In light of the upcoming 62nd British Touring Car Championship being just around the corner, we thought it was about time at Rear View Prints that we gave the popular competition some much-deserved blog love. Once again, like we always do, we’ve gathered together and had a passionate and often heated discussion about candidates for the best ever British touring cars to take to the tarmac. We should clarify, this means the best cars to compete in the British Touring Car Competition, not the best British manufactured touring car in general. So, without further ado…
The British Touring Car Championship is one of the world’s best-loved motorsport competitions. Formed in 1958 as the British Saloon Car Championship, it initially included a mix of classes divided according to engine capacity all racing at once. As it moved toward the modern era in the 1980s, the line-up became more international and the competition changed to a single class system. Over the years there has been a huge range of much-loved cars to compete and win in the British Touring Car Championship, and as such if we don’t list your favourite here we apologise deeply in advance. However, please feel free to dig us out in the comments for it. We aren’t afraid of criticism! Let’s get to the cars, shall we?
Audi A4 Quattro – 1996
The all-wheel drive dominance of the Audi Quattro was long discussed in the rally world, and although it didn’t take much glory (Note: The vehicle only took home first overall in both the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ categories twice (each) in the World Rally Championship) it still remains one of the most influential and well-loved cars in the sport. Switch to the British Touring Car Championship and there is much of the same fanfare. The Audi A4 Quattro blew away the competition in 1996 with its revolutionary traction and the ever-reliable Frank Biela behind the wheel. Not even a weight-penalty imposed halfway through the season could stop it from romping home to victory.
Volvo 850 Estate – 1994
A publicity stunt? Yes. A funny one? Yes again. One of the ‘best’ ever British touring cars? Well, reader, that’s subjective! What does ‘best’ mean to you? The Volvo 850 Estate was certainly memorable, and it wasn’t exactly uncompetitive either, managing a top 5 result at Oulton Park and a bunch of top 10’s as well. The Volvo 850 Estate makes the list, not for technical design or mastery on the track, but for a great reminder of fun, and injection of levity into a sport that can take itself too seriously at times. It remains a hugely beloved car to this day and takes a worthy spot on the list of best ever British touring cars.
Ford Mondeo – 2000
A number of false starts throughout the 1990s wasn’t enough to stop the Ford Mondeo from eventually finding the success it deserved in the year 2000. Prodrive reportedly spent a whopping 12 million on the project, although it wasn’t for nothing. Alain Menu piloted the car to his second drivers title, with his teammates Anthony Reid and Rickard Rydell taking second and third in the BTCC respectively, allowing Ford to take the manufacturers championship.
Alfa Romeo 155 – 1994
The Alfa Romeo 155 was a heavily protested and utterly dominant competitor in the BTCC. The controversy stemmed from cars unique aerodynamic kit that was being debuted during the 1994 season. A fierce argument raged over the year about whether the car had an unfair advantage, and the Alfa Romeo 155 even ended up skipping Oulton Park in protest. Eventually, however, it was made to drive the rest of the season with its wing in a lowered position. It made no difference to Gabriele Tarquini though, who successfully raced the car to the 1994 British Touring Car Championship without so much as breaking a sweat. By the time the 1995 season rolled around, it seemed as if most of the competitors had sprouted wings of their own, meaning Alfa’s dominance was fairly short lived.
Honda Integra Type R – 2005
Put simply, Matt Neal and the Honda Integra were history makers. The Honda Integra was the first private car in the British Touring Car Championship history to win the overall drivers’ championship in 2005. Neal also managed to successfully defend the championship the following year, cementing his and the car’s legacy in BTCC. Dan Eaves should be given some credit too for a historic triple win at Thruxton in 2005, coming from 10th in the grid to beat out Colin Turkington in the third and final race.
Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 – 1988 +
Likely the most popular car on this list and usually the first choice of a lot of BTCC fans when asked about the best ever British touring cars to compete in the competition. Yes, the Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 certainly was a fantastic car worthy of its adoration amongst car enthusiasts. It dominated its Group A class from 1988 onwards and became the poster vehicle for a generation of BTCC fans. Its success also continued overseas too, with big series wins in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.
BMW E30 M3 1988+
The BMW M3 was an icon and a game changer in the BTCC. Frank Sytner and Prodrive helmed this bad boy to its BTCC debut in 1987, then promptly to outright honours the following season in 1988. Its next championship would come in 1991 with the birth of SuperTouring, in which the car had played a prominent part in. Will Hoy drove the famous M3 to victory that year.
Subaru Levorg 2016+
The Subaru Levorg has faced its fair share of adversity since entering the BTCC in 2016. An inconsistent start that saw a total of 9 rounds where the car was withdrawn or uncompetitive in the 2016 season. However, Colin Turkington somehow still managed to pilot it to 4th come the end of the year. 2017 saw another tough gauntlet laid down for the car, only for Ashley Sutton to defy all odds and become the youngest champion in BTCC history. Both seasons would lay testament to the car’s reputation as fiercely competitive machine, certainly deserving of a spot on a list of best ever British touring cars.
Honda Civic – 2010s+
We couldn’t finish this list without mentioning the Honda Civic, which by now is a staple of the BTCC world. Between the years 2011 and 2016, all but one British Touring Car Championship was won by a Honda Civic. In recent years its dominance has faltered slightly, with a horrible crash befalling Jeff Smith and the Eurotech team in particular in 2017. However, it remains a ubiquitous car on the tarmac, whether in hatchback or Tourer estate form.
That’s it for this week’s blog. We hope you enjoyed the rundown of these fantastic British Touring car competitors, both old and new. Hopefully, it whets your appetite for the championship’s return this Saturday, April 6th. We’re hoping to get some lovely Touring car prints in store for the future, are there any you guys would partic