Super Touring’s BTCC Finest – The Experts Judge!
As you all know by now, there were a lot of top line drivers that graced the BTCC during the Super Touring era, but who was best?
This argument have raged on between fans for the past 20 years – so who better to ask than a panel of drivers and experts who were in and around the sport back then?
So we’ve formed a panel of drivers, team members and journalists, each giving us their top 5 and reasons why!
What did they come up with? Find out below!
“Alain Menu was consistently fast throughout his BTCC years, especially in the races. Not always the fastest over one lap, but was quite often the one collecting the most points over the weekend.
Tarquini may have only been there for a few years, but he was one of the best in touring cars. Good in qualifying and a great racer too. He could lose his temper at times, but I guess that goes with being Italian!
Aiello was very strong in both qualifying and races – a very hard competitor!
I learnt a lot from Cleland in my first years of the BTCC, mostly the hard way! Good, tough racer – not as good a golfer though!
Biela was a good, solid driver both in qualifying and races. Very nice guy too.”
“I regard Steve Soper as the ultimate professional, never won BTCC but he was one of the longest serving BMW Motorsport drivers. They used him in multiple championships for a reason, his BMW boss described him once with similarity to the British Terrier, where he’d bite hard to the bone and not let go!
John had amazing race craft and a personality to match, maybe not the ultimate in speed but the other two attributes definitely put him up there and spectacular to watch!
Andy was, and still is, Mr BTCC. Not just a fast, canny racer but a savvy practical engineer which meant he was the complete package.
Speed was Alain’s flair. He and Williams Renault were a dream combo, but then he reinforced this when he followed it up winning again in 2000 – beating his two top team mates at Prodrive in the Ford with Reidy and Rickard, who could easily have been in this top 5 themselves.
Yvan was a hard man with amazing car control. A 10 time Ice Racing Champion, BTCC Champion and Multiple World Champion. If you were against Yvan, you had your work cut out & in adverse conditions this was multiplied!”
“Andy Rouse won the BTCC in so many different cars as both a driver and an engineer. He was a clean driver never known for pushing.
Rickard was very fast and a great mate who could pull a quali lap out like no one else! Good to race against too, hard but fair. Also was lots of fun on the golf course!
Alain Menu wasl also very fast but a bit dirty! He was not shy at pushing you. I had many hard races with him, but you had to watch out!
Steve Soper, what can I say? Super quick and despite all that has been said, I respect what he has achieved and enjoyed racing against him. Mostly great fun!
Will Hoy was my closest mate in the paddock. The cleanest guy to race against but very hard and fair. He was a cheat in golf though!”
“My choice is purely my personal opinion of the driver’s all round ability, be that pure speed, qualifying ability, technical knowledge, being a team leader, dealing with pressure and consistently being on top of their game.
It is not a purely results based decision and also reflects the drivers who competed throughout the 90’s and not just at the beginning or the end.
It also reflects the drivers who always got the best from their equipment and not just the ones who won when they had the best car, hence the inclusion of David Leslie, probably the best 90’s BTCC driver not to have won a BTCC title.”
“Yvan Muller is my top driver. The star act of race, rallying or Ice & now at 51 years old, is still employed by top manufacturers. He’s a star.
With Aiello, if the car that he is driving is good he is so fast and unbeatable.
Joachim Winkelhock. What can I say? On his day unbeatable, I should know!
Frank Biela was a total pro. He turned up in his first year in the UK in 1996 and won the BTCC. He’s also a DTM Champion in 1991 & 5 times Le Mans winner.”
“It’s quite simple really, these guys were the pace-setters in the Super Touring era and some of them were deserving champions!”
“Deciding such a list is extremely difficult. It’s also worth pointing out that top 5 does not necessarily mean most successful. A very subjective task.
Alain was consistently quick throughout the Super Touring years, a title contender in several seasons. A man you could never write off for race wins, and a nice guy to boot!
Soper’s pace and skill was often hidden due to the fact he was the ultimate BMW team player, often sacrificing his own title chances for ‘the team.’ The infamous Silverstone 1992 incident is evidence of this. Could easily have been a champion in ‘92 or ‘93.
Cleland was a strong contender particularly in the early years of Super Touring, wrung the neck of the Cavalier against arguably more up-to-date machinery in 1995 to take his second (and first ‘proper’?) title and only saw his influence wane in the later years when the investment and technology in the cars proved more decisive over driver skill.
The 2-litre formula’s first champion was also quite an underrated driver – he should have taken back-to-back titles in ’92 but for some fractious times in the Rouse Toyota team, and he was a worthy adversary to Menu in the Renaults. Taken from us far too soon…
Paul Radisich possibly won’t make too many people’s top five because after arriving with a bang in the Ford team, taking two FIA World Cups (not to be ignored, beating a top field in both), he stayed loyal to Ford too long – when the car couldn’t hack it any more. Then moved to Peugeot which was also not competitive by that time. In a BMW or Renault he would likely have been a multiple champion.”
“Alain was an all round nice guy and one of the smoothest drivers I have ever worked with behind the wheel. His 1997 & 2000 BTCC campaigns speak for themselves (I worked with him on both occasions) and surely one of the most successful touring car drivers of all time, certainly in the hay days of the Class 2 Super Touring era.
Rickard was another super nice guy and hugely talented behind the wheel. His BTCC title in 1998 proving his worth in the ultra-competitive BTCC title fight in the glory years of 1997, 1998 & 1999.
Perhaps lacked finely tuned race craft compared to some of his peers on this list, but in qualifying form, he was difficult to beat on the day.
The 1996 BTCC campaign says it all about Biela and one of the ‘big four’ German Manufacturers – joining the ‘best of the best’ in Class 2 Touring Cars.
Frank was in his prime in 1996 and certainly was the class of the field in the Audi Quattro in that year.
They came with massive budgets and they conquered, but the ballast and Balance of Performance introduced in 1997 put them back in their box and allowed another manufacturer to shine.
Jo Winkelhock was a legendary all-round racer and certainly from his BTCC qualifying record in 1996, an absolute master of Qualifying in the BMW.
I have fond memories of him (as BMW was in the pits next to RML/Vauxhall) returning to the pit lane, post-Qualifying and lighting a fag (whilst still in the car), to celebrate. Rumour has it that he had the boys install a lighter in the cockpit although I never substantiated those rumours myself…
Well, what can you say about John Cleland? The legend himself! He drove about as his fast as his mouth moved but boy could he drive. He was the master of the ‘JC love tap’ that sent many an unsuspecting recipient in to the boonies…
Race craft in a touring car unmatched by anyone that I can name from experience. I had the pleasure of working with him in my inaugural season in the BTCC Championship (1996 RML/Vauxhall), but unfortunately the Vauxhall Vectra was no match for the Audi A4.”
“I have written my selection in alphabetical order, not to ruffle any feathers!
Laurent Aiello – well his record in BTCC, DTM, German Touring Championship and Le Mans speaks for itself. Would probably have done well in F1, if cars weren’t so physical to drive in the day.
Frank Biela was the man to beat – and so was the Audi! A tough competitor.
Alain Menu – another long and prolific winner. We always worried about him.
Anthony Reid was the mainstay developer of the Nissan programme, shame he jumped ship to Ford in 1999. Should have won a championship.
Rickard Rydell was another fearsome competitor, won the driver’s championship when we won the teams and manufacturers in 1998. We wuz robbed!
Limited to 5 drivers? Well, also a shout out to David Leslie. He was a solid part of the team, also contributed much to our results.”
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