In February, we looked back at some of the drivers who drove in Formula 1 and in the Super Touring era of the British Touring Car Championship. Here’s the 2nd part of our in depth look at Supertouring’s F1 Connections.
If you missed the first part, you can find it here!
The colourful Italian needs no introduction to BTCC fans. The popular Italian made his debut in the BTCC in 1994, after a career in F1, which yielded 38 Grand Prix starts for Osella, Coloni, AGS and Fondmetal. After driving for Alfa Romeo in the Italian Supertourismo, the Italian team signed him up for their debut BTCC season.
Gabriele won the first five races of the season, thanks to the car’s controversial aerodynamics (as seen in our review of the Alfa Romeo 155 here). He went on to dominate the majority of 1994 & subsequently won the title in his debut season. By the time the competition had caught up with Alfa Romeo, Gabriele was too far in the distance to be caught.
For 1995, he decided to move back to the Italian championship with Alfa Corse, with Prodrive picking up the contract to run the Alfa Romeos in the BTCC. Tarquini was also signed up by Tyrrell for the 1995 Formula 1 season as their test driver, thanks to the presence of Fondmetal as a sponsor.
He returned for a BTCC guest drive at Oulton Park that season for Alfa Romeo, failing to pick up a single point, as Alfa’s compeititveness had dropped considerably.
After the F1 support meeting at Silverstone, Alfa Romeo decided to replace Giampiero Simoni with Tarquini for the rest of the season & Gabriele hauled the uncompetitive Alfa Romeo into three 4th place finishes by the seasons end.
Tarquini also replaced Tyrrell F1 driver Ukyo Katayama for the European Grand Prix, as the Japanese driver was injured from his start line accident in the previous race. Out of practice with single seaters (having done very little actual testing due to the team’s financial constraints) he finished 14th, six laps down on winner Michael Schumacher. It was his final Grand Prix.
This means that Gabriele Tarquini is the last person to have participated in both the BTCC and Formula 1 in the same season. A record not expected to be broken any time soon!
Gabriele returned to race for Honda in 1997, 1999 and 2000 and won races, but never won the title again.
David Brabham made his Formula 1 debut in 1990, with the team bearing his family name (although it had been sold on multiple times since then). In 14 races, he only managed to qualify the uncompetitive Judd-engined car six times. This, along with the fact that David was unable to raise the reported $3m needed to keep his place in the team, led to him being replaced at the end of the season.
He returned to Formula 1 in 1994, signing up for a season with the new Simtek outfit, alongside Roland Ratzenberger. David’s father had taken up shares in the outfit, but the team were still under-funded. The S941 chassis was overweight, used a fully manual gearbox and an inferior Cosworth HB engine. Despite this Brabham qualified for every round of the season – an impressive feat.
Brabham quit Formula One at the end of that year to begin touring car racing – while he wanted to help Simtek, the salary offered by BMW in the BTCC was too good to ignore.
Schnitzer, who had been running the BMW works effort in the BTCC to considerable success for the past two seasons, had left the series to concentrate efforts elsewhere, which meant that UK arm of BMW ran the team for 1995, with disasterous effects. David lined up alongside Johnny Cecotto, but between them, the best they could muster up was 4th place, 2 for Brabham and 1 for Cecotto.
At the end of the season, Brabham left BMW as Schnitzer returned for 1996, bringing Winkelhock and Ravaglia with them.
Derek started 147 Grands Prix for various teams, such as Toleman, Renault, Lotus and Arrows and made his F1 debut in 1981 with Toleman, only making the grid once. His big break came with Renault in 1984, but the car wasn’t as competitive as many expected. Despite this, Derek finished on the podium on four occasions, including a 2nd place at the British Grand Prix.
Warwick was offered the Williams drive for 1985, but he rejected it and decided to remain at Renault. 1985 was a poor one for Renault and the team withdrew from Formula One at the end of the year, leaving Derek in the lurch and without a drive.
Derek spent three years at Arrows before moving to Lotus for the 1990 season. But the glory days of that team were over and Warwick ended the season with a meagre 3 points tally and left F1 at the end of the season. Following a 3-year sabbatical, Warwick returned to Formula One in 1993 to drive for Footwork, scoring 4 points for the team. He ended his career with a total of 71 Grand Prix points.
In 1995, Derek joined the BTCC for Alfa Romeo, who were reigning champions of 1994. Hopes were high, but the season was a disaster. Despite the team’s dominating the previous year, their car was underdeveloped and had lost the aerodynamic advantage of the previous season. Derek achieved a best result of 8th for the season.
After a year out of racing, Derek returned to the BTCC in 1997 – after his team, Tripe Eight Race Engineering, had won the Vauxhall contract to run the marque’s Vectra BTCC efforts. Originally set to be team principal of the team, Derek ended up driving alongside John Cleland, partnering him for 2 seasons. He won his only BTCC race at Knockhill in 1998 and retired from racing at the end of the season, but continued at the team as Team Principal for another 3 seasons.
Tiff’s F1 career was extremely brief. In 1979 he was unable to graduate to F1 due to the lack of the correct licence, but he was back in 1980, driving two Grands Prix for Ensign, qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. However, he had an engine problem and did not finish the race. He subsequently failed to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Tiff’s first foray into the world of Super Touring was at Silverstone in the final round of the 1992 season, driving for the Janspeed team, who were in their debut season of running the Nissan Primera. Tiff bagged 10th place and the final point for the team. He returned to the team sporadically for the next 2 seasons, scoring a best of 9th place in 1994.
Tiff gained notoriety in 1993, when competing in the ToCA Shoot-Out at Donington with a Top Gear backed Vauxhall Cavalier. Nigel Mansell was participating in the race for Ford and the packed crowds watched on as Mansell passed Needell for 3rd place with three laps to go. Mansell then lost control of his Mondeo, slewed across the track at 120mph, clipped the front of Tiff Needell’s Vauxhall Cavalier and plunged into a concrete wall.
“He just lost it. He went into a slide at 120mph and at 45 degrees.
I expected him to go right but he came across me, hit me, and was punted into the wall.”
Tiff returned to the BTCC for one meeting in 1998, driving a third Nissan Primera alongside Anthony Reid and David Leslie. The weekend would feature on an episode on Top Gear, which Tiff presented at the time.
Gianni Morbidelli’s F1 career started in 1990 and ended in 1997, competing in 70 Grands Prix for BMS, Minardi, Ferrari, Footwork and Sauber. He scored one podium position, finishing 3rd at the 1995 Australian GP for Footwork. After a part season at Sauber in 1997, Gianni joined the Volvo BTCC for the 1998 season, partnering Rickard Rydell in an S40.
Despite a promising start, Gianni struggled in the midfield and regularly got caught up in incidents. Whilst his team mate romped home to the title, Gianni’s highest finishing position was 4th place at Thruxton in the August bank holiday meeting. After one season, the Italian was dropped and eventually replaced by Vincent Radermecker.
When Alain Menu left Renault for Ford at the end of the 1998 season, Williams drafted in Jean-Christophe Boullion to replace him. The Frenchman, affectionately known as “JCB” had been part of Williams for a long time, being their test driver for the F1 team in the mid 90s. In 1995, JCB was loaned to Sauber to participate in 11 Grands Prix, replacing Karl Wendlinger. He scored 3 points, with a highest position of 5th at the German Grand Prix, but rarely matched his team mate, Heinz Harald Frentzen. Wendlinger returned for the final 2 races of the season and JCB never graced the F1 grid again.
In 1997, he nearly got the drive that Jason Plato ended up getting and was initially Frank Williams’ first choice. After a shoot-out, Plato got the drive and JCB would have to wait 2 more years before he got a BTCC drive.
JCB’s first BTCC race ended in the gravel, but by Round 2 he was already standing on the podium, things were looking good. Sadly, the competitiveness of the Laguna waned as the season went on, with their rivals out-developing the French squad, who had already announced their BTCC departure at the end of the season. Boullion finished the season in 10th place, only 25 points behind team leader Plato, but with no drive, was never seen in the BTCC again.
Nigel Mansell’s F1 career needs no introduction, World Champion with Williams in 1992, with 31 wins from 191 races. His final win was for Williams in the Australian Grand Prix in 1994. Nigel first entered the BTCC in the 1993 ToCA Shoot-out. The shoot-out was an non-championship event that was held at the end of the season. As Nigel had been busy winning the 1993 Indycar title, the public hadn’t seen him race on home soil since 1992. As a result, the grandstands were rammed as Nigel, running in a Ford Mondeo, brought in the crowds.
before ending up in the wall and knocking himself out. The incident made the front pages of all the national newspapers – interest in the BTCC had gone to new levels.
Nigel returned to F1 for selected races with Williams in 1994, before a short and ill-fated stint at McLaren in 1995 – his last appearance in an F1 race.
In March 1998, it was announced that Nigel would be participating in 6 BTCC races for Ford – Donington, Brands Hatch for August Bank Holiday & the season finale at Silverstone.
At Donington, he starred in what many claim to be the best touring car race ever – which we reviewed in detail here.
Nigel ended that race in 5th place, scoring 7 points. These were the only points of his season. He ended up in the wall in both races at Brands Hatch, whilst finishing out of the points in both races at Silverstone, which were to be Nigel’s last races in the BTCC.