INTERVIEW WITH FORMER BTCC STAR – ANTHONY REID

Scotsman Anthony Reid  was a major fixture in the BTCC for the last few years of the 1990’s, making his debut with the Nissan team, operated by RML. After a year of development with the car, Reid nearly took the title in 1998, finishing runner-up to Rickard Rydell and winning 7 races that season. After a move to Ford in 1999, Reid finished runner up again in 2000, a victim of the controversial dropped scores regulation, ultimately handing team-mate Alain Menu the title. We spoke to Anthony about his time in the BTCC.

Anthony, thanks for joining us today to talk about the your time in the BTCC.  What are your fondest memories in the BTCC during the super touring period?

“It’s got to be the 1998 season in the works Nissan Primera. I had already been with Nissan for 2 years and the chassis which was built and run by RML was a culmination of 3 years of design and development by Nissan Motorsport Europe under the guidance of Alec Poole with great designers and engineers like Derek Gardner, Richard Divila, Chris Crawford and Bob Neville. I was involved from the outset as a Test Driver and because of this,  the car very much had my own DNA in it, it suited my style of driving and I was able to deliver some great results.”

What was so special about the super touring era of the British Touring Car Championship?

“There were far fewer TV Channels in the 90s and BTCC shown live on BBC1 Grandstand on a Sunday afternoon presented by Steve Ryder, Murray Walker commentating with the big names in Touring Cars plus F1 drivers like Mansell, Warwick and Tarquini it was very popular and the major manufacturers wanted to be involved plus household name sponsor like Nescafe, Vodafone and HSBC. The racing was more pure like F1 with the best teams and drivers winning, no contrived racing with success ballast, reverse grids and power adjustments to the ECUs.”

The caliber of drivers in the field during that era was arguably 2nd to only Formula 1 at the time. In your opinion, who were the most talented drivers?

“There were more professional drivers in BTCC than there were in F1 at that time. Alain Menu and Rickard Rydell stood out during that period.”

You came to the BTCC in 1997, having already experienced several different touring car championships in Germany and Japan – how did they compare to racing on British soil and did it prepare you for the hustle and bustle of the BTCC?

“I had raced in the Japanese Touring Car Championship, the German, the Spanish and the South African by that time and the experience prepared me well for BTCC, the Japanese and German Championships in particular were at a very high level and compared well with BTCC.”

Did you have any offers to join the BTCC prior to your arrival at Nissan in 1997?

“I had been in talks with Audi, Volvo and Vauxhall but Nissan was the first solid offer.”

Your first BTCC win came at a sodden Donington Park in 1998, often referred to as the best touring car race meeting ever. What are your memories of that weekend? How different was the paddock with Nigel Mansell around?

“The BTCC was already big for the reasons stated above but Mansell fever took the Championship to an even higher level than before.”

In the latter parts of 1998, the rivalry for the title with Rickard Rydell got very heated! How was the relationship at the time with Rickard & do you speak to him now?

“I had known Rickard well from our time in Japan racing F3, F3000 and Group C  together and we had lived in Gotemba next to Fuji. It was just a spat on that weekend which served to highlight how high the stakes were in BTCC at that time, we are still good friends and more recently have raced in Argentina together in the Works Honda Petrobas Team.”

In 1999, you moved to Ford and teamed up with Prodrive and Alain Menu. It is often spoke about how big the budget there was, how did it compare to any other touring car operation?

“The level of technology and budget were at a pinnacle and if the truth be known, totally unsustainable. As a 3 car Team, I had 2 of the most competitive Team mates in Alain Menu and Rickard Rydell, it was a great experience.”

Were there big differences between the Primera and the Mondeo?

“The Primera had my DNA in it and the Mondeo didn’t suit my style so well. Having said that, I only just missed out on the Title by 2 points in 2000!”

After a tough year developing the V6 Mondeo in 1999, the car was a potent force in 2000, dominating all the championships. You actually finished the season as the highest point scorer, yet due to the controversial “dropped scores” system, you finished 2nd in the title – how did you feel about that at the time?

“Well, you have to win the title the way the championship points system works… Obviously I was disappointed to just miss out.

If you can ever look back on these things, there was a race earlier in the season where I had finished 3rd at Croft – but in post race scrutineering, an error was discovered in my ECU as a result of previous accident damage. I lost the points from the 3rd place and the ability to count that as a dropped score too.”

The cost of the BTCC had become totally unsustainable in 2000 and once Super touring has died off in Britain, you moved to MG for several seasons with the BTC-T regulations. What were the big differences in the BTCC during the two eras?

“The new regulations for 2001 meant that the cars were far less sophisticated and considerably slower with less power and grip and no aero.”

Was there anyone you had reservations about going “door handle to door handle” with, as Charlie Cox would often say?

“No, I always relished the challenge of going door handle to door handle with the toughest drivers in BTCC.”

Now for some questions from the BTCC fans…..

Did you prefer driving the 90s super tourers or the BTC-T cars of the early 2000s and why? (Ashley Scales)

“There was more of an opportunity to stamp your own identity on the development of the Super Tourers, we were paid very well (different from BTCC today) and we were Household names due to the profile of the championship.”

What was your favourite BTCC track on the calendar? (Levi Reilly)

“Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit.”

Who do you think would have been more successful in the 90s, had they had better machinery and/or luck? (Mike Kilby)

“Some of the drivers who drove for second rank teams, like Patrick Watts.”

Do you regret your move to Ford in 1999? (Matt Walker)

“No, I knew Nissan was pulling out at the end of 1999 and the opportunity as a Professional Racing Driver of racing for the Blue Oval on a 2 year contract could not be ignored.”

Who was your closest friend in the BTCC paddock? (Roland Hill)

“My wife.”

What are your thoughts on the current state of the BTCC and the cars and regulations involved? (Al Groves)

“The popularity of BTCC is back to similar levels in terms of spectators as the 90s but for the manufacturers at the moment it is not as interesting due to the regulations which means shared common components, reverse grids, success ballast and balance of performance all of which has been introduced to control costs.”

Have you been tempted to jump back in your old car like John Cleland and Patrick Watts and do the Super Touring series? (Matt Hunter)

“I have indeed jumped back in some of my old cars, notably at the Goodwood Festival of Speed with considerable success – but the idea of owning one doesn’t interest me because I know how high maintenance they are!”

What is your biggest BTCC regret? (Eddie Watterson)

“Not winning the championship, although I did win the Masters and also the Indy Titles in 2004!”

Which is your favourite BTCC victory? (Forza Racing Series)

“Probably the feature race in 1998 at Brands, at the start of the race Rickard had backed me into the field at Druids on the first lap and I dropped to about 7th but I got my head down and after the pit stops I caught him up at Druids again and passed him to win the race however the stewards demoted me to second due to light contact in the middle of Druids, standard BTCC stuff at the time by the way and my Team Mate Tiff Needell conveniently got in the way as we lapped him after I had passed Rickard and there was a contretemps between “Tiff and Our Nige” after the race in the Paddock too, memorable stuff!”

Who was the toughest team-mate you had in the BTCC? (Edward Alderson)

“Rickard Rydell and Alain Menu.”

Which was scarier – Alain at Brands in ’97 or Rickard at Brands in ’98?! (@BTCCFacts)

“Neither, there is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.”

You drove some of the best BTCC cars of all time, but which was the worst one you ever drove? (Dave Walker)

“The Honda Civic Type R during a test session at Pembrey circuit.”

Which was your most difficult BTCC race and why? (Kris Boardman)

“A round of BTCC in 2004 in the MG ZS when the cam belt had jumped a tooth between race 1 and 2 and there was no time to fix it. I must have been 50 horse power down and battled to finish 10th.”

Anthony gave us some great memories in the BTCC and my thanks go to him for taking the time to answer these questions & give us all an insight into the BTCC during the 90’s.