A Statement regarding TCR Talk

With 2020 being such a unique year so far and also one where people have experienced difficult times and faced difficult decisions, the time has come for myself to update you all on a difficult decision regarding TCR Talk.

It is with great sadness that I confirm that TCR Talk will close on 31st October.


As many of you will know, my writing of this blog has been a hobby that began for me back in 2013 as a way of recovery after suffering a nervous breakdown.

As a suggestion from my wife and partner of ten years, I started to share my thoughts on my love and passion for motorsport and the blog steadily grew from there.

However, I’ve found that my time has become increasingly taken up by my full-time working role and this has led me to the decision that I am no longer able to commit the time required.

Therefore the blog will close at the end of October. The Twitter and Facebook pages will also close on 31st October.

Credit: BRSCC / TCR UK Series

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has followed my blog, from its humble beginnings as “The Tintop Guru” through to its current version as “TCR Talk”

I have been incredibly lucky to meet some amazing people in Motorsport circles and learn so much from them. I am forever thankful to you all.

Its been a true honour to cover series such as the FIA World Rallycross Championship, the British Touring Car Championship and both the TCR UK Touring car Champion and later, the Dunlop Touring Car Trophy.

I cannot put into words how much it has meant to be able to share my thoughts and develop myself into what I call “An Amateur Motorsport Journalist”.

Credit: DPPI / FIA WTCR

The blog allowed me to grasp the opportunities presented to me that led to my joining websites such as The Checkered Flag and Downforce Racing and developing further at both sites.

However, due to my own failings in not being able to make this a full-time change in my career, the time has come to call it a day.

Some might say that this is giving up. It’s far from it. This is a simple realisation that the dream I have pursued for the past seven years is no longer possible to make a reality.

I consider myself very lucky to have been able to contribute in a very small way to Motorsport through my writing and I have many wonderful memories that I take away with me.

Credit: WSC / TCR Europe

I will continue with my role as Owner of The Official TCR Talk Group & Admin of The TCR UK Fans Group sharing what news I find from drivers, teams and other sources.

Thank you to everyone who has followed the blog in its various guises and supported me over the past seven years.

With Kind Regards and humble thanks,

Phil Kinch

My Favourite Motorsport Moment: Autosport International 2015 Competition

My favourite Motorsport moment over the last 25 years has to be the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix.

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It was a year I was proud to be both a Williams fan and a Nigel Mansell fan. Having watched him charge through races in the previous season, chasing Senna all the way to what would be the Brazilian’s final title, it was a joy to watch and see “Il Leone” win the first five races of the 1992 season and it showed the signs that he might actually win that first title.

All he needed to do to make it six in a row was win the one race he hadn’t won…

Monaco.

Qualifying on Pole Position helped that cause and with team mate Patrese on the front row, I was sat forward on the sofa at home ready to witness what turned out to be an epic race.

I watched on as Mansell slid wide from pole and took the lead whilst Senna made his master stroke of a move by passing Patrese into Ste Devote for second. Murray Walker and James Hunt were performing their legendary commentary duties as Nigel stretched his lead lap after lap, getting further and further ahead.

Whilst the joy and excitement were building, it all fell apart on lap 71 when Mansell pitted for tyres after suffering a puncture. He sped out of the pits but Senna was already ahead.

The chase began…

My excitement was at fever pitch as I willed Nigel on whilst Walker and Hunt commentated on, looking for the slightest gap for Mansell to pass the worlds widest Mclaren.

Mansell broke the lap record five times whilst catching up to Senna. I watched on the edge of my seat as lap after lap he tried to pass at Ste Devote, then Mirabeau, then at the Loews hairpin, again at the Chicane, trying hard through the Swimming Pool, running wide at Anthony Nogues, but to no avail.

It was a worthy win for Senna and I felt as drained as Nigel looked as he stood on the podium. He’d tried his all, but what a race…

A memory I will never forget.

As it turns out, that post won me a place at the 2015 Autosport International Show as an Official Blogger and what a day it was.

The 1991 F1 season: The year I re-connected with F1…

I have to admit that although I have watched Formula One for 30 years, Man and Boy on the BBC, ITV and Sky, that there was a time that I stopped watching the sport. The two seasons I missed out on watching were the 1989 and 1990 seasons.

Imagine that… Phil not watching Formula One…

SOMEBODY CALL THIS KID A DOCTOR!!!

This was due to several reasons. At the time I was 12 years old and due to many reasons My Family and I moved from my hometown of Bletchley in Buckinghamshire to a small town called Flitwick in Bedfordshire. With the hassles of moving schools, losing friends and not making new ones, finding life difficult being bullied and the fact that we were used to spending weekends busy around the house or exploring around Flitwick and ending up being bullied all the way home for tea…

Yup, I had a difficult childhood, but thats a different subject.

However, my love of Formula One was re-ignited thanks to the bout of Flu and Hayfever I suffered during the weekend of the 1991 British Grand Prix. I was off school for 2 weeks which back then felt like ages. During my time off, my Mum bought me a copy of the motor racing newspaper Motoring News (now Motorsport News) and a copy of the magazine Motor Sport.

My Mum knew I loved my motor racing. In fact she still loves watching F1 and reminding me when the “buzz buzz” is on and asking if am I watching it. Thanks Mum.

Anyway having watched Nigel Mansell power his Williams Renault FW14 to Pole Position on BBC Grandstand was epic on the Saturday lunchtime. But the race on Sunday was just epic…

Senna had qualified 2nd to Mansell but at the start he took the lead. My heart sank. Before the race I had read up on all the previews possible to learn about the first half of the season and how Senna had dominated the first 4 races at Phoenix, Sao Paulo, San Marino and Monaco. Suddenly the race had a look of Senna Domination heading its way…

But on the first lap at Stowe, Nigel asserted his position and retook the lead. Then he pushed…hard. Setting fastest lap after fastest lap he pushed to open up a gap to his title rival. Each time the Blue and Yellow car rocketed over the start/finish line, the crowd roared so loud the BBC Microphones picked it up clearly. Everyone at home watching TV and trackside was cheering on “Il Leone.”

Even me, laid up on the sofa, sweating horribly, cheering on Nigel, shouting at the TV as my heart raced harder and faster, seeing the best in the world race at the home of UK Motorsport.

Having read about the Williams FW14’s poor reliability earlier in the season however, I was worried again, hoping the car would not break. Praying that the Adrian Newey designed car would stsy reliable. But that worry never came. Try as he might, Senna had no answer to Mansell and chased him so hard he ran out of fuel on the last lap.

To this day I have never forgotten the quote from Nigel when Murray Walker asked him what it was like to race at Silverstone in front of his home crowd and Nigel’s answer was that the support alone was worth “half a second a lap” and the crowd duly rewarded him by helping Nigel break the lap record on his way to his race victory. Mansell won from Berger and Prost on that day, 14th July 1991.

As he drove back to the pits and picked up Ayrton on the way, I was reminded of all the memories of watching Nigel race in the late 1980’s in the Williams-Honda, battling his team mate Nelson Piquet, Senna and Prost for the titles he would never win. The tyre explosion in the 1986 Australian Grand Prix, the pass he pulled on Nelson Piquet in the 1987 British Grand Prix. Watching him fight for every point he could score in 1988 in the Williams-Judd before his move to Ferrari in 1989.

And the Passion returned with a Fire in it. I was glued to the TV for the German Grand Prix, again watching Mansell race to his 3rd straight Grand Prix win in a row whilst team mate Patrese made it a Williams Renault 1-2. Senna would again run out of fuel on the last lap and Mansell closed in on the Brazilian in the Championship.

1991 continued to be a historic season where Mansell fought back at Senna after every setback. He chased him in Hungary, dominated at Monza to beat Senna again, lost points in Portugal due to a botched pitstop and subsequent disqualification, took the win in Spain passing Senna in that Iconic move into Turn 1…I can still hear James Hunt even now declaring proudly “This is wheel to wheel stuff here!” and the heartbreak of Mansell’s lost wheel in Japan sealing the title for Senna.

I recall watching the highlights of the final race of the season on Sunday Grandstand with my mum and two sisters, roast dinners placed on place mats on our laps. It was the Australian Grand Prix, the shortest race in F1 history at 16 laps and a very wet race. Senna led from Berger, Mansell and Piquet during the early laps, proving his wet weather prowess

Mansell would pass Berger for second but before the red flag came out, there was a massive crash on the Conrod Straight. With Monsoon conditions getting worse, cars aquaplaning off left  and right and safety vehicles trying to recover wrecked cars, Mansell would join the list of cars to spin out and hit the wall. Senna waved frantically to get the race stopped and it duly was. In the final results, Nigel was declared 2nd, sealing his 2nd place in the title race.

It capped off, what for me was and always is my favourite Formula One season.

Why? Because I feel in love with Formula One all over again.

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I watched Mansell romp to the 1992 title the following year in the FW14B and watched every race that the BBC showed be it live or recorded after that until 1997 when ITV took on the rights from there. My Passion, Excitement and Fire for the sport never died again regardless of the exciting races or controversey that followed.

It also sparked the beginning of my ever increasing following of motorsport from there with me collecting issues of Motoring News and Motor Sport to find out every detail I could to know what was happening in F1 and the BTCC to begin with and the gradual expansion to DTM, WTCC…

Well you know the rest.

Anyway, enjoy your weekend and any of the motorsport activities that you are watching live at trackside or at home live on TV.

Cheers

Phil.

My Motorsport and other interests…

Now some of you might think that Motorsport is my only interest…hobby…or Obsession???

Well I also happen to like other stuff as well and I thought a quick post in the close season for Touring Cars might be in order to show I’m not just a single minded individual who studies motorsport wishing he was driving one of those cars or at least commentating on them.

(Yes I know… the DTM is racing at the Norisring on 14th July… I meant the close season for the BTCC and WTCC.)

I happen to be a big Scifi fan, ever since I was a young boy and this was due to the wonderful work of 2 men: George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry. With the horrible childhood I had, these 2 men allowed my imagination to expand with ease. While other kids were out playing outside with their friends, I was happily indoors staying away from the bullies watching Men and Women exploring the stars and defending planets.

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Basically Star Wars was the first big film I watched on TV and understood. From then I was hooked. Every Christmas/New Year Period ITV would show the original trilogy films over those few days and I loved every minute.

One of the few things I can thank my father for is the favour he pulled at Fenny Stratford Video Store. He managed to convince the owner to allow him to “borrow” a copy of The Empire Strikes Back on VHS before its official release on the monday. I recall that he had to promise to have the VHS tape back before 6pm on the Sunday Evening. I was heartbroken when we took it back…

Only to find the sneaky old bugger had reserved it on Monday when it was released…

Oh, VHS? Thats Video Home System for those of you who are too young to know…

Oh just to add to the debate, I love the Original Trilogy Films but I also like the Prequel Trilogy Films as well. I’ll watch the Originals more mind you but you see each film tells a story and I love a good story. I loved Greek Mythology at school and enjoyed all the hero/villain tragedy stuff. As for the new trilogy to come from the House of Mouse, aka Disney, I welcome them because there will be at least 3 more stories added to the saga, introducing yet more imagination and mileage to the ever expanding Star Wars Universe.

It also allows me a 3rd oppurtunity to see a Star Wars film at the cinema. An amazing experience. I’ve also had the amazing experience of seeing a concert where all the pieces of music were played to a huge audience at the O2.

Truly awesome.

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As well as Lucas providing the Hero/Villain balance in SciFi for me (I’m a Han Solo fan btw), Roddenberry introduced the Scientific Exploration into the mix for me in the form of Star Trek. Whilst the Star Wars Films were on at Christmas, every Wednesday Night on BBC2 at 6pm, I sat on the front room floor with my dinner on my lap watching Captain James Tiberius Kirk lead the Starship Enterprise on its 5 year mission into deep space, facing off against Klingons and Romulans and wooing green skinned Orion Slave Girls.

I loved the Classic Series and it led to me deciding from a young age that I wanted to be an Astronaut. Back in the 1980’s, Space Shuttle launches were big news and the BBC always showed the launches live or delayed. It was awesome stuff for me as a kid with all this space stuff on TV.

It enhanced my love of Star Trek further watching those brave men and women going boldly where no one has gone before and its quite funny that most of the gadgets or ideas that they used in the series have ended up becoming reality decades later: Communicators have become Mobile Phones, Portable Tablets are a reality and so on and so forth.

Now I can happily say it brings joy to my heart seeing either a Star Trek or Star Wars film advertised on TV as I find myself in my happy place that normally is reserved for motorsport. Hell I have the DVD’s and have read many of the books but seeing the films in action is awesome to me.

I’ve watched Star Trek The Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Star Trek Voyager and I love them to. My favourite is DS9 to be honest.

Again, my own opinion on the two new Star Trek films made by JJ Abrams is that I love them. They blend action with emotion extremely well and I still get the same tingle watching those at the cinema as I did watching the original films on DVD.

I have other interests including being a fan of a certain Dark Knight but thats a blog for another day in the close season.

Anyway its a sunny hot weekend and the Vauxhall, Bedford and Opel Association has its annual Rally on Billing Aquadrome…

(At the time of writing this).

So if you need me, I’ll be there…

Cheers!!

Phil.

The day I did a “Murray Walker”…In Malta…

I know that in recent blog posts from myself I have written about various memories and thoughts on Touring Car racing from my many years of watching motor sport.

Well this one is about my love of Formula One and the time I got to do a “Murray Walker.” In other words, the time I commentated on a Formulla One Grand Prix. The 2002 French Grand Prix to be exact…

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In Malta.

Yes, I said Malta.

Now, pop the kettle on because this one will need a bit of explaining…

Back in 2002, my mother got married for the second time in her life. It turns out her in laws lived in the beautiful land of Malta and the wedding ceremony was to take place in Malta’s capital city Valetta.

Now I should point out that I had never been abroad before, so this gave me the oppurtunity to apply for my passport for the first time and prepare for my first visit to a hot country. Now at the time I shared a 5th floor flat in Bedford with my friend Colin. It was “The Odd Couple” all over again to our friends with myself being toted as Jack Lemmon and Colin being tagged with being Walther Matthau.

He was 45 and I was 24. We were both nuts on SciFi and he enjoyed watching The Discovery Channel.

Trust me, that will make sense in a minute…

Anyway, Mum invited Colin and I out to Malta for a week to celebrate in the week after the wedding and meet the new additions to the family. So we booked a weeks holiday through a travel agent, setting up a hotel and all the arrangements. Our flight would be on an Airbus A320, at the time the most sophisticated airline jet out there.

It had a PC Gaming Joystick as a control stick…not good…

Now I have never been good on planes. I have only flown to 3 countries abroad and each flight was eventful in different ways. But I wont bore you with the details. So, one evening in the run up to the holiday Colin is watching a documentary on The Discovery Channel about Airbus A320’s that had problems. One A320 overrode the pilot at a german airshow on a preview flight and landed itself in a forrest at the end of the runway…and not on the runway.

Another model in the same class did a loop-the-loop with full passenger compliment on board. A 3rd Airbus again over-rode its pilot and crashed in the Alps…

There’s a pattern forming here…

So, Phil, in his infinite wisdom decides to check the plane tickets to see what plane we were getting on…

An Airbus A320.

It took Colin 7 hours and 5 pints of Cider in The Flowerpot pub to convince me that I was still going on holiday…and watching the Cleveland Indycar Grand Prix the weekend before helped. For those that dont know, the Indycar race used to be run on the runways of Burke Lakefront Airport.

Anyway, we flew out to Malta and got acclimated to the local area and high dry temperature. We both stood out like sore thumbs each time we went out though, dressed in T-Shirt, Shorts, Cap and BumBags.

We screamed TOURIST and that almost got us both stuck in a timeshare scam (Colin broke the nose of the little shit that tried to sign us up…after 3 days of being hounded round the Island by him…he drove away in a brand new Vauxhall Astra too…) However what made the holiday even better for us both were the vintage 1970’s and 1980’s cars parked on the side of each road.

With such high temperatures, little or no rain and no snow, it was heaven seeing so many Ford Cortina’s, Sierra’s and Fiesta’s along with many Vauxhall Viva’s, Cavalier’s, Nova’s and plenty of Austin Allegro’s, Princesses and many more british cars you can think of beimg driven up and down the many roads in the local area. However the lack of a highway code was another matter…

Anyway, I have digressed and I apologise. I have so many good memories from the holiday and they are topped by the best memory of all…

My mother’s In-laws were scottish and were very traditional. They wanted to meet me and Colin and thanks to good old mum, her Father in Law explained he was a big fan of Formula One and was very happy to hear of my enthusiasm and love of Motorsport. In Malta at the time there was no English TV Feed for F1. Spanish and Italian TV Channels showed all of the practice sessions, qualifying and the race but no english commentary from ITV or Sky.

A problem I would soon rectify.

So I was asked if we’d like to watch the 2002 French GP at their place. The fact that they sweetened the request with the offer of Cheese & Pickle sandwiches and plenty of Ice Cold Coca-Cola was perfect…but the condition to us agreeing was that I would commentate to the household during the race.

The answer was yes naturally.

So in the year that Michael Schumacher won his 5th F1 title with 6 races left to run in the 17 race season (another of his many records) I happily and energetically commentated on the whole race. Juan Pablo Montoya started the race on Pole Position in his Williams-BMW with Schumacher on the front row with him. It wasn’t the most exciting race but with my enthusiastic and exciting commentary, I livened it up. Schumacher won the race in the end from the McLaren drivers of David Coulthard and Kimi Raikonnen and won the World Title.

Since I was a kid Murray Walker commentated on all the F1 races until his retirement in 2001. I met the man himself at the 1992 Birmingham Motor Show and all I wanted to do was commentate on motor racing, making it as exciting and enthralling as he did.

Well, in an air conditioned apartment in Malta on 21st July 2002, I got my chance…and my family and friends loved every minute of it. I loved every minute of it and to this day I cant help but fall into that habit and commentate away whether its Formula One, WTCC or BTCC.

I did something similar in 2008 for The Monaco GP at a different flat in Bedford for my mum and my best mate “Wallace.” On that day Lewis Hamilton won that race and then we went to see the 4th Indiana Jones film at the cinema. Another great memory where plenty of coffee upped the ante and I made an exciting race even better.

So in a way, I acheived my dream of doing a “Murray Walker”.

The best part is…I did it really well…

Anyway, you’ve earned that cup of tea after this post as it was quite a long but cherished memory.

This weekend the World Touring Car Championship races at the Salzburgring in Austria. Last year they had 2 awesome races there and I’m hoping this year will be no exception.

Cheers

Phil.

My Group A Touring Car Favourites…Part 2

Following on from my last blogpost, here is the 2nd part of my Group A tribute. With the Ford Sierra RS500 being my first love, my second love of the Group A rules was the BMW M3.

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Now this car was the car to have in the Class B or Class 2 of either the BTCC or WTCC/ETCC. One man who proved this was BMW Stalwart Roberto Ravaglia. He is the man who won the 1987 World Touring Car Championship and the 1986 and 1988 European Touring Car Championships. He also won the 1989 DTM Championship again in the BMW M3.

Back in those days, the races of the ETCC and WTCC were 3 hour multi driver change races. Ravaglia’s co-drivers were often Emanuele Pirro and Olivier Grouillard and the three of them proved a potent force. They drove for the Bigazzi BMW team and were often a match for the Works Schnitzer BMW Team on the World Stage.

While Ravaglia couldn’t compete for outright race wins with the mighty Ford Sierra’s on the world stage, this didnt deter him. Like the multi-class BTCC in the late 1980’s, a Class Win was scored the same as the outright win. However when the Class A cars ran into trouble, the super reliable BMW was there to pick up the pieces.

The best example of this being the Donington Park 500 round of the 1988 ETCC. In the beginning the Class A Sierra’s disappeared into the lead. The expected challenge from the Group A Nissan Skyline with Win Percy at the wheel faltered with engine issues and finally Brake problems. However, so did the Fords…leaving BMW to take a 1-2-3 finish on the podium. Ravaglia was joined by his regular co-drivers by one Mark Thatcher, son of the late Prime Minister Margaret…

His sense of direction or lack of it is legendary…

In the BTCC, The M3 became famous in the hands of Frank Sytner. Driving for the Prodrive Team and sponsored by Mobil and BMW Finance, Sytner was the man to beat in Class B. While he couldnt compete for the overall race wins, he was always battling hard at the front of his class, which was dominated by the M3.

Due to the class wins system, Sytner won the 1988 BTCC Title while Andy Rouse was in the quicker car in Class A winning races outright. Like today, there is a point for setting the fastest race lap. Famously at Snetterton, after the race had finished, Sytner was questioning his team to see if he had gotten fastest lap on a track that started wet and dried up.

However Sytner was furious to hear that his team mate at Prodrive BMW that year, a certain radio DJ Mike Smith, had been in to change to slick tyres and taken the fastest lap point. Sytner’s temper was infamous and during every race encounter would demand either Smith fall behind him in 2nd place or he would “take him off” the track. Mike Smith joined Robb Gravett at his TrackStar Team for 1989, driving a Group A Sierra…

In 1989, Frank was joined at Prodrive by James Weaver, who was a specialist driver in Sportscars. Weaver immediately made it clear he was here to race and the two drivers had an exciting race long scrap at the Silverstone BTCC round. With Sytner losing his front bumper at Copse on lap one, he fought for the class B lead for the whole distance with both cars swapping positions many times each lap…until Weaver was blocked by Sytner going into the chicane and then later almost crashed at Abbey after contact by Sytner…

John Cleland won the 1989 BTCC Title in his Class C 1.6 litre Vauxhall Astra and both he and Sytner would have many races where they would clash. In 1990 the BTCC scaled to a 2 Class system. Class B became a battle between the 2 litre machines of the BMW M3 and the new Vauxhall Cavalier. Both drivers both clashed at the 1990 Birmingham Super Prix, again in controversial circumstances…

Sytner’s team mate Kurt Luby was leading Class B in his M3. Sytner was hunting down Cleland in the Vauxhall in the late stages of the race due to the fact that his tyres were going off on the street circuit. Andy Rouse won the race overall, however Sytner and Cleland clashed on the last lap. Cleland locked going into the turn and Sytner was committed to a pass that would end up retiring both cars.

Needless to say the tempers flared as Cleland blamed Sytner as he had taken the racing line after locking his tyres and Sytner blamed Cleland for not yeilding the place…

Whats that saying? Birds of a feathers flock together…

The last BTCC Title the M3 would claim would be in 1991. Will Hoy drove in the BMW M3 during endurance races and one off appearances between 1988 and 1990. At times he was team mate to Sytner at Prodrive when they competed in the British ETCC rounds so he learn the car well. In ’91 both he and Ray Bellm were signed up by Vic Lee Motorsport and was able to make a full on assault for the title. His rival was Cleland in the Vauxhall Cavalier.

How the BTCC Changed in 1991. Gone were the Group A rules and the Multi Class system. Now every car was a production car powered by a 2 litre normally aspirated engine, based on the road going cars Joe Public drove. A much simpler championship for a new era of close equal racing. Andy Rouse moved to Toyota and developed the Carina while Nissan joined the fray thanks to the new regulations.

Cleland was considered favourite but he and Hoy fought it out at the front with Hoy beating Cleland and winning the title. Sytner had a much quieter season than previous seasons, never really troubling the front runners and 1990 Champ Gravett also had a quiet year in a Ford Sierra Sapphire that scored one podium. However Sytners team mate at Pyramid Motorsport during the second half of the season would be a certain Matt Neal…

Other british drivers of note who ran the BMW M3 were Godfrey Hall and Alan Minshaw in the famous red Demon Tweeks car. Minshaw was joined by Roland Ratzenberger for the Endurance BTCC rounds in the late 1980’s before the Austrians step up to F1 in 1994…

The M3 also was the car to have in the DTM. After leaving Ford, Steve Soper joined the likes of Ravaglia, Jo Winkelhock and Johnny Cecotto at BMW as part of their various DTM squads and the M3 was a match for the Mercedes 190E and the Audi 80 Quattro. The racing was just as close as in the BTCC as it took part on legendary tracks such as Hockenheim and the Nurburgring (both on the GP Circuit and the Nordschleife circuit). The M3 was also infamous on the endurance touring car races such as the Spa 24 hours and at Macau.

So as you can tell, there’s an enormous sense of pride in me as either a Ford Sierra Cosworth or a BMW M3 goes past on the road. Such legendary touring cars and cars that helped cement my love of Touring Car racing as a child.

Now normally I would suggest you go get a cuppa after reading this. But as the warmer weather has arrived, go and get a nice cold glass of juice with Ice Cubes in.

Enjoy

Phil.

My Group A Touring Car Favourites…Part 1…

While I enjoy watching the modern day spectacle of the BTCC and WTCC, I often find myself thinking back to the final days of the Group A Touring Car regulations that were in use before the introduction of the FIA Class 2 / Super Touring regulations that replaced them

Ironically as this era was winding down, it was also my introduction to Touring Car racing. So I thought I would share a few thoughts with you all about it.

My first love in the Group A era is the Ford Sierra RS500. This is the case due to two facts. A: My Dad drove a Ford Capri and many of my school friends parents had Ford Escorts and Sierra’s. B: Andy Rouse drove one in the BTCC 1987 WTCC and 1988 ETCC and was my first Touring Car hero. So Ford was sealed as my first manufacturer love.

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Seeing the 1988 battle at Brands Hatch between Rouse in his Kaliber sponsored RS500 and Steve Soper in his works Texaco sponsored RS500 is a memory that never goes away. They blitzed the field and were locked in their own battle for the lead race long. It was enthralling to see Rouse overcome Soper through Pilgrims Drop and Hawthorn Hill, only for Soper to fight back at Druids.

Soper and Rouse clashed 4 times in 1988. Soper won their first encounter at Thruxton. This was due to Rouse using softer tyres than Soper on the abrasive Thruxton surface. However Rouse won at their second encounter at Brands Hatch. This was due to Rouse’s Sierra running a higher boost.

Round 3 took place at Silverstone, scene of the 1988 Tourist Trophy, which was also a round of the ETCC. Ford needed a win from either of the Eggenberger Texaco Sierra’s to seal the manufacturers title…

However, things didnt exactly go to plan…

During the race weekend the works Eggenberger cars faced stiff competition. Australian Dick Johnson took part with 2 RS500’s, both built by his own team. Andy Rouse entered 2 RS500’s as well and the lead of the race was contested by Rouse, Soper and Johnson before the driver changes took place. Johnson had held a comfortable lead until that point while Rouse fought with the Texaco Ford’s for 2nd.

Johnson suffered overheating issues and fell out of the lead fight, leaving Rouse and the Texaco Ford’s to fight it out. Now remember, a win for either Texaco entries seals the manufacturer titles. Well Rouse had other ideas…

He took the fight to both cars and took the lead of the race, keeping it in the process to win the race. Ford were unhappy with this and pushed every effort to seal the ETCC title before the end of the season. They suceeded in doing this while BMW’s Roberto Ravaglia took the drivers title. Shortly after the ETCC was put to rest by the FIA due to the spiralling costs of the Group A Evolution cars that were racing.

However, Eggenberger took revenge in the final encounter, the BTCC Finale at Silverstone and it was Sopers team mate Gianfranco Brancatelli that denied Rouse win number 10 in the race. History records Rouse winning 9 out of the 12 BTCC rounds that year but due to the 4 class system Class B driver Frank Sytner won the overall title in his BMW Finance M3. Rouse finished 3rd in the title behind Class D driver Phil Dowsett.

Again in 1989 and 1990, the Sierra dominated the races outright taking the overall race wins. Jerry Mahoney, Robb Gravett, Tim Harvey and Laurence Bristow offered Rouse the stiffest competition in the last years of Class A. Gravett won the 1990 title, beating Rouse in a Dick Johnson built RS500.

However again due to the complicated BTCC Class system, John Cleland won the 1989 title in his Class C Vauxhall Astra. Even though Rouse won races from the front, he was often defeated by the Class system where win in your own class was equal to the overall race win.

Even now, I recall how the sight of those 300bhp monsters had me hooked as I watched the highlights programmes on a Saturday Afternoon on BBC Grandstand. Spitting flames on gear changes and twitching through every corner as the power poured through the rear wheels. An awesome sight. Often I would be out in the garden afterwards playing with my toy cars in my sandpit.

Its amazing how many times my Ford Sierra’s won the races in that sandpit…

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The Sierra wasn’t just a dominant force in the BTCC, WTCC and ETCC. But it was also the car to beat abroad in the German Touring Car Championship or DTM, with german Klaus Ludwig winning the 1988 title in a Ford and the Eggenberger Texaco Team winning races outright in the 1987 WTCC and 1988 ETCC.

So that was one of my favourite Group A Touring Cars. What I did plan on was writing about my other favourite car, the BMW M3. However this one blog is long enough so I’ll write about that next time.

Besides…that Kettle is calling…

Cheers

Phil.

01/05/1994…Where were you…

Most, if not all, Motorsport fans know of the date 1st May 1994 and the significance it holds in Formula 1 and the Motorsport world in general.

Normally with significant dates in history, people can place where they were and what they were doing.

As you all know I am a big fan of both Formula One and Touring Car racing and on this date in history, both of them met in the worst way.

On 1st May 1994 I was at Snetterton in Norfolk.

It was my first visit to a BTCC event and was arranged by my Uncle Steve, whom I was living with at the time. In 1994, Alfa Romeo and a certain Mr Gabriele Tarquini were dominating the BTCC in the Alfa Romeo 155. Also in 1994, on the support package for the BTCC was the Historic Saloon Car Championship.

One of his friends was driving a Lotus Cortina, sponsored by Demon Tweeks. As I recall, apart from a quick look around the paddock, I spent the whole day sat halfway down the Revetts Straight watching all the cars qualifying.

Race day was on the Bank Holiday Monday, however at about 2pm on the Sunday, my Uncle called me to the car where he was having lunch and had the San Marino Grand Prix on the radio.

I want to point out that over the whole weekend, Rubens Barrichello suffered a horrible crash on the Friday that put him in hospital and Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed in Qualifying the following day and I also remember  Ratzenberger each day of the anniversary every year.

The news had just been released that Senna had crashed at Tamburello and was taken to hospital. I felt sick. I stopped eating as I was stunned by this. I never liked Senna, bit I respected his skill and racecraft in the Williams.

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The rest of the day was a blur until we got home and saw the BBC News report read by Moira Stewart, confirming Senna had died. I turned to my Uncle and cried. It was natural to suddenly feel like this, he said.

The following races in the 1994 F1 season were down to a straight fight between Hill and Schumacher. Even the odd appearence of my hero Nigel Mansell back at Williams didnt raise my spirits. I began to support Hill as he was a brit in a Williams but it wasn’t the instant support that Nigel got from me.

Tarquini romped to the BTCC Title as Schumacher narrowly beat Hill to the F1 Title, but it still tainted my first visit to a BTCC Meeting.

It would take 16 years for me to return to the BTCC. I actually blamed myself for a time about Senna’s death. The fact that I’d watched every race apart from the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix live or as the BBC chose to show it worried me that because I hadn’t watched that race live.

I grew up and learnt it couldnt be my fault after all the investigations. To this day I still haven’t watched the BBC Broadcast of the Grand Prix. I’ve seen the Senna Movie and I know a lot more, happily.

In 2010, my partner Nik and best mate Andy surprised me by buying tickets for BTCC Finals Day at Brands Hatch as it fell on my 33rd birthday…10/10/2010. We had a good day, watching Plato win the BTCC Title, meeting the previous Stig Ben Collins and cursing him.

I shook his hand at an autograph signing and wished him all the best for race three.

He spun his Motorbase BMW into the gravel trap at the bottom of Paddock Hill bend on the way to Druids.

I cursed The Stig!!!

I spent that day with my partner Nik, best friends Andy and Darryl and my stepson Aaron and it was amazing. It also made up for my first BTCC Visit back on 01/05/1994.

So, Question is, where were you on that day…

Cheers

Phil.

How we sponsored a BTCC Driver…Seriously!!!

I thought that I would explain how my Stepson Aaron came to sponsor Team HARD boss Tony Gilham in 2011, when he drove for Triple Eight Race Engineering in one of their turbo powered Vauxhall Vectra’s.

Better put the kettle on, you’ve been warned…

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This all began with the first 3 races of the year at Brands Hatch Indy. We were sat at home watching the races on TV when Aaron asked who was driving the pink and green Vauxhall Vectra. I explained that it was Tony and he was team mates with James Nash.

I should explain that Aaron is both Autistic and has ADHD. So the bright colours of the Vectra naturally caught his attention.

Anyway Aaron got in touch with Tony, explaining this and how he enjoyed watching him take 3 top ten finishes in the Brands races. Tony asked him if he was going to any races and this led to my partner Nik having her arm twisted to buy 3 tickets for the Donington BTCC Meeting.

At the time Aaron was working at the funfair on Billing Aquadrome where we live and cruel luck would have it that he had to work that weekend. Crestfallen, he kindly offered his ticket to my best friend Andy (Who is as big a Touring Car nutcase as myself) who happily accepted it.

So the three of us travelled up to Donington on raceday where we found Tony just walking out of one of the Triple Eight race trucks. After introducing ourselves and mentioning Aaron, Tony’s eyes lit up…only to look sad when we explained Aaron wasn’t with us because of work.

Tony kindly gave us some posters and other promotional bits and bobs to take home for Aaron, explaining that one day he hoped he could meet Aaron face to face.

Well, Fate had ideas on this…

As we watched the ITV4 BTCC Programme on the monday after raceday, in Race 3 as Tony retired, Tim Harvey explained that funds were short for Tony and that he might not be at Thruxton. This spurred Aaron into action. Before we knew it he was talking to Tony on Facebook offering to sponsor him with his savings so that he could race at Thruxton.

Aaron had savings of £400.00 at the time and had offered to use this to sponsor Tony. He’d explained about his issues to Tony and Tony spoke with Nik to confirm this was true and how amazed he was at this offer. After a quick chat between myself and Nik, Aaron confirmed that this was a genuine offer.

So several days later after an oil change in our Toyota People Carrier, we are heading towards Thruxton with a quick stop over night in a Travelodge. Figuring out that we’re not too far from Stonehenge, we go and pay the ancient monument a visit before settling in for the night.

Before we left, a local mechanic did an oil change on the bus to make sure it would be reliable. During this Aaron assisted and managed to cut his nail on a finger. A quick bandage later and he was all fixed for the trip. Oddly, while we were at Stonehenge, he said it stopped hurting. When we got back to the Travelodge however, it started hurting again…

On the Sunday Morning, we got to the Circuit in our ram-shackle Toyota Bus to be met by Gary, Tony’s Manager, who takes us to the Pit Area. Seeing all those trucks parked together like Sardines was a sight to see.

However the biggest sight was when Aaron met Tony. He shook his hand and showed him around the Vectra. Unbeknownst to Aaron, Nik had forwarded some pictures to Tony of him in his Army Cadet uniform. Tony had kindly put Aarons name on the front wheel arches and his pictures across the top of the rear windscreen.

Aaron was so excited with this. During the morning he assisted with handing out posters of Tony during the Drivers autograph session and was filmed on TV. We still have the whole ITV4 BTCC Programme on the Sky Box to this day.

Sammi, Tonys partner, took Aaron onto the grid for race one which made his day. Apparently, the legendary Murray Walker knocked Aaron over on the grid and to this day we still hear about how “That old geezer” pushed him over.

Murray would never do that…Well I dont think so…

Originally Nik was given a Race Tyre of Tony’s by a team mechanic, however this was claimed by Aaron and by the end of the day it had a flatspot on it so that Tony and James Nash could sign it for him. The tyre was used at Donington Park in the BTCC Meeting before.

This began Aarons collection of BTCC Car parts. Currently he has the tyre, Tonys Tyre and Wheel from the Geoff Steel S2000 BMW he drove later that same season at Silverstone, where he was fired off into the wall in Race 1, Lea Wood’s front Headlight from his S2000 Vectra at Donington 2012 and the Front Tyre Arch from Matt Neal’s NGTC Honda Civic from Croft.

Aaron managed to get the whole of Team HARD and almost all of the 2012 BTCC Class to sign that wing except Rob Austin, Jason Plato and Andy Neate. Austin was busy with repairs to Sherman, Plato busy with media PR duties while Andy Neate flatly refused to sign it as it was a Honda part.

Make of that what you will…

So Aaron was thoroughly spoilt by 888 and Mr Gilham’s team and since then has supported Tony and Team HARD ever since. He watches all the BTCC races and supports any driver working for Mr Gilham and we’ve paid him a few visits to his old HQ near the Dartford Bridge.

Aaron has also had the privilege of being flung around the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit by Tony in a Mitsubishi Evo…something, as did Nik that day. We were invited to a Track day run by Tony and his Team. That day Nik, Aaron and Myself went in many cars. For me, a ride in the Nissan 350Z being driven by Abbie Eaton made my Day.

Every time I watch The BTCC cars go round Brands Indy Circuit, the memories flood back.

So there you have it. The story of how a young 16 year old boy was lucky enough to sponsor a BTCC driver and become their number one fan.

And the best part is its my fault as I got him into Tintops…

Anyway, you’ve sat long enough and earned that cup of tea. I’ll write again soon tintop fans.

Cheers

Phil.

How I found the WTCC…And supported a BMW Driver…

So, I’ve explained how I found out about F1, BTCC and the DTM. All that is left is the WTCC…and this one gets a little chequered in my memory…so stick with me…

But… Let me make one thing clear. In Touring Cars, I have NEVER been a BMW supporter. Ford, Vauxhall always but never BMW. Couldnt stand the might of those German cars as they dominated in the BTCC… Remember that as you read on…

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The year is 2000…ish. The Millenium Bug was a miserable failure, The BBC has happily been providing coverage of the BTCC to me and many others for over 10 years and ITV has the rights to F1 and highlights of the DTM. Sky Satellites on the sides of houses and flats are becoming commonplace and everyone has some sort of Nokia for a mobile phone. I had recently (at the time) become a customer of Sky’s rival in the tv channel wars, NTL, later renamed as Virgin. And this opened up more motorsport veiwing to me.

With the FIA SuperTouring rules being adopted during the 1990’s by a host of countries in Europe and the rest of the world, I discovered Eurosport. And its coverage of the European Super Touring Championship.

With the success of SuperTouring regulations came the rising costs of developement and soon the various Touring Car Championships worldwide were adopting different rules to make Touring Car racing cheaper. So the FIA decides to keep the SuperTouring regulations alive a bit longer by merging the Italian and German SuperTouring Championships into a European Championship, combining the best talents in tintop racing in Europe.

So one day as I flick through the channels, I find the ESTC racing at Estoril, Portugal, with names such as Tarquini, Giovanardi, Biela, Pirro, Morbidelli, Rustad and…Matt Neal?!?!

The cars were recogniseable as BMW 320si’s, Audi A4’s, Honda Accord’s Nissan Primera’s and Alfa Romeo 156’s and the racing as close as ever. So I followed this new series for the next few seasons as it morphed into the FIA European Touring Car Championship, far different from its previous incarnation that ran until 1988.

The regulations changed to become Super 2000 and the cars retained their “road going” racing thoroughbred look. The driver quality increased with BTCC greats joining as Muller, Rydell, Tarquini, Thompson and Andy Priaulx???

So I followed with interest this Brit who after one season as a works Honda driver in the BTCC becomes a works BMW driver racing against the worlds best at BMW Team UK. My interest grew following Thompson and Priaulx, cheering them on as they raced against the worlds best touring car drivers on many different circuits, both holding their own.

But while Thompson had team mates at SEAT to work with and later Alfa Romeo, Priaulx had to fight against his 4 BMW Team mates to get ahead. So when he won the 2004 ETCC at Macau, my support was cemented. Andy had beaten his fellow BMW Drivers and the best in their own backyard… On his own. Its also where I began the religious task of getting up early on a Sunday Morning after the end of the F1 season to watch the worlds best touring car drivers dice with the danger of racing at Macau. Worth every second. Although at the time the F1 season used to finish in early November…

It was then to follow that not only did the FIA decide to promote the ETCC to World Championship status and ressurect the WTCC (last run in 1987) but Andy work harder and and went on to win the next three World Touring Car Titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007, beating off Dirk Muller, Jorg Muller and Yvan Muller at the time. The fact that he was a BMW driver didnt bother me and still doesnt. Strange that…

So it began that the WTCC gained the same level of importance and following for me as was already in force for the BTCC and F1 and Andy Priaulx a fan for life. Since then I have watched on as he has fought against the world’s best and become one of the worlds best.

At one stage called the “Michael Schumacher” of Touring Car racing with his tactical knowledge of the points systems and how by finishing 8th in Race one and exploiting the Top 8 Reversal rule for Race two, he would keep on winning races until BMW pulled out of the WTCC at the end of 2010 amidst arguments over Diesel Turbo’s and other things. In 2012 he would be comfirmed as a DTM Driver as BMW returned to the German Series and I follow him still.

I support Rob Huff as well, as do I support any Brit drivers that take part in the WTCC and I’m bloody glad he won the title in 2012.

Anyway, I’ve bored you enough. You’ve earned that cup of tea.

Now that the WTCC is underway and by my next blog post the BTCC will have had 3 action packed races from Brands Hatch, I’ll give my views on current events.

Enjoy that cuppa…

Cheers

Phil.