The Oulton Park meeting for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship unfortunately didn’t see the Porsche Carrera Cup of Great Britain on the support bill, but in their place the fans got an opportunity to see the HSCC Super Touring Trophy. Launched in 2013, the Championship enabled drivers and team to relive the glory days of the BTCC with the Super Tourer era. Classic Super Tourer BTCC machinery from the likes of Honda to Vauxhall had been restored and kept in pristine condition, ready to entertain thousands and bring back plenty of history from a decade which saw the BTCC taken to a new level.
With 2014 seeing the Super Touring Trophy given championship status for the first time, the opening round at Thruxton on the 19th and 20th April, saw a grid of sixteen take to the track, including some of the best cars that appeared in the BTCC during the 90s. Two names that stood out in the grid for the opening rounds and would be completing the full season was the 1995 BTCC Champion John Cleland and regular BTCC driver Patrick Watts, both campaigning in the cars they drove during the Super Tourer Era. For Cleland, he had already taken a win in 2014 in his Triple 8 prepared 1997 Vauxhall Vectra, which during its day took Cleland to twelfth in the Championship, which was won by Swiss BTCC driver Alain Menu, who of course returned to the BTCC in 2014. For rival Patrick Watts, he also secured a race win at Thruxton, in the 1998 Peugeot 407, which in 1988 was run by the factory team and driven by Tim Harvey and Paul Radisich to finish fourteenth and seventeenth respectively. With Cleland and Watts the standout drivers known for their time in the BTCC during the Super Tourer era and leading the 2014 Super Touring Car Championship, there were plenty of drivers in this competitive field capable of race wins, in some stunning machinery. With Honda having history in the present era of winning the BTCC title, the manufacture is well represented in the Super Touring Trophy. With James Dodd and Stewart Whyte regulars in the 90s Accord, newcomer Ric Wood would be making his debut in the 1997 Prodrive Accord, which was driven by James Thompson and Gabriele Tarquini to fifth and sixth in the standings that year. In terms of other manufactures on the grid, a few Nissan Primeras are entered, which were run by RML Group from 1997 to 1999. David Jarman is an experienced driver at the wheel of a Primera, but father of front runner James, Graeme Dodd has always gone well in his Nissan. With a couple of Alfa Romeos and BMW also on the grid, the potential dark horse for any race this year was the 1999 Williams Renault Laguna driven by Jason Plato and Frenchmen Jean Christophe Boullion in the BTCC and now in the hands of Simon Garrad. After restoring the race winning car in complete Nescafe Livery from 1999, Garrad went well in testing and at Thruxton backed this up with a fourth and a second. It would be interesting to see whether this car could come out on top around the Oulton Park international layout.
Dodd Secures Opening Super Tourers Spoils on BTCC Bill
The Super Touring Car Championship relived a lot of memories for the 43,000 in attendance at Oulton Park on the 7th and 8th June but conditions for Saturday’s qualifying session wasn’t what the old cars and drivers would have wanted for the return to the BTCC program. As rain belted it down in Cheshire, drivers headed to the track as quick as possible with John Cleland posting the quickest time of 1:57.280. The Honda Accord of James Dodd was expected to go well at Oulton Park and after settling into second, the closest he could get to the Vauxhall Vectra was within a margin 0.449 seconds, even though Cleland retired from the session with a broken wishbone mount after just two laps. After a red flag stoppage and a heavy downpour, the session resumed with some surprises. The 2013 champion of Stewart Whyte in another Honda Accord could only qualify outside the top twenty, whilst series leader Patrick Watts finished eleventh, after a massive moment exiting Cascades and kicking up parts of the muddy grass during a quick lap.
Luckily for the whole field, conditions were far better for the opening race on Saturday afternoon, as Cleland and Dodd prepared to make history at Oulton Park for the Super Tourers, with the first twenty-minute race on the BTCC program since 2000. As Cleland converted pole position into the perfect getaway on the rolling-start, the Alfa Romeo 156 of Neil Smith navigated Old Hall Corner to snatch second from the front row Honda, which fought back a few corners later and reeled in a leading Cleland. With Neil Smith rejected to third, he had a small margin ahead of the superb Renault Laguna of Simon Garrad, which was working its way up the order from eighth on the grid.
As Cleland led the race early on, throughout the laps the Honda Accord of Dodd was looking a lot quicker, allowing for a cat and mouse scenario which was famous in the 90s when the Super Tourers headlined the BTCC. With a gap being created between second and third, James Dodd’s father Graeme was involved in a scrap for third in the Nissan Primera. As Simon Garrad’s Renault got involved, bringing with him Derek Palmer and another Nissan Primera, the battle for third included nearly five cars and plenty of overtaking.
With four laps ticked off, there had been a change for the lead with James Dodd’s Honda Accord finally passing the 1998 Vauxhall Vectra of Cleland and began to create a healthy margin. Cleland’s damage from qualifying was starting to show with Graeme Dodd’s Nissan closing the gap, but for the double BTCC champion, pressure was on Graeme from Simon Garrad’s Renault and another Nissan in the form of Derek Palmer. With Max Goff’s 1991 BMW M3 challenging the more modern Super Tourers, the drivers causing the most activity were Patrick Watts’s Peugeot 406 and Stewart Whyte’s Honda Accord, who moved within the top ten and looked very likely to move towards the podium.
Once Cleland found more pace in the Vauxhall, he started reducing the three seconds lead which James Dodd had pulled out, but come the flag the margin was a full two seconds. Taking the final podium spot and his second of the season was Simon Garrad, who overhauled the two Nissans of Palmer and Dodd in what had been a very exciting battled throughout the race. From the back of the grid, 2013 Champion Stewart Whyte came home in sixth, ahead of Patrick Watts and the fast starting Neil Smith in the Alfa Romeo 156. Completing the top ten in ninth was the BMW M3 of Max Goff, whilst tenth was taken by Dave Jarman in the ex Team Dynamics Nissan Primera, which Matt Neal had taken to many independent victories throughout his Super Tourer career in the BTCC 90s.
Super Tourers, Oulton Park Race One – Top Ten:
1. James Dodd (1999 WSR Honda Accord) = 11 Laps
2. John Cleland (1997 Triple 8 Vauxhall Vectra) = +2.066s
3. Simon Garrad (1999 Williams Renault Laguna) = +9.674s
4. Derek Palmer (1999 RML Nissan Primera) = +13.636s
5. Graeme Dodd (1998 RML Nissan Primera) = +19.459s
6. Stewart Whyte (2000 WSR Honda Accord) = +27.923s
7. Patrick Watts (1998 MSD Peugeot 406) = +32.070s
8. Neil Smith (1997 Euroteam Alfa Romeo 156) = +40.749s
9. Max Goff (1991 Vic Lee Racing BMW M3) = +42.013s
10. David Jarman (1997 Team Dynamics Nissan Primera) = +51.751s
Dodd Doubles Up in Super Tourers
In front of a huge crowd for Sunday, the second Super Tourer race was unfortunately delayed by two hours, as when the cars entered the circuit, the skies around Cheshire opened up to a torrential shower, completing soaking the circuit and causing a stewards decision to delay the race.
When the race did get underway on a lot drier track, race one winner James Dodd made the most of pole position in the ex-Tom Kristensen Honda Accord by leading James Cleland on the rolling-start. As Simon Garrad settled into third in the Laguna and looking for another podium, a challenge from Neil Smith saw the Alfa Romeo move into third by lap two, unfortunately seeing the Renault fall backwards with pressure from Patrick Watts and Stewart Whyte in the Peugeot 406 and the Honda Accord. With a lot of overtaking and close racing in the early stages, there were some unfortunate moments of drama on the opening lap, with the Ex-Matt Neal Nissan Primera of Dave Jarman running wide and losing ground whilst Tom Andrew’s Alfa Romeo 155 from 1994 was hit into a spin at Old Hall Corner by the 2001 Alfa Romeo 156 of Steve Dymoke and retired after two laps.
With the top two of Dodd and Cleland disappearing from the rest and the Vectra keeping the Accord in its sights, the battle for the final podium spot became the big battle of the race. Neil Smith in the Alfa held third for much of the race but with Patrick Watts and Stewart Whyte pilling on the pressure, something was going to give. On lap eight, a battle between Watts and Whyte nearly ended in fireworks as approaching Knickerbrook, the Peugoet locked up and straight lined the chicane. Whyte secured fourth as a result and then closed on Smith up Clay Hill and towards the end of the lap. Lap nine saw a change in the podium position with Whyte seizing third at Old Hall Corner and then defended the position into Cascades. After his moment at Knickerbrook, Watts drove a super quick recovery but looked likely to run out of time, however Watts made his move on the final lap when Smith made a very rare error, falling to fifth at the flag.
Back at the front, Cleland was able to keep Dodd’s Honda in his sights for the whole race but never got within a second and able to challenge for the race win. With James Dodd securing the Super Tourer Oulton Park double in 2014 on the BTCC support bill, he had achieved a record for the championship by having won all four races at the Cheshire track, after taking two wins in 2013 at the famous Oulton Park Gold Cup. For the Super Tourers, the championship will return to Oulton Park for the Gold Cup on the 23rd and 24th August, so it would be interesting to see whether James Dodd could take two more wins in the category.
With the top six all decided, there were plenty of battles to complete the top ten involving four Nissan, which included three RML Primeras and the Team Dynamics Primera. As Graeme Dodd’s 1998 Primera having an issue in the early stages, he fell away from the podium places and was a challenger to Simon Garrad’s Renault but behind, there was a competitive battle between Keith Butcher and Derek Palmer’s RML, which saw the 1999 Primera of Palmer retire on after eight laps. This promoted Dave Jarman up a place, who was keeping the RML 1997 Primera behind, which was driven in the BTCC by Anthony Reid.
Super Tourers, Oulton Park Race Two – Top Ten:
1. James Dodd (1999 WSR Honda Accord) =10 Laps
2. John Cleland (1997 Triple 8 Vauxhall Vectra) = +2.980s
3. Stewart Whyte (2000 WSR Honda Accord) =+6.356s
4. Patrick Watts (1998 MSD Peugeot 406) =+12.001s
5. Neil Smith (1997 Euroteam Alfa Romeo 156) =+13.067s
6. Simon Garrad (1999 Williams Renault Laguna) =+22.954s
7. Graeme Dodd (1998 RML Nissan Primera) =+23.923s
8. Keith Butcher (1999 RML Nissan Primera) = +39.607s
9. David Jarman (1997 Team Dynamics Nissan Primera) =+41.048s
10. Dan Wheeler (1997 RML Nissan Primera) = +41.248s
After a sensational showing on the British Touring Cars TOCA package and reliving a decade when the BTCC dominated the Touring Car scene, the Super Tourers will now head to the famous Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent, which during the 90s saw some historic battles between the manufactures and what was some of the best drivers in the world. For the field in the Super Tourers, they will contest two races over Saturday and Sunday of the HSCC Historic Superprix on the 12th and 13th July before heading to the popular Silverstone Classic on the last weekend of July, which was the birth place of the Super Touring Car Championship back in 2009, with the David Leslie Memorial Trophy. To conclude the championship in 2014, the Super Tourers will return to Oulton Park for the August Bank Holiday Gold Cup, which was the scene for some fantastic action in 2013. With six races left in 2014 and potential for a lot of the drivers to take points of one another, the fight for the championship should be very close until the end.
Heading to Brands Hatch, the current overall championship standings looked as follows:
1. John Cleland – Vauxhall Vectra = 25
2. Patrick Watts – Peugeot 406 = 19
3. James Dodd – Honda Accord = 18
4. Kingsley Ingram – Mazda 323F = 16
5. Simon Garrad – Williams Renault Laguna = 14
6. Mark Jones – Renault Laguna / Vauxhall Cavalier = 10
7. Nick Whale – BMW M3 = 9
8. Mark Wright – Zakspeed Escort Mk2 = 9
9. Stewart Whyte – Honda Accord = 8
10. Max Goff – BMW M3 = 8
For a collection of photos of the Super Tourers at Oulton Park during the British Touring Car Championship meeting, please click here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.