Celica ST.

Win Percy enjoyed a succesful start to the 1980s in the Mazda RX7. Image thanks to BTCC.

1982 marked the final season of Group 1B regulations in the BSCC in the 25th season of the championship. Win Percy became only the fourth driver in series history to win three BSCC titles as his switch from the Mazda RX7 to the Toyota Corolla GT resulted in 11 Class C victories and the championship crown. The Corolla GT was a supreme car, frequently beating and out-racing the more powerful Class A and Class B cars such as the Rover 3500 S and the Ford Capri III 3.0S.

The BSCC moved to FIA Group A regulations for 1983 with cars now separated into three different classes with engine limits under 1600cc in Class C, 1601-2500cc in Class B and 2501-3600cc in Class A. The change in classes meant that the powerful Ford Capri was no longer eligible, with the semi-works Rover teams dominating the class. In fact, the Tom Walkinshaw Racing Rovers would dominate the season winning every Class A race as Steve Soper initially won the overall title. However, months later in July 1984, the Rovers were disqualified over non-compliance of valve rockers and unpermitted modified bodywork meaning that Andy Rouse, who had finished the 1983 BSCC season second in his Class B Alfa Romeo GTV6 became champion. Rover were furious with the fallout and immediately withdrew from the BSCC before the results of the disqualification were even finalised, only returning in 2001 as MG & Sport Racing.

Andy Rouse became the first driver to be awarded two BSCC titles in one year in 1984 as alongside being made 1983 champion, he also secured the 1984 title in a Class A Rover Vitesse. As an Independent driver, Rouse was unaffected by Rover’s decision to leave the BSCC midseason and he was pushed to the title by the Class C Ford Escort RS1600i of Richard Longman.

Andy Rouse won the 1984 BSCC title. Image thanks to LAT Photographic.

Like Win Percy earlier in the decade, Andy Rouse also made it three titles in a row as he won the 1985 BSCC title in a brand-new Ford Sierra XR4Ti. The number of entries had dropped from the previous year, and Rouse himself had missed the first round of the season at Silverstone whilst the Sierra was still awaiting homologation. Nevertheless, when he joined the series in round two at Oulton Park, Rouse won immediately and he beat the Class C Ford Escort RS1600i of Chris Hodgetts into second place.

1986 marked the final year the championship would race under the British Saloon Car Championship name, and it was one of the sparsest seasons competitor-wise in a while. Class D featured just two cars for a class for cars with an engine capacity of under 1300cc, and whilst classes A, B and C were more popular, there was a lack of inter-class competition. Chris Hodgetts won the final BSCC title in his Class C Toyota Corolla GT, beating Richard Longman into second place. Hodgetts won Class C eight out of nine times as bad luck and poor reliability stopped Andy Rouse from challenging for overall honours in the Ford Sierra.

The British Saloon Car Championship name was replaced by the British Touring Car Championship for 1987 as the series also welcomed Dunlop on board as a title sponsor. The Ford Sierra Cosworth was introduced to the BTCC in Class A and was a popular choice for many class runners however it would be Chris Hodgetts who secured the title in his Toyota Corolla GT from Class D, his second title in as many years. It was a commanding title victory for Hodgetts and the Corolla who had been strong for a number of seasons, as he beat the Ford Escort RS Turbo of Mark Hales by 33 points.

Chris Hodgetts and the Toyota Corolla GT won the 1987 BTCC title. Image thanks to Toyota.

Fast approaching the end of the decade, 1988 marked an upturn in fortunes for the BTCC. The Ford Sierra RS500 was the overwhelmingly popular choice in Class C as Andy Rouse also returned for the full season having spent 1987 combining both a BTCC and World Touring Car program. Despite the popularity of the RS500, the overall title winner came from Class B, as Frank Sytner won the championship in a BMW M3. Compared to Class A, Class B had comparatively few entries with the BMW M3 proving to be the most popular car. The BTCC was back on the up, and it would continue to grow in popularity in the coming years.

1989 marked the final BTCC championship campaign of the 1980s and the final year that the series would run over a four-class format. From 1990 there would be just two. Like the season before, the RS500 dominated the Class A entry list with the only other Class A competition coming in the form of the Maserati Biturbo run by Trident Motorsport. Class B was again dominated by the BMW M3 but the overall title went to John Cleland in his Class C Vauxhall Astra GTE 16v, who won the championship in his rookie year. The season was fiercely contested, and Cleland won the title from the BMW M3 of John Weaver by just one point. Whilst the Ford Sierras were popular, overall BTCC victory eluded them once again with Andy Rouse the highest-placed Ford finisher in 3rd.

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John Cleland’s 1989 Vauxhall Astra. Image thanks to LAT Photographic

The 1980s had seen the British Touring Car Championship ride the wave of popularity in the early years of the decade before dealing with, and recovering from a difficult mid-1980s. By 1988 the series was on the ascendancy again and with the British Saloon Car Championship name consigned to the history books, the series’ popularity would boom to unseen levels in the 1990s as it became the most popular and well-known touring car racing series in the world.

Whilst the BTCC was on the up at the end of the 1980s, the introduction of FIA Super Touring regulations at the start of the 1990s would see the series boom in popularity, and become the most prestigious and well-known touring car championship in the world. For many, the 1990s is the decade which defines the BTCC with close action, brilliant racing and world-class drivers all playing a part in the series’ success.

1990 marked the final year of Group A regulations in the BTCC and was also the final season of the multi-class format. A staple of the series since it’s inception, the class format had been shrunk from four to two ahead of 1990 before being ruled out altogether the following year. Class A, the biggest class remained, however, the alternative was now the Super Touring Class, an all-new 2-litre touring car formula which would be the sole class from 1991 onwards. Whilst the classes had changed, the big hitters such as the RS500 and the BMW M3 stayed in the series with the M3 now de-stroked down to a 2-litre engine. The Super Touring Class also allowed Vauxhall to launch it’s 2 litre Cavalier model which would become a staple in the BTCC over the early part of the 1990s.

Rob Gravett won the overall drivers title from Class A in an RS500 with the BMW M3 of Frank Sytner in second. Gravett won nine races in his class to take the title in a Trakstar Motorsport car. The 1990 season marked the final year of the BTCC’s appearance at the Birmingham Superprix, a street race event held of the streets south of Birmingham city centre. The introduction of Super Touring regulations marked the beginnings of a whole new era for the BTCC, and one which would kick off in style in 1991.

Manufacturer interest was growing in the series, with the BTCC’s decision to adopt Super Touring regulations immediately rewarded with an increased factory presence in 1991. Now a single class championship, works teams from Ford, BMW, Vauxhall, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi took part in a vintage 1991 season where the title battle was fought out between BMW’s Will Hoy and Vauxhall’s John Cleland. Will Hoy eventually prevailed, winning the title with 155 points compared to Cleland’s 132. The 1991 season also featured the BTCC’s first double-header event hosted at Donington Park where Andy Rouse won both races in the Toyota Carina.

Will Hoy won the 1991 BTCC title. Image thanks to BTCC.

The following season, 1992 saw one of the most controversial and iconic title deciders in the series’ history as Peugeot and Mazda joined the BTCC grid. Tim Harvey won the title in a BMW 318is after an epic final race which included a memorable, title-deciding clash between Harvey’s teammate Steve Soper and John Cleland. The pair made contact at Luffield after a furious battle which also involved Will Hoy and Tim Harvey. Both Soper and Cleland were forced to retire, leaving Harvey on top of the standings of 152 points compared to Will Hoy’s (now driving for Toyota) 149. 1992 was also the first season the series came under the management of TOCA.

The action-packed finale to 1992 did the BTCC no harm in terms of publicity and appeal, and both Ford and Renault joined the series for 1993 as more and more car manufacturers began to take notice of the BTCC. BMW GB withdrew their factory support and were replaced by long-time German BMW operators Team Schnitzer with Steve Soper and Joachim Winkelhock behind the wheel. The BMW 318is were supreme and the pair finished one-two in the championship, with Winkelhock beating Soper by 13 points. Brands Hatch, Knockhill and Donington Park all now hosted doubleheader events as the two race format continued to grow in popularity.

The BTCC’s popularity spurt showed no signs of slowing down as Alfa Romeo and Volvo joined the grid for 1994. The series now had a star-studded lineup of drivers in its ranks and some of the biggest car manufacturers in the world were determined to make a success of their BTCC programs. Both Alfa Romeo and Volvo’s entries were controversial for different reasons. Volvo entered the estate version of the 850 marking the first time an estate car had competed in the series, but it was the Italian-run Alfa Romeo 155 TS which caused the biggest stir.

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Rickard Rydell made his BTCC debut in the Volvo 850. Image thanks to BTCC.

Alfa Romeo’s Gabriele Tarquini dominated the season in the Alfa Romeo 155 TS which featured additional aerodynamic aids causing other teams to protest. The season famously included Alfa Romeo withdrawing from the round at Oulton Park after being asked to run without the extra aerodynamics. The car forced the FIA to modify the regulations to allow other teams to run limited wings and spoilers from 1995 onwards, but the season will always be remembered as Alfa’s year.

The controversy caused the BTCC no harm as Honda joined the series in 1995, taking the manufacturer count to nine. Double header rounds had taken over, as every round on the calendar now featured two races with full points awarded. Money and expertise continued to pour into the series as Renault partnered with F1 powerhouses Williams Racing to run their Renault Laguna. The title was won by Vauxhall’s John Cleland in the Vauxhall Cavalier. Cleland won with a 43 point margin over Alain Menu, winning six out of 25 races to win his second BTCC title.

The BTCC juggernaut showed no signs of slowing down as Audi joined the series in 1996 with their Audi A4 Quattro, a revolutionary car and all-wheel-drive technology which set the scene for another controversial and dominant year. With John Bintcliffe and Frank Biela behind the wheel, the Audi A4 was dominant, and Biela stormed to the title beating Alain Menu into second place by a mammoth 92 points. Audi’s Quattro technology was controversial, and the A4’s were hit with a weight penalty midseason to reduce the car’s advantage. It worked, but not enough as Biela won the title with four races to spare.

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Audi entered the BTCC at the start of the 1996 season. Image thanks to Audi Sport UK.

After their dominance of 1996, the Audi’s were hit with further weight penalties in 1997. It would eventually be relaxed midseason but it wasn’t enough to help Biela secure a second BTCC crown, with Renault and Alain Menu finally securing the championship after three seasons of finishing second. The Renault Laguna was the class of the field in the early part of the year and Menu won the opening four races of the season to establish his championship challenge early on. The title was the culmination of seven years of trying for Renault and was achieved in an even more dominant fashion than that of Audi the year before.

1998 would mark the final year of what many would class as the glory years of the BTCC as eight factory-backed teams battled it out for overall glory. By this time, the money and effort being poured into the series by car brands was staggering and the grid was a truly global affair with drivers competing from all four corners of the world. The title went to Volvo and Rickard Rydell in the Volvo S40. The season was a closely fought affair as Rydell won five races as he beat Nissan’s Anthony Reid into second place by 15 points. Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell made three guest appearances in a Ford Mondeo, taking part in races at Brands Hatch, Donington Park and Silverstone. Whilst the title went to Volvo whose S40 cars were run by Tom Walkinshaw, it was Nissan who were really putting in the groundwork for dominance the following year.

Both Audi and Peugeot withdrew from the BTCC at the end of 1998 after the Super Touring era had scaled its huge heights and was now beginning to decline in factory support. The title was won by rookie and Nissan Primera driver Laurent Aiello as the Primera proved to the class of the field. Aiello won ten out of 26 races on his way to the title beating Nissan teammate David Leslie by 16 points. The season was also made memorable as Matt Neal became the first Independent driver to win a BTCC race outright. Neal won a £1,000,000 cheque as a reward for winning the feature race at Donington Park in a Team Dynamics-run Nissan Primera.

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David Leslie in the Nissan Primera GT. Image thanks to Autosport.

The end of 1999 saw Nissan, Volvo and Renault all withdraw from the BTCC and the Super Touring era began to reach its natural conclusion. The 1990s had seen the ending of Group A regulations, and of a multi-class formula as the series had embraced the fortunes of heavy manufacturer investment. Huge car brands and world-class drivers had made the series their home and as the BTCC entered the new millennium it would yet ago undergo a monumental shift in both regulations and fortune.

Timeline Of British Touring Car Championship History

1958 – Jack Sears

The British Saloon Car Championship (BSCC) is born with cars able to compete in one of four classes – 1200cc, 1201-1600cc, 1601-2700cc and 2701cc and above. In fact, the first ever round of the BSCC was held the year before on 26th December 1957 at Brands Hatch with John Sprinzel winning Class A and Jack Sears winning in Class C. Jack Sears would win the overall title after both he and Tommy Sopwith ended the final race with the same number of points. To decide the overall title, both drivers raced a pair of Riley One-Point-Five rally cars over a 10-lap shootout with Sears prevailing with the fastest time. 

1959 – Jeff Uren

Jeff Uren wins the title in his Class C Ford Zephyr after winning all but one Class C race.

1960 – Doc Shepherd

After finishing 2nd the year before, Doc Shepherd wins the third ever BSCC title in an Austin A40 ran by Don Moore Racing.

1961 – John Whitmore

The BSCC switched to Group 2 regulations for the series’ fourth running, and the title was won by John Whitmore who was in his debut season. Whitmore drove a Mini, marking the first BSCC title for the historic brand. 

1962 – John Love

John Love became the first non-British driver to win the BSCC. The Rhodesian driver drove a Moris Mini Cooper and an Austin Mini Cooper to the title, making it two titles in two years for the Mini.

1963 – Jack Sears (2nd BSCC Title)

Jack Sears became the first double BSCC champion as who won the title over the course of the 11-race season. Driving a Ford Cortina GT, Ford Cortina Lotus and Ford Galaxie, Sears won the title by two points from John Whitmore. 

1964 – Jim Clark

The 1964 title went the way of Jim Clark, the Scottish driver who had won the 1963 Formula One World Championship. Starting at Snetterton and finishing at Oulton Park, Clark won the title in his Class B Ford Cortina Lotus. 

1965 – Roy Pierpoint

Roy Pierpoint took home the 1965 BSCC title from Class D, winning six out of eight Class D races in a Ford Mustang. The title marked a third in a row for a Ford powered car after the successes of Sears and Clark in the previous two years.

1966 – John Fitzpatrick

Group 5 regulations were introduced to the BSCC for the first time in 1966 as John Fitzpatrick won the title from Class A in a Ford Anglia. Both Fitzpatrick and John Rhodes finished the season level on 50 points, but Fitzpatrick won the title on countback of number of class victories.

1967 – Frank Gardener

Frank Gardener became the first, and currently only Australian BSCC/BTCC champion in 1967 winning from Class D in a Ford Falcon Sprint.

1968 – Frank Gardener (2nd BSCC Title)

Frank Gardener makes it two in a row as he became the first driver to win two BSCC titles in a row. Gardener made the switch to Class C, first campaigning in a Ford Cortina Lotus before changing to the Ford Escort Twin Cam when it was introduced. 1968 also saw the Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association take control of the championship this year from the British Racing and Sports Car Club.

1969 – Alec Poole

Alec Poole drove an Austin Mini Cooper S 970 to the BSCC title in 1969. Poole won from Class A in a packed field over the twelve-round season.

1970 – Bill McGovern

1970 saw the introduction of new Group 2 regulations and Bill McGovern won his first title in a Sunbeam Imp. McGovern won from Class A, and was run close to the title by Frank Gardener in the Mustang. 

1971 – Bill McGovern (2nd BSCC Title)

1971 – McGovern won his second title in a row in 1971 with the Sunbeam Imp once again his car of choice.

1972 – Bill McGovern (3rd BSCC Title)

Bill McGovern became the first driver to win three BSCC titles in a row in 1972 as he took the overall title from Class A once again in the Sunbeam Imp. McGovern won every race in Class A and took the overall title with an eight point cushion over his nearest rival. 

1973 – Frank Gardener (3rd BSCC Title)

ust one year after McGovern won his third title, Frank Gardener joined the exclusive club of three-time winners. Gardener’s car of choice was the Chevrolet Camaro and he won six of nine races in Class D to take the overall title ahead of future champion Andy Rouse.

1974 – Bernard Unett

The BSCC switched to Group 1 regulations in an attempt to reduce costs as Bernard Unett won his first overall title. Unett won from Class A in a Hillman Avenger driving for the Chrysler Dealer Team, beating Andy Rouse by two points. 

1975 – Andy Rouse

After finishing as runner up for two years in a row, Andy Rouse secured his first BSCC title from Class B. Rouse finished level on points with Toyota’s Win Percy but prevailed in the Triumph Dolomite Sprint to win the crown.

1976 – Bernard Unett (2nd BSCC Title)

1976 saw Bernard Unett regain the title as a regulation change meant that engines were limited to 3000cc, a move which stopped the large US V8 muscle cars competing in the series. Unett won from Class A, winning every available round in his class in a Hillman Avenger 1300 GT and a Chrysler Avenger 1300 GT.

1977 – Bernard Unett (3rd BSCC Title)

Bernard Unett became only the second driver in BSCC history to win three drivers titles as yet again he won from Class A in the Chrysler Avenger 1300 GT. Unett faced stiff competition from Tony Dron in the Class C Triumph Dolomite Sprint, with the pair finishing level on points.

1978 – Richard Longman

Richard Longman became the first Mini driver to win the BSCC title since 1969 as he secured the 1978 crown. Longman drove a Mini 1275 GT to 11 out of twelve Class A victories, failing to win only at Mallory Park. 

1979 – Richard Longman (2nd BSCC Title)

Longman made it two in a row with the Mini 1275 GT as he successfully defended his BSCC title in 1979. He beat Tom Walkinshaw into second place in his Mazda RX-7.

1980 – Win Percy

1980 saw a change in engine capacities allowed, with the limit being raised to 3500 cc ahead of the new season. After a number of years in the series, Win Percy won his first BSCC title driving a Tom Walkinshaw Racing Mazda RX-7 building on the promise the car had shown the year before. 

1981 – Win Percy (2nd BSCC Title)

Win Percy made it two in a row as he defended his title in Mazda RX-7 in 1981. Winning from Class C, Percy secured all but two class victories on his way to the title, which he won by four points from Chris Hodgetts. 

1982 – Win Percy (3rd BSCC Title)

1982 was the year Win Percy drove himself into the BSCC history books as he became only the second driver in history to win three BSCC drivers titles in a row, and the fourth ever. Now with Toyota, Percy won in a Class C Toyota Corolla and won his class in every single race of the season. 

1983 – Andy Rouse (2nd BSCC Title)

Eight years after his first title, Andy Rouse added a second BSCC title to his collection in 1983, but in controversial circumstances. With a regulation change to accomodate FIA Group A regulations, Steve Soper dominated the season in a Rover SD1 from Class A however six months after the end of the season, the works Rover team was disqualified from the season entirely after the cars were found to have bodywork irregularities and engine installation issues. Soper was stripped of the title and it was instead handed to Rouse, in his Class B Alfa Romeo GTV6.

1984 – Andy Rouse (3rd BSC Title)

Making the move to Class A, Andy Rouse secured his third BSCC title in 1984 as he beat Richard Longman to the title in a Rover Vitesse.

1985 – Andy Rouse (4th BSCC Title)

Andy Rouse became the most successful BSCC driver in history in 1985 as he drove to his fourth BSCC crown. Rouse’s achievement was remarkable, and scored nine out of a possible twelve Class A wins in a Ford Sierra XR4Ti.

1986 – Chris Hodgetts

1986 was the final year of the British Saloon Car Championship name, and Chris Hodgetts won the title in a Class C Toyota Corolla. The title was Hodgetts’ first, and the second for Toyota after Win Percy’s 1982 triumph. 

1987 – Chris Hodgetts (2nd BTCC Title)

Newly renamed the British Touring Car Championship, the series was now in its 30th year of competition but it was a familiar name at the top of the standings once again. Hodgetts successfully defended his championship in the Toyota Corolla, now in Class D. He finished the season 31 points clear of his nearest rival after winning all but two of the twelve rounds. 

1988 – Frank Sytner

1988 featured a new winner on the trophy as Frank Sytner won his first and only BTCC crown. Sytner won from Class B, as he drove a BMW Fiance-backed BMW M3 to the German manufacturer’s first BTCC title. 

1989 – John Cleland

After 32 years of Class-format racing, 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the Class system in the BTCC as the series entered its final year of competitors being split into four classes. John Cleland won his first BTCC title in a Vauxhall Astra GTE 16V from Class C as he won all but two races in his class to finish one point ahead of James Weaver. 

1990 – Rob Gravett

1990 signaled a new era in the BTCC as the four class system was replaced by a two class one. In their final year, Group A regulation cars now ran alongside an all new 2 litre touring car formula class in what would become the beginnings of the Super Touring era. Rob Gravett won from Class A in a Ford Sierra RS500 as he beat Frank Sytner to the title by 27 points. 

1991 – Will Hoy

The first year of full Super Touring regulations, 1991 saw Will Hoy take BMWs second BTCC title in the BMW M3. Hoy won three races, but it was his superior consistency which helped him to secure the title. 

1992 – Tim Harvey

Tim Harvey won in 1992 as BMW continued to be the team to beat in the Super Touring era’s early days. Harvey drove a BMW 318is to the title in a closely fought championship battle with 1991’s defending champion Will Hoy who had made the switch to Toyota.

1993 – Joachim Winkelhock

BMW made it three driver titles’ in a row in 1993 as Joachim Winkelhock won the title in a BMW 318i. However whilst the car and manufacturer winning the title remained the same, BMW Team Schnitzer from Germany had taken over the running of the entry from Prodrive, after BMW UK had withdrew their support following a rules change which they felt disadvantaged the BMW cars. Prodrive moved to build Subaru’s World Rally Championship cars and Team Schnitzer, who were originally slated to compete in the DTM, ironically ended up running the BTCC team following dissatisfaction with the rules in Germany! The Schnitzer cars were fast, and Winkelhock won the title ahead of teammate Steve Soper.

1994 – Gabriele Tarquini

Gabriele Tarquini won the 1994 BTCC title after the Alfa Romeo 155 TS took the series by storm, and marked the beginning of one of the busiest periods of innovation in the BTCC. Tarquini dominated the season, and even a midseason regulation change to peg back the Alfa Romeo’s advantage, which resulted in Alfa Romeo’s withdrawal from the round at Oulton Park didn’t stop the title going to Tarquini.

1995 – John Cleland (2nd BTCC Title)

A familiar name returned to the championship trophy in 1995 as John Cleland secured his second BTCC title. Clelend won in a Vauxhall Cavalier, beating Renault’s Alain Menu by 43 points.

1996 – Frank Biela

1996 was another controversial year for the BTCC as Audi’s Frank Biela stormed to the title in the Audi A4 Quattro. With it’s unique Quattro All Wheel Drive system, the Audi A4 was the class of the field as Biela beat Menu to the title by over 100 points. 

1997 – Alain Menu

After two years of finishing as runner-up, Alain Menu won his first BTCC in 1997 in the Williams Racing Renault Laguna. Menu and the Laguna were supreme all season long as the Swiss driver won 12 out of 24 races on his way to a long-awaited BTCC crown. 

1998 – Rickard Rydell

Following Audi’s success in 1996 and 97, four-wheel drive was now banned as Volvo won their first and only BTCC title in the Volvo S40 with Rickard Rydell behind the wheel. The popular racing game TOCA 2 Touring Cars is based on the 1998 season, and it’s one which introduced many current fans to the series. Rydell beat Nissan’s Anthony Reid to win the title. 

1999 – Laurent Aiello

As the Super Touring era began to reach its conclusion, Laurent Aiello dominated the 1999 season in the Nissan Primera to win his first and only BTCC title. Matt Neal made history by becoming the first Independent driver to win an outright championship race at Donington Park early in the year, and ended the season a remarkable 9th in the championship.

2000 – Alain Menu (2nd BTCC Title)

2000 marked the final year of Super Touring regulations in the BTCC as only Ford, Vauxhall and Honda remained as manufacturers on the grid. The Prodrive Ford Mondeo was dominant, and Alain Menu drove to his second BTCC title beating Anthony Reid by two points in an intense, season-long battle. A new Class B, for Super Production cars was also introduced.

2001 – Jason Plato

Following the high-cost Super Touring era, the BTC-Touring era began in 2001 with a new set of regulations aimed at lower costs. The field was divided into two classes, with a BTC-Touring class and a BTC-Production class. Jason Plato won the overall title in a Vauxhall Astra Coupe following a closely fought battle with teammate Yvan Muller, and the Production Class title went to Simon Harrison in a Peugeot 306 GTi.

2002 – James Thompson

2002 saw James Thompson win his first BTCC title in a Vauxhall Astra Coupe and James Kaye win the Production Class in a Honda Civic Type-R. Yvan Muller finished as runner-up once again as the Vauxhall Astra Coupe proved to be the class of the field for the second year running. 

2003 – Yvan Muller

Yvan Muller won the 2003 BTCC title as Luke Hines won in the Production Class. Muller won in his third season in the Vauxhall Astra Couple, and Hines made it two Production titles in a row for the Honda Civic Type-R.

2004 – James Thompson

James Thompson won his second BTCC title in 2004 as Vauxhall and the Astra Coupe made it four BTCC titles in a row. The season marked the beginning of a transition to new S2000 regulations as SEAT Sport UK with the returning Jason Plato entered an S2000-spec SEAT Toledo. The Production Class was disbanded and Thompson won a nail-bitingly close title fight, beating Muller by one point to win the crown.

2005 – Matt Neal

Matt Neal won his first BTCC title in a Team Dynamics Honda Integra Type-R. The Integra won on it’s debut at Donington Park, and it’s introduction marked a two year period of great success for the team. 

2006 – Matt Neal (2nd BTCC Title)

Matt Neal made it two in a row in 2006 as he successfully defended his BTCC title, making him the first driver since Chris Hodgetts in 1987 to do so. Neal’s car was once again the Dynamics Honda Integra Type-R, and he beat SEAT’s Jason Plato to the title by 48 points. 

2007 – Fabrizio Giovanardi

Vauxhall’s Fabrizio Giovanardi won his first BTCC title in his debut season in a Vauxhall Vectra VXR, beating Plato to the title in an intense battle which went down to the final race. 

2008 – Fabrizio Giovanardi (2nd BTCC Title)

Fabrizio Giovanardi made it two BTCC titles in a row in 2008 as he became the first Italian driver to win more than once BTCC title. Giovanardi was once again in a Vauxhall Vectra, and his closet challenge came from Mat Jackson in an Independently-run BMW 3 Series. 

2009 – Colin Turkington

Colin Turkington won his first BTCC title and the first for an Independent team since 2006 as he drove the Team RAC BMW 3 Series to the title. Turkington won the title from Jason Plato by five points, winning five times throughout the season to secure the crown. 

2010 – Jason Plato (2nd BTCC Title)

After so many near misses in the previous years, Jason Plato won his second BTCC title in 2010. Driving a Chevrolet Cruze, Plato beat long-time rival Matt Neal to the title by 31 points in a fierce championship battle. 

2011 – Matt Neal (3rd BTCC Title)

2011 marked the start of the NGTC era of BTCC regulations, with cars built to NGTC specifications allowed to compete in the series for the first time. Matt Neal became only the sixth driver in BTCC and BSCC history to win three drivers titles as he beat teammate Gordon Shedden to the title in a Honda Civic. 

2012 – Gordon Shedden

Gordon Shedden won his first BTCC title. The season was also the first without any old-specification BTC-Touring cars on the grid. Shedden won in a Honda Civic, beating teammate Matt Neal into second place. 

2013 – Andrew Jordan

The 2013 title was won by independent driver Andrew Jordan in a PIRTEK Racing Honda Civic. Jordan ended the season seven points clear of Gordon Shedden as for the second year in a row, the defending champion finished second in the championship standings. The Jack Sears trophy was introduced for the top S2000 finisher over the course of the season.

2014 – Colin Turkington (2nd BTCC Title)

Colin Turkington won his second BTCC title in 2014 driving an eBay Motors BMW 125i M Sport to the title. The criteria for the Jack Sears Trophy changed to become the independent driver who had made up the most places in races over the course of a season.

2015 – Gordon Shedden (2nd BTCC Title)

Gordon Shedden became a double-BTCC champion in the fifth season of NGTC regulations and the 58th of the BSCC/BTCC. Shedden won in a Honda Civic Type R, finishing four points ahead of the Volkswagen CC of Jason Plato.

2016 – Gordon Shedden (3rd BTCC Title)

Gordon Shedden made it two titles in a row as he became only the seventh driver in history to win three BTCC/BSCC titles. The championship fight went down to a thrilling final race and Shedden prevailed in a Honda Civic Type-R, beating Sam Tordoff to the title. The Jack Sears Trophy was now eligible for the best rookie over the course of the season. 

2017 – Ashley Sutton

Ashely Sutton won his first BTCC title in 2017 in a Subaru Levorg GT. The 2017 season featured five manufacturer-backed teams for the first time since the end of the Super Touring era and Sutton beat Turkington to the title by 21 points. 

2018 – Colin Turkington (3rd BTCC Title)

Colin Turkington became the eighth driver in history to win three BSCC/BTCC titles as he won the championship in the series’ 60th anniversary year. Turkington won in a BMW 125i M Sport, beating Tom Ingram into second place by twelve points.